A new customer support team has been deployed to encourage compliance with the face coverings rule, and to deal with anti-social behaviour and fare evasion on the Tyne and Wear Metro.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, has introduced the new team as part of a three-point plan to make sure customers feel safe and confident using Metro.
New measures include:
• A new 12-strong Customer Support team to target anti-social behaviour on Metro, particularly during evenings.
• A dedicated Face Covering Awareness team to exclusively engage and encourage customers about the correct use of face coverings to help prevent the spread of the virus.
• Additional Police resources to support extra patrols and activities in the run-up to Christmas.
Chief Operating Officer at Nexus, Martin Kearney, said: “Customers have told us that they want to see us proactively managing compliance with the face coverings rule, and dealing with anti-social behaviour, especially at night. We are delivering that by taking direct action with a new the three-point action plan.
“Nine out of ten people using Metro wear face coverings as required by law, with others being exempt for health reasons, but we know that a small minority still refuse to comply with the legal requirements. This is often linked to other anti-social behaviour such as ticketless travel or groups of young people hanging around stations with little purpose.
“This is something we are committed to dealing with in close conjunction with Northumbria Police and the British Transport Police.
“The aim is to offer that re-assuring presence that people want to see, especially in the evenings now that the nights are drawing in. The team will work closely with the police to deter anti-social behaviour, tackle fare evasion, and move on any groups of youths gathering at stations.
“Overall crime rates on Metro remain low and customers should have the confidence to travel when they need to. Anyone who gets caught committing crime on Metro faces prosecution, fines, and even a possible ban from travelling on the system.”
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “It is important for passengers to feel confident while using Metro.
“I’m sure this new team will be welcomed by the travelling public as a sign of how seriously we take their safety and security into account while providing a vital transport network across Tyne and Wear. I hope the high-profile presence of the new team will also discourage the small minority of those people flouting rules and causing disturbances.”
Sgt Tim Hand, of Northumbria Police, said: “We have run a number of dedicated operations with Nexus throughout this year to tackle pockets of anti-social behaviour and deal with offenders.
“That positive activity will continue as we head towards the Christmas period, and we look forward to working closely with the new customer support team.
“We want to assure passengers that we, along with all our partners, are committed to ensuring everyone can enjoy a safe and hassle-free journey on the network - and will take swift action against anyone found to be involved in anti-social behaviour.”
The focus will be on the evenings, 3pm to midnight, as compliance with the face coverings rule reduces late in the day and through the evening.
The customer support team will have a distinctive blue uniform to make them more noticeable to passengers.
All will be equipped with body-worn CCTV cameras. Each camera is clearly marked on staff uniforms to let people know that they are being filmed.
Workers activate the recordings at the touch of a button and the footage can be accessed by police as evidence to support prosecutions.