To wear or not to wear? Face masks on London public transport

To wear or not to wear? Face masks on London public transport

With restrictions on travel, socialising, social-distancing and the wearing of face coverings greatly reduced (practically to the point of being abandoned) in England, this summer has been one where vacationing and tourism has been embraced once more throughout the country. Not least in the capital, London.

That said, should you shortly be venturing to the city, set to enjoy a London hotel deal, it’s worth bearing in mind that not every one of the pandemic-induced restrictions have been rescinded – specifically when it comes to travelling via public transport.

Face masks/ coverings
Face masks/ coverings

In order to travel on any public transport services in London – Tube, Overground rail, Docklands Light Railways (DLR), bus, Dial-a-Ride services or the Emirates Air Line; all of which are run by the Transport for London (TfL) body – you must still wear a face mask/ covering. That includes in any stations as well as while you’re actually in transit.

TfL also recommends the wearing of face coverings in private hire vehicles, such as taxis; but, of course, doing so isn’t at all mandatory. The wearing of face coverings on TfL services, however, is exempted for some people – not least for health and disability purposes.

Who’s exempted from wearing a face covering?

Whatever your reason for visiting London and while, perhaps, staying at the likes of a Paddington hotel, you may be able to get an exemption from wearing a face covering on public transport, due to certain circumstances. People who may not have to wear a mask or face covering, then, can apply to TfL for a ‘face covering exemption badge’.

To clarify, those who don’t have to wear them include:

  • children under 11-years-old
  • TfL employees/ service providers to TfL
  • on-duty British Transport Police/ general police officers
  • on-duty emergency services staff
  • those with a physical or mental illness for whom wearing and/ or removing a face mask/ covering is causes great difficulty/ distress
  • travellers accompanying fellow travellers whom rely on lip reading for communication
  • those travelling to escape risk of harm (in which scenario they might well not have a face mask/ covering on their person)
  • those travelling who have to eat, drink or receive medication during their journey (allowed to remove their mask/ covering during their journey).

Travelling when it’s quieter

It’s certainly a good idea, given the fact the pandemic’s certainly still with us, to try and travel on the TfL network when it’s quieter rather than busier. Indeed, TfL itself actually advises this. How best to do so? Well, a good idea is to check the official TfL Go app or use its ‘Travel Planner’ (available via its website), which’ll help you plan use of the network at arguably the ‘safest’ times of day.

Generally speaking, though, it’s worth noting the network is quietest between 8.15am and after 5.30pm during the week and between before 12noon and after 6pm at the weekend (the latter being ideal for an afternoon spa appointment during one of those spa breaks London).

When it comes to popular Tube stations (especially some Central London stations), their busiest times tend to between 5.45am and 8.15am and between 4pm and 5.30pm during the week, then between 12noon and 6pm at the weekend.

Also, it’s not unusual for specific stations and (bus) stops to become busier than usual due to one-off events nearby – especially in the summer – or due to maintenance works taking place at other nearby stations or stops.