Transport for London has been accused of banning bus drivers from forcing passengers to wear face masks despite it being made compulsory two weeks
Transport for London has been accused of banning bus drivers from forcing passengers to wear face masks despite it being made compulsory two weeks ago.
Workers claimed they have been threatened with discipline if they try to enforce the rule despite them being at high risk of contracting coronavirus.
TfL hit back saying staff had not been stopped from telling customers to wear face masks, adding they would not be reprimanded for doing so.
Drivers have locked horns with passengers over the wearing of coverings after it was made mandatory on June 15.
The Unite union, which represents more than 80,000 bus workers, warned there would be a second spike in Covid infections if wearing coverings was not enforced.
It comes as 44 TfL workers have died of the killer virus, with at least 33 being London bus drivers.
Workers claimed they have been threatened with discipline if they try to enforce the rule despite them being at high risk of contracting coronavirus (file photo from March 15)
One driver told LBC: ‘We’re seeing a huge amount of people that aren’t complying, there’s no enforcement taking place, and it’s putting the safety of our other passengers who are complying at risk.
‘We have some of the most vulnerable people in society using London buses, and selfish individuals that don’t wear a mask, and we can’t stop them boarding without the risk of being disciplined.’
Another added there were no police or revenue inspectors to enforce the rules and said he was told to ‘absolutely not enforce it’. TfL denied the claims.
Under the new Government regulations, policemen and TfL have the power to tell people to leave buses if they do not wear a face mask.
Those who are exempt include children under 11, people who have trouble breathing and anyone who finds it difficult to manage them correctly.
Drivers have locked horns with passengers over the wearing of coverings after it was made mandatory on June 15 (pictured on June 10)
London Mayor and chairman of TfL Sadiq Khan faced weeks of criticism over the lack of protection for drivers in the early stages of the outbreak.
He insisted transport workers did not need PPE, despite fury from the grieving families of bus drivers who had tragically died.
It was not until mid-April when he finally conceded public transport users should wear face masks or coverings.
By this point 20 bus drivers in the capital had already died from coronavirus and it was another month before they started to be issued with PPE on May 18.
Critics say bus drivers should have been given PPE from the beginning of March, when the threat posed by the virus to public transport networks was emerging.
In recent weeks the Mayor has often spoken of the importance of wearing face masks on public transport.
After hearing the drivers’ claims, the Tories blasted Mr Khan for hypocrisy, with London Conservatives’ Transport’s Keith Prince accusing him of mixed messaging.
He said: ‘How can the Mayor in one voice be calling on the Government to introduce masks in shops, and yet he doesn’t even allow bus drivers to wear them, he does nothing to help those bus drivers enforce passengers to use them?’
Unite union warned of the dangers of a second wave of coronavirus infections if face masks were not worn on public transport.
London Mayor and chairman of TfL Sadiq Khan (pictured) faced weeks of criticism over the lack of protection for drivers in the early stages of the outbreak
It came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced bus and rail timetables will return to 85 per cent of normal services this month.
Unite called for bus operators, not bus drivers, to take responsibility and make people wear masks.
It said it was concerned the rules of wearing coverings and maintaining social distancing on public transport was being ignored.
Unite national officer for public transport Bobby Morton said: ‘Unite members are increasingly reporting the rules on face coverings and social distancing on public transport, especially buses, are being flouted.
‘With the frequency of public transport increasing and passenger numbers rising, the danger of a second spike will be greatly increased unless decisive action is taken to ensure the rules are followed.
‘It is not the role of bus drivers, nor do they have the power, to prevent someone without a face covering from boarding a bus.
‘The failure of bus operators and the police to deal with this increasing problem is potentially risking the health of bus workers and passengers, and could have disastrous consequences for the nation’s public health.’
The Unite union, which represents more than 80,000 bus workers, warned there would be a second spike in Covid infections if wearing coverings was not enforced
As many as 44 TfL frontline workers have died from coronavirus during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Director of Bus Operations at TfL Claire Mann told MailOnline: ‘It is absolutely not the case that bus drivers should be stopped from asking customers to wear face coverings and they should not be disciplined for doing so.
‘Bus drivers should be engaging with customers to make sure they are aware that it is a requirement to wear face coverings on public transport unless they are exempt, where they feel comfortable to do so.
‘We have issued communications to bus operators about the role of bus drivers in encouraging compliance with the new regulations.
‘The police and TfL enforcement officers are deployed to priority locations across the bus network to explain the requirement and encourage compliance.
‘Everyone should be wearing a mask on our services unless they are exempt and bus drivers can now also use an on-bus reporting function to report issues with non-compliance.
‘This assists with the deployment of police and TfL enforcement officers and helps target messaging to customers.
‘We ask the public to remember that some customers will be unable to wear a face covering for medical reasons that may not be immediately obvious.’