To wear a mask or not to wear a mask? That is the question for rail passengers

No problem with social distancing here. There are, at the most, half a dozen people to a carriage on the delayed 11.19am Transport for Wales service from Wolverhampton to Telford.

Hastily pulling on her mask as I sit at the table next to her is 43-year-old Ros Thomas, who is marking 'Freedom Day' with a first trip to Shrewsbury's Theatre Severn with friends Lynn Hadley and Margaret Thomas.

She says she chose to take a commonsense approach to the relaxation of the rules, not wearing a mask when she is alone, but wearing one in confined spaces or when approached by a stranger.

But while Lynn, from Wolverhampton, is happy to be able to use her discretion, she has concerns about the pressures the relaxation of the rules will have on the licensed trade.

"I don't think it is fair that pub operators are being expected to police this," she says. "It's a bit woolly."

Margaret, 74, also wonders if the rules are too vague.

"I think they could have been clearer with the masks," she says.

Lynn, 75, from Dudley, says in practice she doesn't expect to see much immediate difference to people's behaviour.

"I think it will be as it was," she says. "It isn't about the Government bringing in this or that, it's about what people do."

Ian, a 47-year-old company director from Wolverhampton, is also exercising his right not to wear a mask, although he explains that he has one with him which he will put on if necessary.

"I'm not wearing one because there's nobody here," he says. "But if people came on the train and sat around me, that would be different, and I would put one on then."

He is philosophical about the change in the rules, saying they would have to change sooner or later.

"I don't think there is ever a great time, but we have got to start lifting the rules sooner or later," he says. "People have got to use their common sense."

Ian says he believes that most people are still quite cautious.

"I have been in Birmingham today, and people were still wearing masks," he says.

And one good thing to have come out of the pandemic is that the standard of cleanliness on the trains has improved, he says.

"Before the pandemic, these trains were filthy, now it's changed, they are extremely clean."

Gill Galstone gets on the train at Shifnal, after spending time with her daughter in the town.

The 62-year-old, who lives in Llandudno, is wearing a mask, but says that the Government is in a no-win situation and will come under criticism whatever it does.

"I don't know what's right and what's wrong, I don't think anybody does," she says.

John Miller, 34, from Walsall, who is heading to Prestatyn for a holiday with friend Ken Brookes, wonders if the Government is acting a little hastily.

"I think it's a bit too early," he says.

"I'm not really bothered, we have got to face Covid as it isn't going to go away any time soon."

Over at Telford station, a heavily tattooed young man called Damien says the lifting of the rules are long overdue.

"It's about time," he says. "I don't believe in all that anyway."

Steve Hopkin, a 50-year-old veterinary nurse from Telford, takes a very different view. He reveals that he refused to get on the previous train because it was too crowded.

"It's ridiculous, there were just two carriages on," he says.

And he believes it is too early to be relaxing the regulations.

"It should be compulsory to wear a mask in public," he adds.

Steve would probably have felt disappointed as he alighted the next train as well, the 12:05pm West Midlands Railway service from Telford to Birmingham, which was probably 60 per cent full, with about half of the passengers wearing masks.

On entering the carriage, passengers are still greeted with a sign telling them that face coverings are mandatory, and that failure to comply will result in fines of up to £6,400.

Probably a majority of people on this comparatively crowded train have masks with them, but not everyone is wearing them.

Towards the back of the train, a middle-aged woman is edgily tapping away at her smartphone, a pink mask strewn on the table in front of her. Slightly in front of her are three young girls, probably in their late teens. While one of them remains masked until getting off at Albrighton, her stylishly dressed friend spends the entire journey daintily adjusting her mask; one minute it's covering the mouth, then she pulls it up to cover her nose, then she takes it off to speak, before pulling it back on once more.

A middle-aged, bald-headed man reclines in his seat, chatting expansively with his mask hanging below his chin, while a couple of seats behind a man in a grey T-shirt sits bolt-upright in near silence, his face fully covered.

Holly Briscoe, 17, travelling from Telford to Wolverhampton, says she is undecided about what is right, but will continue wearing a mask for the time being.

"I'm not really sure," she says.

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