Police have issued fewer than than 40 fines to people for not wearing an appropriate face covering on public transport, despite previous claims from the Transport Secretary that one-in-10 passengers were breaking the rules.
Latest data from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) shows 38 notices were issued by police forces since the introduction of new rules making face coverings mandatory in England from June 15 and in Wales from June 27.
Passengers in England and Wales caught not complying with the regulations, which aim to slow the spread of coronavirus, risk being fined £100 and removed from services.
Some 32 of the 38 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued by the British Transport Police (BTP), with four issued by West Midlands Police, and one each by Lancashire and Cumbria constabularies.
At the beginning of the month, Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter that the face covering compliance rates on public transport was 90%, although BTP said that has since risen to around 97%.
Mr Shapps said figures from BTP and Transport for London (TfL) showed 285 passengers had been issued with penalty notices for non-compliance, 6,275 were asked to leave the transport network and 80,294 were reminded of the rules.
TfL data is not included in Thursday’s police figures.
Mick Lynch, senior assistant general secretary of the RMT union, said he was “deeply concerned that there are still passengers refusing to follow the basic rules” in relation to face coverings.
He said: “Not only does that put staff and other passengers at risk but it creates a potential confrontation point at a time when everyone needs to be co-operating.
“Enforcement has to be a matter for the British Transport Police and they need to be provided with the resources required to deliver it.”
A BTP spokesman said FPNs were “a last resort” and said people have been arrested “in a few cases”.
The spokesman said: “Our approach is to always begin by engaging with the public and explain the reasons why the protections are necessary and a lawful requirement.
“Since face coverings became mandatory on public transport our officers have spoken with thousands of passengers, encouraging them to wear face coverings whilst travelling.
“The overwhelming majority of people have listened, complied, and continued to play an important role in protecting other passengers and rail staff – we have seen compliance levels of around 97%.”
Male passengers account for 37 of the 38 penalties issued on public transport. Two in every three notices (68%) were issued to individuals aged between 18 and 29, the NPCC said.
Thursday’s data also showed a further eight FPNs were issued to people not wearing face coverings in another relevant place, such as in a shop.