Train travel in Scotland could become a little more dour in the coming weeks. Scotrail, the national rail operator, is considering introducing a ban on alcohol consumption on all its trains.
The potential move comes as coronavirus rules in Scotland become increasingly strict, and the First Minister announced that more stringent travel rules “need to be considered.”
Licenced premises have recently been forced to reduce their opening hours and are now barred from selling alcohol indoors; stricter rules are in place in different areas. Unfortunately this has given rise to people travelling via train to visit pubs in less tightly regulated areas in Scotland, or even south of the border in England.
One train conductor recently told the Edinburgh Evening News that weekend nights “have not calmed down”, despite the new rules, with people from Glasgow and Edinburgh travelling to pubs in Fife.
Though the alcohol ban may prove unpopular with fans of a wine or gin and tonic on their train journey, it would be reportedly welcomed by railway staff who, trade union bosses say, often have to deal with anti-social behaviour.
“There has always been a concern with anti-social behaviour and assaults on staff, it is an ongoing issue,” said Mick Hogg, regional organiser for the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.
“We certainly encourage our people to use the body cameras available in order to send a signal to people, and to report anti-social behaviour to the British Transport Police if it is serious.”
Furthermore, while Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst for the move, an alcohol ban has been “something we’ve [the RMT) been advocating for a number of years” – a potential sign any ban could be permanent.
Unruly passengers who’ve imbibed too much are refusing to wear masks or adhere to social distancing guidelines, added Hogg.
On the other hand, any alcohol ban would be difficult for Scotrail employees to actually enforce on board – much in the same way that mask wearing has proved difficult for air stewards to enforce.
“We can only advise people they should not be drinking and if that fails it is a matter for the BTP,” said Hogg. “We certainly welcome a ban but it really begs the question – who is going to police it?”
Scotrail has said that an alcohol ban “is something they are looking into” but no further details have been released.