FIRST minister Mark Drakeford has said that work to make sure public transport users continue to follow Welsh rules, when crossing over the border from England, will continue.

At the moment masks and face coverings are not compulsory on public transport in England, but remain mandatory in Wales – unless a passenger is exempt.

As a result of the different rules imposed by the UK and Welsh governments, many people face the scenario of travelling on a single journey, which traverses two different restriction zones.

And, with Newport one of the first train station stops on the Welsh side of the border, it is often the first port of call for railway users travelling into Wales – where the restrictions this side of the border may not be fresh in the mind.

In recent weeks, trains coming into Newport from the border have seen a number of passengers failing to wear face coverings – though rail bosses have said that this is also the case on services which start in Wales too.

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Speaking to the Argus, the first minister has said that efforts to remind passengers of their responsibilities will continue. Mr Drakeford said: “We continue to work hard through Transport for Wales making sure that when people cross the border there are announcements, that there are signs for people to see.

“It does sometimes take people a little while to get used to changes, differences on either side of the border, but we are determined, that here in Wales, while there are still, those simple safeguards that we can take, in our own lives – mask wearing, keeping a respectful distance, hand washing.

“All those things we’ve learned to do, while they remain part of the repertoire that keeps people in those frontline services safe, we will keep them in place, and when people come into Wales, then its Welsh rules that will apply.”

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The first minister’s reminder comes just days after Transport for Wales (TfW) reported that in the days after restrictions were eased, there was a noticeable rise in the number of people failing to wear masks on board trains, and in covered stations such as Newport, and Cardiff Central – where masks remain mandatory.

As a result, the Welsh government operated rail firm embarked on a week of action from August 11-18.

Working alongside the British Transport Police (BTP), TfW staff and BTP officers went out and about across the railway network in Wales to remind passengers of the rules, and to enforce them, should anyone be seen failing to comply.

Following this week, a spokesman for TfW revealed that 177 people were refused travel on the Wales and Borders franchise for non-compliance of Wales’s face covering rules.

Since the beginning of 2021, more than 62,000 people have been challenged for failing to wear a face covering, while more than 2,600 have subsequently been refused travel.

What have rail bosses said?

Leyton Powell, TfW’s director of safety and sustainability, said: “We fully support the Welsh Government’s regulations and continue to engage with passengers to ensure face coverings are worn on public transport in Wales, unless exempt.

“Our recent week of action in collaboration with the British Transport Police was successful through our approach of engagement, education and encouragement. In addition 177 people were refused travel for non-face covering compliance across the Wales and Borders network.

“The safety of our customers remains our priority and we would like to thank everyone for their continued understanding and cooperation.”