THE Tyne and Wear Metro is to become an alcohol-free zone by Christmas.

Public transport operator Nexus is introducing alcohol exclusion zones on the system from December 6.

This will make it a criminal offence to be in possession of an open container of alcohol anywhere on the system.

Sergeant Neil Harvey, of the Metro Police Unit, said: "We often encounter problems with drunken adults on the system or adults who are drinking alcohol but aren't drunk.

"Now, it doesn't matter whether they are an adult or a youth or whether they are drunk or not. If they are drinking, intend to drink or have been drinking, these powers will help us deal with them."

Offenders will be liable to have alcohol confiscated and could face fines of up to £500.

Existing bylaws already allow Nexus to prosecute rowdy drunks.

But the new alcohol exclusion zone order will strengthen those powers.

For the most part, the ban will be enforced by the police, backed by travel support officers. Police will seek an anti-social behaviour order from the courts for repeat offenders.

All five councils in the Metro network are backing the scheme.

Mike Parker, director general of Nexus, said: "Including Metro in the ban on the consumption of alcohol in some public places will undoubtedly help us rid the system of the kind of anti-social behaviour we're working hard to combat.

"Although alcohol-related offences are rare on the Metro, and especially offences involving someone who is drinking at the time of the offence, the ban will help us keep the system safe, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, when drink can sometimes fuel trouble."