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19 July: The station where masks are mandatory – and not

The latest rule changes mean passengers at some stations in London require face coverings for the services run by Transport for London (TfL), but not on other operators’ trains.

On the first morning under this new, more relaxed Covid regime in England, the BBC spoke to commuters at one such station, Farringdon, to see what they are making of it all.

Commuters at this central London station can change trains a matter of metres apart. As they make the short journey across the platform, the advice changes too. They are allowed either to remove their face covering or should put it on, depending on which direction they are travelling.

Although face coverings are no longer a legal requirement, official advice “expects and recommends” them in crowded and enclosed spaces. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has gone further though, using his powers to make mask-wearing a condition of carriage on all TfL services.

Many passengers were unaware of the rule changes and seem confused about what the current advice is.

Will Lucas is an IT manager and is allowing his staff to adjust their hours to avoid travelling when services are at their busiest. He says clarity is needed.

He said: “In my opinion, it shouldn’t be down to individual companies to set themselves up to be blamed by the public. It should be down to the government and that’s what it should have been from day one.

“We’re so close and now we’ve just gone completely back on ourselves. It should never be put on individuals or companies to make their minds up, because now it’s different across the entire UK and nowhere in the world, as far as I’m aware, is really doing that.”

Natalie Ross was born in London but now lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, where most of the population are vaccinated, although the country is reportedly on the brink of another lockdown one month after social distancing and mask-wearing rules were relaxed.

She said: “I think masks should be mandatory indoors on all public transport for a lot longer. This isn’t going away.

“I think people are bored of the situation so I don’t think everyone will listen to the rules… not at night when people are a bit drunk and they’ve been at bars.

“I’ll let you know when I come home tonight now the rules have changed.”

Alex Ferrara, 24, a jeweller, wasn’t aware of the new rules which he branded as “crazy and “terrible”.

He said: “You’re like five metres away from the platform. It doesn’t really make any sense.

“Either you don’t wear a mask on either train or you wear a mask on both trains.”

Julie Field, 55, has been wearing a mask to protect her 95-year-old mother with whom she lives, even before they became mandatory “for her own personal comfort”.

She said: “If you don’t know what the rules are, keep your mask on. Other people may not have people they care about.

“I’m going to do the absolute maximum to keep myself safe.”

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