Push for public transport users to wear masks on commute

PUBLIC transport patronage in Ipswich dropped by 80 per cent at the height of COVID-19 restrictions but people are slowly returning to their usual commutes.

One local public transport advocate praised TransLink's efforts to maintain its regular timetables during the crisis and not cut back as transport authorities did in New South Wales.

RAIL Back On Track spokesman and Goodna resident Robert Dow believed more could be done to protect commuter's health, including encouraging the use of masks, as people start to return to public transport.

Mr Dow said "sensible measures" such as rear door boarding and exiting on buses, no cash fares and improved cleaning were very much welcome.

But he said more services needed to be in place for at least two hours after peak times, specifically between 8.30-10.30am and 7-9pm, to encourage passengers to travel out of peak.

Mr Dow also believed additional services are needed during peak and counter-peak, where heavy passenger loading is a "constant issue".

He said the use of non-medical face masks or coverings when social distancing isn't possible should be encourage by TransLink.

"We also think that all public transport staff, particularly bus drivers and ferry crew, be offered proper medical grade respiratory masks," he said.

"We think that's a pretty sound thing to be doing (for commuters). We're not talking medical grade masks. Just simply reusable masks that can be washed and reused

"Other than that it seems to be going reasonably well … we don't have any real concerns. The system is working.

"I think patronage will probably recover up to about 50 per cent in the next few months. "That's theoretically going to make it difficult to social distance on public transport."

A TransLink spokesman said passenger trips on the Ipswich network dropped by about 80 per cent during April when compared with the same period last year.

"We have seen a slight patronage upturn in recent weeks, with passenger trips down about 60 per cent for the week ending May 25 compared to the same time last year," he said.

He said there is "little evidence" to support the widespread use of masks in healthy people.

"We are closely monitoring COVID-19 developments and working with health authorities around safety measures on public transport, and the current advice is that most people will not benefit from wearing a surgical mask," the spokesman said.

"While customers and staff can make their own personal decision about wearing a mask, there is little evidence to support the widespread use of masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public.

"Running services to regular timetables has allowed customers to socially distance and as customers return to the network, we are encouraging them to follow three key steps; leave a gap between themselves and others; adjust their travel to avoid peak periods; and keep it clean by following health advice.

"While there is currently sufficient capacity to carry customers at all times, we are monitoring the network closely and investigating the viability of additional services to shoulder peak periods."

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