North East leaders call for mandatory face masks on public transport

Political leaders in the North East have urged the government to make wearing face masks on public transport mandatory.

On Monday the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions means it will be down to individuals' personal responsibility whether they wear masks in shops and on public transport.

The leader of Gateshead Council, Cllr Martin Gannon, has written a letter to Boris Johnson calling on him to reconsider the changes on so-called 'Freedom Day'.

Speaking in his capacity as Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, he told ITV News Tyne Tees: "They get on a train at Kings Cross and go to Edinburgh and as they travel through Gateshead and Newcastle they have their mask off, but when they get to the Scottish Borders they’ve got to put it back on.

"Come on Boris, get a grip, you’re making a fool of yourself. Just do the right thing and introduce regulations which will enforce the wearing of masks on public transport".

Metro station Credit: PA

Nexus, the company which runs the Metro in the North East, said it will continue to "positively encourage" its customers to wear face coverings as per the government's current advice that everyone is "expected and recommended to keep wearing face coverings in busy indoor settings, including shops and on public transport".

Huw Lewis, Customer Services Director at Nexus, said: "We want there to be a single clear message about what customers should do on public transport, whether it be Metro or bus or Ferry in North East England. 

"Local authority leaders have contacted the Government to ask for clear and consistent powers across the industry which we will support if they are brought in."

Grant Shapps MP Credit: PA

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, referred to mask wearing on public transport when making comment about Transport for London's decision to make it mandatory.

He said: "I don't buy the idea this is hugely complicated... we invite the operators of these transport systems to do what is right in their particular circumstances, and a crowded train is obviously a sensible place to be wearing a mask, and so I welcome this."

A government spokeswoman said: “As we’ve set out, we’re moving from a universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility.

“The guidance is clear that people are expected and recommended to wear a mask when they come into contact with people they don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.

“It is open to transport operators to decide if they want to take further measures.”