A passenger who claimed it was “too stuffy” to wear a face-mask on a London bus has been fined £200 in the latest Covid crackdown.
An inspector who apprehended the passenger told the Standard: “He said it was a bit stuffy in there, so he took it off. He got a fixed penalty notice. You have to wear it at all times.”
However there were signs that the rules were being widely observed. The only other passenger stopped for not wearing a mask said he had a medical exemption. TfL estimates compliance with the rules to be about 90 per cent at peak times.
Two teenage girls with their faces uncovered on the top deck of a bus escaped penalty when they put their masks on before an inspector got upstairs.
“There has been an increase in mask-wearing,” the inspector said. “It’s much better. It’s very seldom we are having problems with people.”
About 60 buses were stopped from 8am yesterday but only three penalty tickets were issued. Many of the buses were barely a third full with passengers.
Siwan Hayward, director of compliance, policing operations and security at TfL, said: “We are seeing really, really high levels of compliance. That is a result of the education and media campaigns we have been running but also these operations reminding people about the importance of wearing a face covering.
“It’s a tiny selfish minority of people who are continuing to refuse to wear face coverings. Those are the people that my team and the Met and others will be taking action against.”
Since mask-wearing on public transport became mandatory last June, about 128,000 people have been stopped from travelling until they put on a mask.
A further 9,300 have been prevented from boarding, and about 2,100 have been ejected from services.
Fines were first issued on July 4, and about 1,700 have been handed out.
About 650 people have been prosecuted for not paying the fine within 28 days. Fines imposed at court have been up to £660 for a first offence, with one repeat offender having to pay £1,170.
TfL says mask-wearing is part of its efforts to protect staff. At least 60 London transport workers have died with Covid, including 37 bus drivers.
Ms Hayward said: “It’s essential for us to protect bus drivers, to protect our colleagues and keep public transport safe. It’s really important that we continue to do this, to play our part in keeping London safe and tackling this virus.”
TfL has 500 enforcement staff, and its daily operations are backed up by the Met and British Transport Police.
Operations are regularly carried out at stations with low compliance, and bus stops at Victoria, Brixton and Stratford have been targeted.
TfL’s latest customer survey found 75 per cent of respondents backed masks, rising to 86 per cent among those aged 65 and older.
Superintendent Gary Taylor, from the Met’s roads and transport policing command, said: “If officers on patrol see someone who isn’t complying with the rules, unless that person is exempt, they can expect to receive a fixed penalty notice.”
Chief Superintendent Martin Fry, of BTP, said: “I’m pleased to say our frontline officers report the vast majority of people at stations and on-board trains are wearing face coverings, or are willing to wear one when challenged.”