The British Transport Police is working with four train companies, Great Northern, Southeastern, Southern and Thameslink, as part of a new pilot in London to further encourage people to wear face coverings.
Supporting the industry’s Safer Travel Pledge, the pilot will involve a member of railway staff and a BTP officer patrolling stations and trains together to remind people about government rules about wearing a face covering.
The trial builds on ongoing engagement with the public about wearing face coverings and is part of the railway’s ‘Four Es’ strategy for face covering compliance: ‘Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce’. While the vast majority of people follow advice about face coverings, fines will be issued to people who do not comply and refuse to leave the railway.
Currently, face covering compliance on the railway is around 90 per cent, but, together with the BTP, rail companies are committed to seeing how this can be increased further. This does not affect people who are exempt from wearing face coverings as part of the rules, for example due to health reasons.
The pilot starts on 28 September and runs until 22 November. Rail companies and the BTP will then consider the outcomes of the pilot, together with trade unions, before taking decisions about how this could inform any changes to current working arrangements.
As of 24 September, the British Transport Police had already stopped 54,175 people to remind them of the rules, asked 3,842 people to leave the railway and issued 81 fines to those who have not complied.
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We thank the vast majority of people who are wearing face coverings to help stop the spread of the virus and as part of our commitment through the safer travel pledge, we want to do even more to encourage passengers to wear a covering unless they are exempt. This pilot is a great example of rail companies working together with the British Transport Police to help ensure people can travel with confidence.
Chief Superintendent Martin Fry, British Transport Police, said: “We know that the majority of people want to do the right thing and comply with the law, playing their part in protecting each other by wearing face coverings, not only on trains, but also in stations. Those who do comply with the law, or are exempt, have no need to worry. However, there is a minority who deliberately flaunt the law. This not only needlessly makes passengers nervous about travelling, it puts lives at risk.
Steve White, chief operating officer for Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink, said: “We all need to wear face coverings in stations and on trains unless exempt, to protect those around us. This exercise with the British Transport Police will help reinforce that message to the small minority who perhaps don’t think it matters.”