As countries come out of months-long lockdown and gradually revive their public transport systems, the challenge is to gain the public’s confidence in mass transport modes while maintaining social distancing.
Public transport in several European countries like the UK and Spain have resumed in full throttle, with face coverings being made mandatory for people travelling on trains, buses, commuter ferries, as well as the London Underground.
In Milan, authorities are putting red stickers on the floor for people to maintain social distance, while the Dutch are putting on longer, roomier trains and many cities, including Berlin, are opening up more lanes to cyclists. In Britain, bus passengers are entering through the middle or rear doors to reduce transmission risks for drivers.
The UK has seen resumption of trains, buses, tube, trams and light rail with easing of lockdown restrictions from mid June even though the government has advised against using public transport as much as possible.
The government has made face coverings mandatory on public transport and passengers caught not complying with the regulations risk being fined £100 and removed from services. However, those with certain health conditions, disabled people and children aged under 11 do not have to wear one.
Moreover, people have been advised to keep a distance of one metre on public transport where it’s not possible to stay 2 metres apart.
Thus, a normal Tube train that can normally carry 800 people, at 1 metre distance, a train can carry 208, BBC reported. A double-decker bus can carry 87 passengers while at 1 metre distance it can carry 30.
The government is also handing out free hundreds of thousands of face coverings to passengers at railway stations across the country.
Spain, which has seen one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in Europe, has made masks compulsory on public transport from May, when metro and interurban trains resumed after a 50-day strict lockdown. The government has been distributing 6 million masks, mainly at transport locations, and giving another 7 million to local authorities.
Germany has also made use of face masks compulsory on public transport throughout the country, with some states like Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania announcing a fine of €25 for anyone caught without one on public transport.
The government has allowed home-made cloth masks and not made hospital-style intensive care masks mandatory. These have also been put on sale in station vending machines.
However, with many people wearing masks incorrectly — usually by covering just the mouth and leaving their nose out in the open — Berlin transport operator BVG is appealing to commuters to stop using deodorant.
The BVG said it was hoping to harness the power of body odor, which can be especially potent on a packed underground train in summertime, to help offending mask-wearers change their ways, DW reported.
Buses, trams, metros and trains are back on the streets of Italy even though a host of guidelines have been issued for the public. While those having symptoms of acute respiratory infections have been barred from using public transport, the government has advised people to buy tickets in an electronic format online or via apps.
Moreover, masks have been made mandatory and people have been asked to always keep a distance of at least one metre from other people while travelling. Using disposable gloves while travelling have also been made mandatory.
Brazil, which is the second worst-affected nation due to the pandemic, has passed a law requiring masks on public transportation to help prevent coronavirus infections. Brazil, which lifted lockdown restrictions last month, has stated buses can have no more than two passengers per square meter and markings on the floor will have to be done in order to help people to keep social distance.
France, which lifted its lockdown from May 11, has made masks obligatory on public transport or risk a €135 fine while bus stops and metro entrances have been equipped with hand gel dispensers. To ensure that passengers are complying with the mask rule, the government has integrated new AI tools into security cameras in the Paris metro system.
Initially, France had limited ridership on metro, bus and suburban rail lines to 15 percent of normal levels. Passengers at rush hour were required to supply a certificate from their employer justifying their trip.