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Shapps beefs up enforcement powers to ensure passengers wear face coverings

UK News | Published:

The Transport Secretary said TfL, Network Rail and the British Transport Police will be ‘tightening up’ on ensuring they are worn during journeys.

Face coverings become mandatory on public transport in England with the easing of further lockdown restrictions

Enforcement powers to deal with people not wearing face coverings on public transport have been beefed up, according to Grant Shapps.

The Transport Secretary told MPs figures suggested there was 86% compliance of passengers wearing a face covering on public transport.

But he added Transport for London (TfL), Network Rail and the British Transport Police will be “tightening up” on ensuring they are worn during journeys.

The Department for Transport said the change means TfL has been designated as a prosecuting authority, thereby allowing it to prosecute passengers who refuse to wear a face covering or refuse to pay a fine of up to £100 for non-compliance.

Train services are also expected to be back to around 85% of pre-lockdown levels from next week, MPs heard.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Shapps said: “We’ve seen very high levels of compliance on face coverings.

“It looks like, according to the Office for National Statistics, on the week of June 26 that 86% compliance was in existence.

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“We did say in the early days that we would ensure compliance was gently enforced but I do want to inform the House that TfL (Transport for London), Network Rail, British Transport Police will be tightening up on that implementation.

“I’ve signed just under regulation 8 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) England regulations 2020 powers for TfL to increase enforcement.”

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris also told MPs: “The rail industry will deliver an uplift in services on Monday July 6 to respond to an increase in post-July 4 demand.

“And service levels will be close to 85% of pre-Covid levels.”

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Tory MP Chris Loder (West Dorset) asked for a review of the Government’s Covid-19 message to “avoid non-essential travel”, in order to help struggling commercial bus and train operators.

He said: “The Government’s public messaging to discourage the non-essential use of buses and open-access trains for that matter is deeply damaging those commercial routes that rely on public fares to remain viable.”

Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: “We obviously keep all measures under review at all times. But our priority is always to keep the public safe.”

Tory former minister Sir Christopher Chope said the Government regards coach operators “with contempt”.

He said: “My honourable friend failed to respond to the question about coach operators which rather indicates that, as the coach industry feels, the Government regards them with contempt.

“Will she now tell us when there is going to be a meeting and a response to the requests made first by the coach industry over two months ago and repeated in a letter signed by 550 coach operators to the Chancellor of the Exchequer?”

Transport workers memorial
 Transport worker Belly Mujinga (Family Handout/PA)

Ms Maclean replied: “I can assure my right honourable friend that the Government takes the concerns of the coach industry incredibly seriously. We recognise the key role they play in the tourism industry. That’s why they have been able to access £330 billion of Government support along with all parts of our economy.”

Mr Shapps also confirmed a memorial to honour transport workers who died during the coronavirus pandemic is expected to be located at London’s Victoria Station.

He said the station was chosen as it was where transport worker Belly Mujinga was employed.

She died after being allegedly spat at by a man who claimed to have Covid-19.

Mr Shapps said: “I’d like to say a word about the way that we’d like to pay tribute to the transport workers who, as honourable members have mentioned, lost their lives during this crisis – many of them providing food on our tables, helping the key workers in the NHS and care workers get to work to support us all.

“We’d, therefore, like to set up a commemorative memorial for transport workers and I can think of no better location than Victoria Station where Belly Mujinga sadly was an employee who lost her life.”

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