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03.06.13

ScotRail sees crime rise on ‘dry’ trains

Alcohol-related crimes have increased by 54% on ScotRail trains in the past six months, despite the introduction of a drinking ban.

The ban, which came into force last July, forbids the sale and consumption of alcohol between 9pm and 10am. Drunk passengers are also stopped from boarding.

Figures from the British Transport Police (BTP) show that 71 alcohol-related crimes were recorded between 1 November 2012 and 30 April 2013, compared to 46 during the same period a year earlier.

It was expected that the ban would help to curb antisocial behaviour.

Chief Superintendent Ellie Bird, area commander for Scotland for BTP, said: “During the period April 2011 to March 2012 the Scotland area successfully achieved an objective to detect offenders indulging in anti-social behaviour.

“Officers will continue to support ScotRail in its efforts to combat alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour at stations, as it is recognised excessive alcohol consumption can be a contributory factor to the issue on the rail network.”

A spokeswoman for ScotRail said: “We are encouraged to see the number of accidents at stations has decreased by around 16% since the ban was introduced.

“We have always recognised it will take time to change ingrained behaviours, and we remain committed to our long-term objectives to ensure customers can travel in a pleasant environment.”

Mike Hewitson, head of policy at the independent watchdog Passenger Focus, which campaigns on behalf of rail users, said: “Passengers tell us that having more people patrolling the train makes them feel safer and that is to be welcomed.

“Although some of these figures could be explained by greater reporting, it is worrying to see any increase in behaviour that makes passengers feel threatened. As awareness of the ban grows we'd hope to see behaviour changing and these numbers decreasing.”

An RMT spokesperson said: “If it's increased, we would want to know why. We are always concerned about assaults on our staff, so if there has been an increase we would want to discuss that with the employer. Often these incidents are linked to football or concert-goers, as well as people coming off ferries with duty free.”

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