Scotland politics

Alcohol could be banned on Scottish trains, report says

Passengers in Scotland could be banned from drinking alcohol on trains, a report into the radical overhaul of rail travel has suggested.

Scottish government agency Transport Scotland has also suggested that sleeper services between Scotland and London could be axed or cut.

The Rail2014 consultation has been looking at the way Scotland's rail services are run.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said services must be modernised.

But opposition parties branded the proposals "crackpot" and "unhelpful".

The Transport Scotland consultation document was published ahead of the current ScotRail train services contract, operated by First Group, coming to an end in 2014.

Alcohol is already banned by ScotRail and the British Transport Police on certain specific services, such as travel to and from rugby and football games.

The document states: "One of the most distressing ways to spend a rail journey is to be subject to the bad behaviour of other passengers.

"This can be fuelled by excessive drinking of alcohol."

It adds: "Consideration is being given to whether there should be a ban on the consumption of alcohol on all trains in Scotland and we welcome views."

Commenting on the proposals, Mr Brown said: "Our ambition is to have a railway that offers value for money, ensures closer working and integration between Network Rail and the service operators and most importantly, has passenger interests at its heart.

"Our aim is to develop an efficient, passenger-focused railway which incorporates the best private sector attributes with the ethos of public service, and this consultation is a crucial part of our considerations."

Other proposals include;

  • raising fares on those routes which have benefited from improvement works
  • removing first-class services and providing additional capacity when overcrowding is an issue
  • look at whether to increase the time passengers may have to stand
  • considering separate franchise operators for sleeper services and other lines, such as Glasgow to Edinburgh
  • encourage the next operator to make more money where possible, "without compromising the ScotRail brand"
  • working with the rail industry to improve mobile communications, including Wi-Fi
  • Not cutting the number of stations but considering "attuning" their number and location
  • Making Edinburgh Waverley an "interchange hub" for cross-border rail services, with journeys north of Edinburgh provided by the Scottish train operator

Labour's transport spokesman Lewis Macdonald said the report was "jam-packed with crackpot ideas" that threatened to "reverse the growth in rail usage since devolution".

He added: "The answer to tackling overcrowding on trains is not to ramp up fares, nor is the answer to late running trains simply to cut the number of trains or increase journey times.

"Cutting back rail services north of Edinburgh on the scale proposed would be devastating for passengers."

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said the suggestions from Transport Scotland were "totally unhelpful".

He added: "The number of services that Transport Scotland are proposing to cut or change would see a severe reduction in the variety of routes offered to Scottish passengers.

"Cutting cross-border trains would result in far poorer services to Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness and the Caledonian Sleeper provides a hugely important service that those who travel on it swear by."

The Liberal Democrats' Jim Hume said the Scottish government had broken its promise to take Scotland's rail franchise into public ownership.

He added: "Scottish Liberal Democrats have argued that a longer franchise term would give operators the confidence to invest in speedier trains for longer distance routes.

"It is disappointing that rather than consider this as an option the SNP government has chosen short-termism over what is best for Scotland's rail passengers."

'Pay more'

Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "This report from SNP ministers offers a worrying glimpse into one possible future for Scotland's railway network.

"This government will have an opportunity to end the private sector stranglehold on Scotland's network, and to make services both more accessible and more affordable.

"Instead, SNP ministers want to make the Scottish public pay more while standing on trains that arrive later, with fewer toilets on board, and which stop at fewer stations."

The Scottish government currently puts more than £700m a year into rail services, while the money ScotRail makes from passengers pays for about a quarter of the cost of providing its services.

Transport Scotland said there were about 78 million passenger journeys each year, with demand for services increasing by more than 25% in the past seven years.

2014 is also the deadline for renewing the financial arrangements for Network Rail, which looks after infrastructure.

The Transport Scotland consultation runs until next February, with the conclusions due to be published later in 2012.

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