Over three months after the requirement for face coverings to be worn on public transport was first made compulsory, fines for those not complying with the order are 'vanishingly rare' the country's leading transport union claims today (Thursday 24 September).

Enforcement key

Unite the union is warning that the government’s latest announcement of increased fines for not wearing face coverings may well make little difference unless accompanied by properly resourced and consistent enforcement. 

As part of a series of measures to attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that fines for not wearing in a mask on public transport and in shops would increase from £100 to £200 for a first offence.

Fines rare

However Unite, which represents over 70,000 bus drivers across the UK, has obtained figures the government’s own figures which reveal that in total just 368 fines/fixed penalty notices were issued in London over a three month period. Outside of London, for the period until the end of August for England and Wales, that figure falls to just 38, according to figures obtained from the National Police Chief’s Council.

Under the regulations only a police officer can enforce a fine or a penalty notice but the union has been pressing bus companies to utilise their own enforcement officers or work with government-appointed Covid marshals to prevent passengers without face coverings from boarding buses.

Government action needed

Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “Penalties for those who refuse to comply with the law on face coverings on public transport are vanishingly rare.

"So increasing the fines for not wearing a face covering will make little difference unless they are alongside stricter and more rigorous enforcement.

"While the vast majority of passengers are complying with the rules a significant minority are not.

"The police need to make it clear whether they have the capacity to enforce the regulations because if not we need another approach and fast.

"It is no good introducing further restrictions in public life if the government has not also resourced their enforcement.

"We are also calling on bus operators to work with the government to ensure that passengers refusing to wear face coverings cannot board buses. The bus operators have to be proactive in protecting their workforce and passengers and not pass the buck on this vitally important matter of public health.

"What needs to be totally understood is that bus drivers cannot and will not enforce the wearing of masks. Their job is to get passengers to their destination safely, not to police public health."

Bus drivers not enforcers

Unite has consistently advised its bus drivers not to be involved whether passengers are wearing masks to avoid conflict and the possibility of verbal and physical attacks.


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.