London Underground workers are facing potential danger as mask-wearing is now being “openly ignored” on a large scale, unions have warned.
Union officials and passengers say there has been a noticeable decline in the number of Tube users wearing face masks despite messages saying it is a requirement when travelling.
Around 500 uniformed enforcement officers continue to ask customers to comply, and since the national rules ceased to apply in July, Transport for London (TfL) said it has refused entry to 408 people and asked 126 to leave services.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “We believe mask-wearing should be mandatory on trains, to protect passengers and staff and to control the covid-19 pandemic.
“It is mandatory, but not enforced, on TfL and we have noticed a decline in recent days in the number of passengers wearing masks.
“If you go to Euston station and walk around the platforms, you will see it is mandatory on London Underground and London Overground but not on the main line operators running into and out of the station.”
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said: “Staff members on London Underground are put in an invidious and potentially dangerous situation as mask-wearing on TFL, a condition of carriage, is now being openly ignored on a large scale.
“This is an issue for the Mayor to address as enforcement falls to him, not frontline Tube staff. The situation isn’t helped by the cavalier approach to Covid protocols displayed by the Prime Minister on an almost daily basis.
“It’s no wonder there’s talk of new restrictions and controls if we can’t even deliver the basics.”
A TfL spokesman said: “Covid is still with us and we all have a role to play in doing the right thing and keeping each other safe.
“Despite the Government removing the national requirement to wear a face covering on public transport, wearing a face covering on our services and in our stations is still required under TfL’s condition of carriage.