Translink’s statistics indicate that over 80% of passengers were wearing face coverings on its services at the end of July.

At a press conference on 6 August 2020, Northern Ireland First Minister, Arlene Foster MLA, claimed (starts 54:52) “82% of the public are now wearing masks on Translink buses and trains.”

On the same day, the Department of Infrastructure and the Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon MLA, published on Twitter that this compliance rate was 80%.

What is the source of these figures?

The Executive Office informed FactCheckNI that the figure stated by the First Minister came from a survey conducted by Translink. A freedom of information request to Translink revealed their methodology and a summary of their results (but not the raw data):

  • On 30 July 2020, surveys were conducted on 38 separate train services (across the Portadown, Bangor, Larne, Londonderry and Portrush lines); with a full passenger count taken by the on-board conductor along with the number of customers wearing a face covering;
  • Between 30 and 31 July 2020, similar surveys were conducted on 361 Ulsterbus services, 424 Metro services and an unstated number of Glider services in Belfast; the number of passengers embarking and alighting was recorded at Translink bus stations along with a count of the number of passengers not wearing a face covering; some services were surveyed mid-route;
  • An earlier response from the Translink freedom of information team explained that 30-31 July surveys on rail and bus services “found the number using face coverings was over 80%, showing an increasing trend”; and
  • Translink informed FactCheckNI that the evidence for “an increasing trend” came from two previous surveys.

Prior to face-coverings becoming mandatory on Northern Ireland public transport on 10 July 2020, front line rail staff reported that approximately 10% of customers were wearing face coverings (based on ad hoc customer counts on train services). Surveys of passengers wearing face coverings on Metro and Glider services between 15-17 July showed a compliance rate of 71%. Ad hoc surveys of passengers on Ulsterbus services during the same period showed 60-70% compliance.

Arlene Foster’s claim is backed up by Translink’s statistics from their surveys across much of their rail and bus network. Translinks’s claim that there was an increasing trend of passengers wearing face coverings is backed up by their observations across July.

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