A BUS passenger has said she is unlikely to use public transport in Oxford if drivers cannot force people to wear masks to comply with a new law.

From Monday, June 15, wearing a face covering or mask became a legal requirement for anyone who wanted to use public transport in England.

Those who do not can be fined up to £100 by enforcement officers hired by the Department for Transport.

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But some Oxford bus users have raised concerns about passengers who have not been following the new law since it came in last week.

Lee Read, 77, was riding an Oxford Bus Company bus between the train station and Iffley Road on Thursday when two other passengers got on board not wearing masks.

Oxford Mail:

A face mask

Mrs Read said she had felt ‘great sense of relief’ about the new law requiring people to wear face coverings, as it would help to protect her and others in vulnerable age groups.

However, she said: “I told the driver when I got off the two passengers did not have masks on, but he said he could not stop them getting on.”

Drivers at Oxford’s two largest bus companies – the Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach – have been told to avoid confrontation with customers who do not wear masks for their own safety.

But the drivers can remind customers about the new law if someone is not wearing a mask.

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Mrs Read said she thought it would be a good idea for the bus companies to provide masks for customers who had forgotten to bring their own.

But she added that she would not be willing to use public transport if others did not follow the rules.

A scheme similar to this is currently being trialled by Transport for London, which has been ‘helping customers adjust’ to the new law by providing masks at some tube and bus stations in the capital since June 8.

Another bus passenger who wished to remain anonymous said she had seen people not following the new rules on a bus between the city and Blackbird Leys.

Representatives for both the bus operators in Oxford did not say whether they had considered providing masks for their customers as people adjusted to the new rule.

But they both said that public awareness campaigns about the requirement to wear a face covering had been stepped up.

Oxford Mail:

An Oxford Bus Company bus

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company managing director said: "We appreciate this is a challenging time, but so far, the majority of passengers are embracing the changes.

"When required, our drivers are reminding customers of the need to wear a face covering, but it will take a little time for everyone to adapt to the new Government guidance.”

Mr Southall added that the company’s website and social media now contained reference to the new rules, and said posters were being put on buses to explain them.

He also said buses were being cleaned more frequently and fewer passengers were allowed to ride them to prevent overcrowding.

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Mr Southall said: “Our drivers do not have the power to enforce laws where people choose not to comply. Law enforcement is a matter for the police and therefore if we do begin to identify people without an exemption who regularly do not comply with the laws we will work with the police to ensure this is brought to their attention."

Chris Coleman, managing director of Stagecoach Oxfordshire said: "Our experience is that the majority of passengers have been following the new rules.

"Most passengers are looking to do the right thing and are very supportive of the changes. However, we know that it will take some time for passengers to adapt to this new requirement.

"As with any change in any part of life there may be instances where people forget or aren't aware and we are helping our passengers to understand the new guidance.

"We will continue to work with our passengers to help them have all the information they need to plan their journeys."

Oxford Mail:

A new government advert telling people to wear face coverings on buses

Although most people are required to wear face covering on public transport, there are some who are exempt from the new rule.

This group includes children under the age of 11 and emergency services staff carrying out their duties.

There are also exemptions for people who have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a mask, including those who would feel distressed if they had to, people travelling with others who need to lip read, and those taking medication.

People can also be asked to remove their masks on board public transport by police officers.

Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for transport planning throughout the county.

A spokesman said: “The council advises passengers that it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings if not exempt, it is an offence not to do so and that a fine of £100 can be charged to those who do not comply.”