Saturday, 23 June 2012

ScotRail alcohol ban is widely welcomed

Anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol has
 no place on our trains, says ScotRail.
ScotRail's decision to ban the drinking and carrying of alcohol on its trains at night has been universally welcomed around Scotland.

The move, which comes into force on July 20, next month, aims to stop the drunken anti-social behaviour of a small minority of passengers spoiling the train journeys of the majority.

The decision follows hard on the heels of a survey of 1,000 people in Scotland who were asked whether they agreed with banning alcohol on trains at night. Some 730 people, from all sections of society - 84% - said they did.

The train operator's tough stance, following a year-long review by the company, and growing pressure from the Scottish Government, is designed to send out a clear message that anti-social behaviour at stations and on trains is unacceptable.

Steve Montgomery, ScotRail's managing director, said, "Anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol has no place on our trains or at stations. Customers should be able to travel in a safe and friendly environment.

He added, "It’s time to call a halt on the irresponsible minority who spoil journeys for the majority. These individuals disrupt services, abuse staff and fellow customers, and cause accidents."

Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said, "We want everyone to enjoy themselves on nights out, but consideration for others is also vitally important. A journey home on a train shouldn't be a worrying or upsetting experience for any passenger.

"I welcome the decision by ScotRail to act on those concerns, which will greatly benefit and reassure responsible passengers and encourage more people to use public transport. It sends out a message loud and clear that drunken, loutish behaviour on our trains will no longer be tolerated.

"Tackling alcohol misuse is a priority for this Government and this is a development we welcome as we continue working to rebalance Scotland's damaging relationship with alcohol."

In the past six months alone, the ScotRail review uncovered at least 260 occasions when British Transport Police had to respond to drink-related incidents, an increasing number of trains delayed due to anti-social behaviour - affecting customer perceptions of the railway and damaging ScotRail’s reputation, and at least one accident a week caused by excessive alcohol.

Chief Superintendent Ellie Bird, area commander for the Scotland Area of British Transport Police, said, "Crime on Scotland’s railways is at a record low. However, combating anti-social behaviour and disruption to the rail network remains a priority for us."

Ms Bird, who was instrumental in successfully introducing alcohol restrictions for TfL on the London Underground, added, "It is well documented that excessive alcohol consumption can be a pre-cursor to anti-social behaviour.

"The Scotland area of BTP wholeheartedly supports ScotRail’s plans and we will enforce the restrictions under the current Railway Byelaw or other legislation at our disposal.

"All passengers and rail staff have the right to travel unhindered and without the threat of encountering any kind of criminality. The enhanced restrictions will go a long way to helping reducing the opportunity for disruption.

"The consumption of alcohol is prohibited on other forms of public transport, such as buses, and trains should be no different."

The ban will run from 9pm to 10am although it will not affect the overnight Caledonian Sleeper train to and from London.

ScotRail will now launch a four-week campaign to make customers aware of the impending ban, to be followed by a fortnight-long ‘softly, softly’ stance.

BTP has also pledged to enhance its station and on-train patrols during the initial phases of the campaign to mitigate the possibility of staff assaults and other offences.

ScotRail stressed that customers' bags will not be searched before or during their journeys. 'Last orders' will apply on trains with catering services. Alcohol will not be sold from 8.30pm and customers will be asked to finish any alcoholic drinks by 9pm.

BTP will be alerted if passengers refuse to leave after being declined access to trains or if behaviour causes concern to train crew or customers during a journey.

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