LATEST NEWS: Disabled man says government's bus rules are a 'paradox' by encouraging vulnerable to go without face masks

BUS drivers in Bradford say they have been left confused as to whether they should abide by the law or their bosses when dealing with public transport face covering rules.

The Government has introduced new legislation that means it is illegal to get on a bus or train without a face covering – “a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth” and does not necessarily have to be a mask.

The Government’s website states: “If you do not wear a face covering you will be breaking the law and could be fined £100, or £50 if you pay the fine within 14 days.”

Exemptions include children under 11, on-duty emergency services staff, people with a physical or mental disability, those travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and if wearing one would cause you severe distress.

Such nuances in the guidelines, and mixed messages from employers, are leaving those on the frontline unsure what to do, according to multiple First Bradford bus drivers.

One driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “As of Monday, it was my understanding, and I also checked on the government website, that the wearing of face masks was mandatory and travel could be refused by the driver if someone refused to wear or didn’t have a mask to wear.

“Our management have told us that we can’t enforce this and we cannot refuse travel and can only advise passengers on the wearing of face masks.

"Because drivers are under the belief that it’s law enforced by the government that face masks must be worn, some drivers have refused travel which has led to the passenger making a complaint against the driver. The driver has then been given a harsh word to by management, reminding us it’s not our place to police the situation.

“The drivers don’t know where we stand.”

The Government’s rules say bus drivers - and other transport operator employees - do not have to wear a face covering when providing their service.

This will perhaps cause confusion for customers in the first few days, but buses do have a poster on the driver’s cab which explains the situation.

It says: “You must wear a face covering on this bus. Drivers cannot wear face coverings in the cab for safety reasons.”

A spokesperson for First Bradford said: “We understand it will take time for everyone to adapt and are asking all customers to assist our drivers by co-operating to make journeys safe for everyone.

“We are communicating the need to wear face coverings (in England) at this time, which aligns with guidance from Government to engage, explain and encourage adoption.

“Our drivers’ primary focus must remain on driving people safely to their destination.

“Some people travelling, including our drivers in their cabs, will be exempt from wearing a face covering and our drivers have guidance on helping any vulnerable customers as they board.

“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic our drivers have responded superbly to the challenges in helping to ensure people can make essential journeys and this will continue.”

The issue of enforcement still remains though.

Another driver, with over a decade of experience on Bradford's buses, believes police will be looking out for buses with people not following the rules and says “if they see us, they’ll stop us”.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing say forces across the country will employ a four-phase approach.

This begins with engaging, before explaining then encouraging, and ending with enforcing if needed.