COUNCIL leaders across the North East want to make face masks a legal requirement on the region's public transport after the so-called ‘Freedom Day’.

Seven councils have written to Boris Johnson seeking similar powers to Transport for London, which has made masks compulsory after national rules are eased on Monday.

Gateshead leader Martin Gannon said masks are "not a huge imposition".

The Prime Minister has already advised people to wear masks in crowded places.

Mr Gannon has written to the Government on behalf of Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham councils.

He said it followed a "really significant" rise in infections across the region and measures, such as face masks on public transport, should remain to attempt to reduce the spread of Covid.

Mr Gannon, the transport lead for the seven councils, said: “We really need the government to get a grip and sort out the confusion.

“As local councils we will continue to urge caution to the public when entering busy environments including public transport.

“We will use all communication channels available to us to encourage continued hand sanitising, social distancing, and the need for people to act responsibly and look after anxious and vulnerable people by wearing face coverings in busy places.

“But only the national government has the ability to send a clear and unambiguous message to everyone in society that the social and moral obligation to wear a face covering on public transport is backed up by the law.

“Without that clarity we fear that increased numbers of people will choose not to wear a face covering on public transport, increasing the levels of anxiety in staff and customers alike.

“Public transport should be accessible to everyone in society, and encourage people out of their cars – this will achieve the opposite.”

The Confederation of Public Transport, which represents bus operators, said clear guidance for workers and customers is needed.

Nexus, which runs the Tyne and Wear Metro, said passengers will be "encouraged" to wear masks from Monday but it will not be mandatory as, it does not have enforcement officers.

Customer services director Huw Lewis said: "We are all expected and recommended to keep wearing face coverings in busy indoor settings, including shops and on public transport.

"We will be encouraging customers to follow this advice when making journeys and we will have extra teams out on Monday to talk with customers about why that's the right thing to do for everyone."