17.08.2020 Europe

No mask, no ride: anti-mask passenger kicked off TGV in French countryside

REUTERS/Charles Platiau
LISTEN AUG 17, 2020
REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The driver of a high speed TGV has stopped his train and forced a man who refused to wear a face mask to disembark in the middle of the French countryside. 

The passenger had already been asked by agents on board the Paris-Nice TGV to wear a mask, but he refused and was fined 135 euros on the spot.

When the driver was informed, he brought the train to an unscheduled stop at Creusot-Montceau station, central Burgundy, and left the man in the hands of rail security agents.

According to a rule established in 2016, the national SNCF train operator can force a passenger to disembark for "disturbing the peace", even if they have a valid ticket.

According to one of the passengers on board, the driver eventually made an announcement to explain why the train had to stop for 10 minutes "in the middle of nowhere".

'Protect each other'

One annoyed passenger took to social media to criticise the man: "A man was kicked off the TGV Paris-Nice because he refused to wear a mask...which created a delay for other passengers. Anti-maskers – you are going too far in your lack of respect. Let's protect each other."

The time lost was made up by the time the train arrived at its destination, SNCF said.

In recent weeks, tension has increased with regards to mask wearing in public places, notably on public transport where it has been compulsory since lockdown ended on 11 May.

Last week, a nurse was physically abused in a bus in a suburb north of Paris after she asked some young people to wear their masks.

Two weeks ago, in a different suburb of Paris, a young father was severely injured in an attack by several men armed with baseball bats, simply because he had argued with them over wearing a mask in a laundromat.

Last month a bus driver in the southwestern city of Bayonne was beaten to death by passengers who refused to wear a mask. 

Anti-mask wave

In Spain on Sunday, hundreds rallied in the capital Madrid against the mandatory use of face masks and other restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.    

There "anti-mask" movement has also reared its head in several countries, particularly among young people, who believe being forced to wear a mask is a violation of their civil rights.

Protests against strict hygiene rules, including compulsory mask-wearing, have been organised in Germany, the UK and Canada in recent weeks.

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