The benefits of face masks on train journeys

Thursday 13th August 2020
As strange as it may seem, wearing a face covering has quickly become the new norm across the UK (and indeed the world!). 

What’s more, current government guidelines to stop the spread of Covid-19 mean it’s currently compulsory to wear a covering (unless exempt) when you hop on any public transport or visit any public transport hub. But what exactly do face coverings do and why should you be using them?

Man wearing a black face mask

The point of face coverings during train travel

Put simply, the main purpose of putting on a face mask when you leave your home (and especially if you travel on public transport) is to keep yourself and people around you safe. 

Face coverings work by limiting the spread of airborne droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you do things such as breathe, talk, cough or sneeze. Without a covering, these not only spread through the air, but can also contaminate surfaces which others may later touch. As many people can be carriers of coronavirus without knowing it, it’s vital that we cover our noses and mouths when we’re in close proximity.

Woman wearing a face mask on a train station platform

The primary aim of a face covering is to protect those around you and yourself from becoming ill. If everyone follows the government guidelines, wears a mask when travelling on public transport and keeps their distance, we all have a greater chance of staying healthy and free from infection!

How to use your face covering on the train

To offer the maximum amount of protection, you need to make sure that your face covering – whether that’s a mask, a scarf or a handmade item – is properly covering up your nose and mouth.

If you’re setting off on a long journey, remember that you’ll have to wear it throughout (and at the stations which you arrive and exit at). It’ll be key to choose something which is comfortable and breathable.

Woman putting on a face mask

Most masks have elastic straps which hook easily around the ears to keep them secure. If you’ve gone for a scarf or bandana, make sure you tie it at the back of your head to keep it in place. Then when removing, wait till you’re outside the station and take it off using the elastic straps if it’s a mask or unwrap from the back if it’s a scarf, making sure not to touch your face.

Where to get a face covering
Dozens of shops now sell face coverings, including supermarkets and high street retailers. You’ll also find a lot of masks for sale online – simply search for face coverings and get choosing!

While standard paper surgical masks offer some protection, they’re usually one-use options only. To save money, reduce waste, and ensure you have the best possible protection, you’re better off buying a fabric mask which you can wash after each use. But if you are using single-use masks, make sure to dispose of them straight into the bin after you’ve used it.

Pile of facemasks

 If you go for a fabric mask, make sure it fits your face properly – a well-fitted face mask should cover up your nose and mouth, while also leaving minimal gaps at the top, bottom or sides for air particles to escape.

It’s best to avoid buying a medical grade PPE mask as these are needed by the NHS and other healthcare staff to help protect them and others on the frontline.

How about making your own mask?

If you’re handy with a needle and thread, you might want to try making your own face covering! It’s an affordable way to ensure you stay stocked up, plus it gives you the chance to personalise them with printed fabrics.

You’ll find numerous guides online on how to make your own mask, however we recommend that you:

  • Use thicker fabric or try to layer fabric to minimise the number of particles which could escape from your mouth or nose. Cotton is a great option as it is both breathable and a good thickness. 
  • Bear in mind allergies and sensitivities to certain kinds of fabric if you’re making one for someone else. Good things to make face masks out of include pillowcases and duvet covers.
  • Make sure the elastic ties are tight enough to keep the mask flush to your face – you can buy elastic string for this or even use an elastic hairband!
  • Remember to wash your mask after every use. Because of this, you may want to make two and swap between them.

Face mask, scissors, string, sewing kit

Is anyone exempt from wearing a face mask on trains?

You may notice some people on your train who are not wearing a mask. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ignoring the rules. Some people may be exempt from wearing them because:

They’re under the age of 11 – it’s not a requirement in the UK for kids under the age of 11 to wear a mask. Note that in Scotland, only children under the age of 5 are exempt. 

They have a medical condition – those who suffer from severe respiratory symptoms and may find it difficult to breathe with a mask on are generally exempt.

They have a physical and mental disability – some people may find it highly distressing to wear a mask or be unable to put one on/take it off.  

They’re someone who relies on lip reading for communication – if you’re travelling by rail as a companion or helper to someone who needs to lip read, you don’t have to wear a mask. 

They’re eating or drinking – need a sip of water or a bite to eat on the train? You’re allowed to remove your mask to do this as long as you put it back on as soon as you’re finished.

How else is TransPennine Express is keeping you safe?

Whether you’ve been on one of our trains recently or you’re travelling on one very soon, it’s completely natural to feel a bit nervous. There’s no need to be though, especially if you’re staying aware and wearing a face mask but we are also doing everything we can to keep you safe too. This includes:

  1. Increasing our cleaning capacity onboard trains and at stations to keep surfaces (whether that’s handrails, buttons, toilets or ticket machines) free from germs.
  2. Using a sanitising treatment which provides strong, long-lasting antimicrobial protection against a range of bacteria, viruses and pathogens on surfaces.
  3. Reducing the capacity of our trains by half so people are able to social distance as much as possible on board. We encourage booking your tickets online or on our app in advance and to travel outside of peak times.
  4. Ensuring there are clear markings on the floor in every station in places where you might need to queue or wait.
  5. Providing hand sanitiser in stations as you arrive and ensuring there’s plenty of TransPennine Express colleagues around if you need any extra advice.

When it comes to face masks, we’re following the UK government guidelines and have made it compulsory to wear them on all of our services. If you don’t, you could face a fine of up to £100 from the British Transport Police unless you're exempt.

So, keep yourself and others around you protected by wearing a face mask and following our travel safety guidelines. Uncertain about something during your journey? Our colleagues are on hand at stations and onboard your train to help, and to make sure you get your chosen service and don’t have to queue at the station, buy your ticket online.


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