By Alistair Grant

SCOTS are now “expected” to wear face coverings on public transport under new coronavirus guidelines. 

It came as ministers pledged an extra £20 million towards a fund aimed at creating temporary walking and cycling routes.

Passengers on trains, buses and trams should maintain a distance of two metres between themselves and others, the new guidance says. 

If this is impossible, they are told to “avoid physical contact and face away from others”.

Public transport capacity will be drastically reduced as the lockdown is eased, to try and ensure social distancing. Operators suggest capacity will be between 10 per cent and 25% of normal.

The guidance, which is published by Transport Scotland and comes into force immediately, tells Scots to travel only when necessary, such as for work or shopping.

It adds: “Consider walking or cycling, if you can, to reduce pressure on the road network and on public transport where capacity will be limited.”

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said the an extra £20m will go towards the “Spaces for People” fund, bringing its total to £30m.

The cash enables local authorities and others to design and implement temporary “pop up” walking and cycling routes by re-allocating road space. 

Elsewhere, the new guidance tells travellers to reduce their use of cash by paying online, via apps or by using contactless, and to wash their hands thoroughly before and after every journey.

Those with coronavirus symptoms, or who are self-isolating or shielding because they are vulnerable, should stay at home.

Employers are being urged to “show leadership” and allow earlier or later start and finish times to help reduce transport demand.

On face coverings, the guidance says: “You should, and are expected to, wear a face covering when using public transport as a consideration to your fellow passengers and transport staff. 

“The wearing of a face covering for very young children or those with particular health conditions is not appropriate.”

Mr Matheson said: “Please come prepared with your own face covering when using public transport.”

But Labour MSP Colin Smyth criticised the guidance for not going far enough. 

He said: “It is not good enough for the SNP government to hope that company bosses will show leniency with their staff’s schedules. 

“It is not good enough to hope that transport workers will be safe because passengers have been asked to wear face coverings.

“If the government believes face coverings are necessary to stop the further spread of Covid-19, then they must explain how this will be enforced.

“Under this guidance there is nothing to stop anyone getting on public transport without a face covering, not just those who cannot wear face coverings for practical reasons.

“Transport staff need the assurance that they will not be forced into a position where they have to put themselves at risk in an attempt to enforce the official guidance.”

Mr Matheson said the Scottish Government has worked with operators, unions and passenger groups to develop the guidance.

He said: “The guidance stresses the need for personal responsibility when travelling and this co-operation is vital as we work to provide a safe transport system that supports the people of Scotland.

“The route map offers a path away from the current restrictions, but the virus is still with us, if we move too quickly or without appropriate diligence, it could rapidly run out of control again.

“The level of physical distancing required as we navigate the phases of the route map will affect the available capacity of public transport. 

“Operators estimate capacity will be between 10% and 25% of normal availability even with full services resumed.

“A system that previously had 1.5 million journeys per day will be significantly constrained. 

“So today, I am urging employers, operators and the public to embrace these changes and help us all adapt to a new environment which has flexible and remote working at its core, for the immediate future at least, flattens peak travel demand and has a strong focus on active travel.

“We are looking to increase the frequency of public transport. But reducing the demand for transport is vitally important. 

“We are urging employers to show leadership and be as flexible as possible to allow earlier or later starting and finishing times for those that have to travel to work.”

He said a new transport transition plan “will look to manage demand and increase availability of road space and priority for walking, cycling, wheeling and bus”.

ScotRail operations director David Simpson said: “We are asking our customers to play a very important role in keeping everyone safe by following the Scottish Government advice to cover their face while travelling.

“The message remains the same: people should only travel when it is essential to do so. We need everyone to take personal responsibility.”