Sadiq Khan has today raised the possibility of using his mayoral powers to make the wearing of non-medical face coverings compulsory on Transport for London public transport services.
Mayor told London Assembly Members (AMs), “We are reviewing what’s happening in London in relation to voluntary wearing of non-medical facial coverings,” adding that “next week I will be considering whether I need to use the option I’ve got to make it mandatory.”
Khan has been advocating the voluntary use of face-coverings for more than a month in situations where social distancing is difficult, such as on buses and trains. Ten days ago the government changed its guidance to suggest they should be used on public transport and in some shops.
He was answering a question from Labour AM Andrew Dismore, who claimed the government had “refused” to make their wearing compulsory and pointed out that the necessary changes to “conditions of carriage” – the rules applied to public transport passengers – could be changed “pretty quickly”, as with the smoking ban that followed the 1987 King’s Cross fire and Boris Johnson’s 2008 ban on consuming alcohol.
Dismore said enforcement of such a rule would be “as much by peer pressure from other passengers as anything else,” but that this would be “strengthened if there was a legal requirement”.
Khan underlined that not all public transport services in the capital are under mayoral control, notably those of Network Rail, and warned of the danger of passenger confusion. “When there is a crisis what’s important is to have message clarity,” he said.
The Mayor added: “I’m hoping that we can work collegiately with the DfT [Department for Transport] and the government to reach a sensible compromise. What I want is a consensus around this issue. I’ll be speaking to colleagues in Scotland, Wales and across the country, and I will continue to try to lobby the government on this one. I leave the option available, which is to make it mandatory in London only, but I’m hoping we can persuade the government to do the right thing”.
Photograph by Omar Jan.
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