Lib Dems ask SWR to keep mask wearing on trains

Liberal Democrat MPs, London Assembly members and council and group leaders in South West London have written to South Western Railway boss Claire Mann, calling for masks to continue to be required on their train services.

The letter from Lib Dem politicians says:

‘Many key workers from across south west London have used South Western Railway’s (SWR) services to get to their jobs throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so as the Government eases lockdown.

‘With more Londoners expected to return to offices across the capital, but particularly in Central London, and some even restarting their daily commute, SWR’s services are likely to be busier than they have been since the initial coronavirus lockdown in May 2020.

‘Therefore, we ask that SWR join TfL and lead on this issue by continuing to require customers travelling on your serices to wear face masks, to protect themselves and those around them’.

The letter is signed by Lib Dem party leader Ed Davey, MP Kingston & Surbiton, Sarah Olney MP Richmond Park, Munira Wilson MP Twickenham, Caroline Pidgeon AM, Cllr Hina Bokhari AM, Cllr Caroline Kerr, Leader of Kingston Council, Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council and Cllr Anthony Fairclough, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Merton Council.

Image above: SWR train at Chiswick Railway Station; photograph Michael Nolan

SWR ‘not prepared to put staff at risk’

A spokesman for South Western Railway told The Chiswick Calendar they still expect passengers to wear masks in crowded places but as it is no longer legally enforceable, British Transport Police are no longer involved and to make mask wearing mandatory they would have to make it a condition of carriage, putting the onus on their own staff to enforce it.

“We would not want to put our staff in the position where they are likely to be threatened and abused by customers” he told us.

Requirement to wear masks inconsistent in London

Sadiq Khan announced last week that face masks would be required on all public transport in London operated by Transport for London, but the national train operators have decided as a group not to enforce the wearing of masks. That makes the wearing of face masks inconsistent in London, as many Londoners use national services to get in and out of the capital.

Paul Clifton, Transport correspondent for BBC South @PaulCliftonBBC tweeted:

‘The inconsistent mask wearing rule on trains creates confusion. With 60% of journeys involving London, which will do the same as Wales and Scotland, a majority of passengers will have to wear masks for part of their travel, and no masks some of the time for the rest’.

The spokesman for SWR told us that to avoid confusion they have signposted the change in face mask regulation at those stations which interchange with TfL services.

Image above: SWR train at Chiswick Railway Station; photograph Michael Nolan

‘Travel with confidence’ message undermined by train cancellations and overcrowding

National Rail Enquiries say:

‘In addition to expecting people to wear face coverings in crowded spaces, train operators will be continuing with extra cleaning. Trains are well ventilated with air regularly refreshed and we’ve improved information about the busier and quieter times to travel. This all means that people can continue to travel with confidence’.

This has not been the experience of passengers commenting on social media over the past week.

Mark Hawes, @mfhawes Tweeted on July 14:

‘Guard comes through and asks “if you see anything suspicious…”
Missing 4 carriages
Crammed like sardines
Bikes in the loo
#BuildBackBetter

So that people can travel with confidence, SWR say they are ventilating trains to refresh air, improving information about journeys and trains and extensively cleaning stations and trains.

But their customer help desk also reported on Sunday 18 July:

‘We’ve been adviced of short notice cancellations due to shortage of train crew across the South Western Railway network’.

Richard Cole @RevRichardColes tweeted:

‘Loads of trains to London cancelled or delayed so I’m about to get on a very crowded train with lots of young people. Two of them are wearing masks’.

Maggy PIggott tweeted:

‘Been so careful to maintain #SocialDistancing etc but didn’t expect the train I had to take having half the coaches missing, reservations cancelled and people packed like sardines’.

Survey shows majority won’t use public transport

London Travel Watch surveyed public opinion on mask wearing on public transport in June. More than half the people they surveyed said they wouldn’t use pubic transport unless social distancing was in place.

58% said they wouldn’t use public transport unless other people were wearing a face mask. Over 40% said they would still wear a face mask even it it was not a requirement to do so.

One woman told them she was:

“Horrified that masks and distancing will be dropped at a time when infection rates are increasing”.

Another said that “mask wearing on public transport is very important for those of us who are clinically vulnerable”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Face coverings to remain mandatory on London’s public transport

See also:  Enforcing mask wearing after 19 July will be a “shambles” says transport boss

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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