Metro staff could fine passengers for refusing to wear face masks during pandemic

Metro staff could be given powers to hit passengers with fines if they refuse to wear a face mask.

By James Harrison
Thursday, 14th January 2021, 7:49 pm
Metro staff could fine passengers for refusing to wear face masks during pandemic
Metro staff could fine passengers for refusing to wear face masks during pandemic

Bosses for the network have revealed they are seeking to copy the approach in London, where enforcement officers have powers ranging from refusing entry to services to prosecution.

And travel chiefs have also suggested the approach could also be expanded to include the North East’s buses.

“We’ve been meeting with the Department for Transport (DfT) because we’re aware Transport for London (TfL) has had some powers for their staff to be able to enforce the wearing of face coverings,” said Martin Kearney, chief operating officer officer at Metro operator Nexus.

“That is something we really want to bring in for the Metro system and the wider transport systems of the North East.

“We need to be able to challenge those who are not wearing face coverings and not exempt and for there to be repercussions.

“I see this as a really good tool for us to have in our chest to ensure we have 100 per cent face coverings, bar those exempt.”

Kearney was speaking at this afternoon’s (Thursday, January 14) meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear Sub Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Passenger numbers on Metro services have slumped to about 15 per cent of normal levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of these, network bosses estimate just one in 10 travellers are not complying with rules on face coverings, with enforcement currently the responsibility of Northumbria Police and the British Transport Police (BTP).

Last year (2020) TfL enforcement officers stopped more than 117,000 getting on a public transport service without a face covering, most of whom subsequently put one on.

At least 840 people in the capital were issued fines by TfL in 2020 for refusing to wear one, with more issued by the BTP.

Huw Lewis, Customer Services Director at Nexus, said: “The take up of face coverings is incredibly high on public transport.

“I want to thank our passengers for that – they got the message, they understand we’re all in this together and the part they need to play.

“But there is a small minority who don’t get the message, who don’t have exemptions and who continue to defy what is basic public health advice.”

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