ScotRail is to ban the consumption and carrying of alcohol on its trains between 9pm and 10am. The move comes in response to concerns from the travelling public about anti-social behaviour on trains and calls from the Scottish Government for action.
ScotRail will also refuse travel to people who are not considered fit to do so due to the effects of alcohol.
Scottish Ministers support the train operator’s drive to reduce anti-social behaviour and improve the travelling experience of rail passengers.
This was underlined in yesterday’s Parliamentary statement on rail, when Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP committed to taking forward with ScotRail and British Transport Police more measures to ensure anti-social behaviour is driven out of our trains.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill welcomed the actions.
And public support for the move is underpinned by a survey last week which found 84% of respondents in favour of banning alcohol from trains after 9pm. The crackdown from 20 July, 2012 is designed to send out a clear message that anti-social behaviour at stations and on trains is unacceptable. ScotRail stressed the purpose of the ban is to prevent a small minority having a disproportionate negative impact on the majority of passengers.
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.”
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.
Mr MacAskill said that tackling alcohol misuse is a priority for the Scottish Government and the development was welcomed.
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice 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.”
“Responses to the Rail 2014 consultation clearly showed there is concern from passengers who have to travel in the company of those under the influence of alcohol and the anti-social behaviour that can sometimes come with it.”
He continued: “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.”
Chief Superintendent Ellie Bird, area commander for the Scotland Area of BTP, 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.”
ScotRail will now launch a four-week campaign to make customers aware of the impending ban from 20 July, to be followed by a fortnight-long ‘softly, softly’ stance. It follows a year-long review by the train operator, which found that customers perceived that travel on late night trains, and even during early mornings, can be unpleasant due to anti-social behaviour directly related to alcohol.
In addition, ScotRail took into account the responses to the Rail 2014 consultation which made clear there was wide support for action on the irresponsible consumption of alcohol and policing of anti-social behaviour - and many respondents were in favour of a total ban on alcohol on trains due to the impact on other passengers.
The ban will be enforced by British Transport Police (BTP) through the national Railway Byelaws which allow a train operator to stop people in a state of intoxication from travelling, and to publicly declare that certain services are so-called ‘dry trains’ where the consumption and carrying of alcohol are banned.
The only exception to the 9pm - 10am rule will be the overnight Caledonian Sleeper train to and from London, often dubbed a ‘hotel on wheels.’
It is understood ScotRail is the first train operator in the UK to make such a radical overhaul of conditions related to travel, although alcohol is already banned on certain services during football, rugby and other special events.
Mr Montgomery said the announcement comes as the Scottish Government continues to signal its intent to tackle Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
He added: “ScotRail’s message is clear. As a business, we must ensure our customers and staff can make rail journeys safely and with confidence, and our measures are aimed at the irresponsible minority.
“Anti-social behaviour is unacceptable and people must take responsibility for their own actions.”
He continued: “We believe the ban will be welcomed by the public and will result in falls in anti-social behaviour, crime, accidents, and customer complaints - and an increase on the number of people who feel comfortable to use late night trains.”
Mr Montgomery said that the practice of bringing large amounts of alcohol on board to drink while travelling has resulted in complaints from passengers, and declared: “Anyone who is unfit to travel will be turned away. And anyone deemed to have committed an offence will be reported to the local Procurator Fiscal by BTP, which is supporting us on tackling this issue.”
BTP said it has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders - MPs, MSPs, community groups, passenger groups and train operators on the issue of alcohol related anti-social behaviour.
It 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, and is using existing Railway Byelaws as the most expedient way to introduce the crackdown on anti-social behaviour and to send out a clear message that it expects customers to be able to travel in a safe, friendly environment and not have journeys disrupted.
‘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.