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Union wants face masks to be compulsory on public transport but minister says evidence for effectiveness is not conclusive


Nichola Mallon

Nichola Mallon


Nichola Mallon

A trade union has said plans to encourage passengers to wear face coverings on public transport in Northern Ireland do not go far enough.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said the recommendation would not be compulsory, as the evidence was not yet conclusive, and passengers would not be turned away if they did not comply. While lockdown restrictions continue, the number of people using bus and rail services to get to work has been increasing in recent weeks.

Davy Thompson, Unite Deputy Regional Secretary, told the Belfast Telegraph that more certainty was also needed on funding and on arrangements for cross-border services.

"Whilst the lockdown may be eased, the reality is that a lot of companies are going back to work and more people are using public transport," he said.

"Therefore we believe it should be mandatory for passengers to wear face coverings. All the drivers are behind protective screens but our concern would be for our conductors, they can have masks but it should be required."

On north-south journeys, he questioned if conductors could be asked to police different regulations as they crossed the border.

He added: "We believe that to be completely unfair and it just needs to be standardised across the whole of Ireland."

Mr Thompson said that Translink's resources had "fallen significantly" in recent weeks, adding: "There has been money sent to Stormont for Covid-19, but I'm not aware that the department has got anything out of that at this point."

He added that maintaining social distancing could mean it is necessary to run two buses for certain services. Social distancing currently means that capacity is limited to no more than 15% on buses and 12% on trains.

Ms Mallon said she had been clear with Executive colleagues that Translink must be properly resourced.

She also warned that using face coverings should not lead to a false sense of security, and social distancing should still be maintained during journeys.

Belfast Telegraph