Metro passengers can now rate how crowded their trains are, in a bid to keep services Covid-safe during the pandemic.

The Tyne and Wear rail network has added a new feature to its smartphone app, designed to help people choose quieter times to travel when social distancing is easier – and identify problem hotspots when trains are busy.

Metro operator Nexus said the new system was about "easing some of the stress around maintaining social distancing on trains" and would allow people to make “informed decisions” about when to travel as the public health crisis continues.

Under new Covid-19 restrictions announced for the North East last week, current advice is to only use public transport in the region for essential journeys – such as going to work or school.

Metro’s timetable is also expected to be reduced this winter due to a shortage of drivers, after a training school had to be cancelled earlier this year due to coronavirus.

Driver numbers are expected to be up to 13% below the levels needed to run a full timetable this winter, even before factoring in staff sickness.

Head of corporate planning at Nexus, Helen Mathews, said: “This new technology will really help our customers to maintain social distancing by showing them how busy the trains are.

“It’s a vital tool to keep people safe and to ensure that the Metro system is Covid-secure.

“People can view the information they need at the touch of a button, allowing them to make an informed choice about when they want to travel.

“This is an extra step to give people an easy, at a glance guide on the best times to travel and to plan their journeys in order to avoid the busier times, if they need to.

“It’s part of a whole range of measures that we have put in place to ensure that Metro is Covid-secure so that people can travel with confidence when they need to.

"We already have strict cleaning regimes, social distancing measures, and hand sanitiser points on the network.

“Passengers are advised to only travel if it’s essential, for work or school, or when the journey is essential for other purposes, and to make sure that they always wear a face covering.”

To rate your journey and find information about how crowded trains are, select the ‘more’ option from the main menu of the Tyne and Wear Metro app and then choose the ‘How busy is the Metro?’ option.

A similar service was introduced for Newcastle city centre earlier this year, with data published online showing how heavy footfall is on Northumberland Street and whether it was possible to maintain a safe social distance.