By Bill Heaney
ScotRail’s alcohol ban has been branded ‘out of step and out of touch’, as research shows the SNP-owned company is one of only a handful of rail operators in the UK to completely ban the consumption of alcohol on their trains.
Only three rail operators outside London ban alcohol consumption completely, Merseyrail, Transport for Greater Manchester and ScotRail.
Both Merseyrail and Transport for Greater Manchester’s rail networks are significantly smaller than ScotRail, with 68 and 97 stations, respectively, in comparison to ScotRail’s 359.
ScotRail’s ban was introduced as part of Covid-19 measures in November 2020, but was extended indefinitely by Scottish Government ministers in June, against the advice of ScotRail’s management.
Plans put forward by ScotRail Chief Executive Chris Gibb would have seen a more flexible approach adopted, with alcohol consumption prohibited between 9pm and 10am and banned completely on routes and services with a higher risk of anti-social behaviour. These proposals appear to have been dropped following a meeting between ScotRail and Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Graham Simpson said:“The SNP’s draconian ban on drinking alcohol on Scotland’s trains is out of step and out of touch.
“ScotRail is one of only a handful of rail operators in the UK to completely ban alcohol on their trains, and the SNP’s refusal to drop this Covid-era restriction looks more unreasonable by the day.
“ScotRail put forward fair and sensible proposals for more flexible alcohol rules on our trains, which would allow passengers to consume alcohol while tackling anti-social behaviour. Yet instead of listening to ScotRail bosses, the SNP appear to have overruled them.
“This ban was a Covid measure that should have been reversed along with other restrictions. It is time the SNP showed some trust in the Scottish public and scrapped this last, unreasonable rule.”
Only three UK rail operators outside London ban the consumption of alcohol completely. Since 2 June 2008, Transport for London has banned alcohol on the Tube, buses, Docklands Light Railway, tram services and stations across the Capital.
Data compiled from email responses shows that out of the 31 other rail operators in the UK, only ScotRail, Merseyrail and Transport for Greater Manchester completely ban alcohol consumption on their trains.
ScotRail is by far the largest of these networks, serving 359 stations in comparison with Merseyrail’s 68 and Transport for Greater Manchester’s 97. (Transport for London, 30 May 2008, link; Merseyrail.org, link; Scotrail.co.uk, link; tfgm.com, link).
|Train Operating Companies||Can you consume alcohol?|
|Avanti West Coast||Yes|
|East Midlands Railway||Sometimes|
|Great Western Railway||Yes|
|London Northwestern Railway||Sometimes|
|Transport for Greater Manchester||No|
|Transport for Wales||Sometimes|
|West Midlands Railway||Sometimes|
Data compiled from email responses from each rail operator, (Scottish Conservative research, 31 August 2022).
ScotRail’s alcohol ban was kept in place by officials despite the train operator preferring more relaxed rules, which would have allowed day-time drinking. Plans put forward by ScotRail Chief Executive, Chris Gibb, would have relaxed alcohol rules, with alcohol consumption prohibited between 9pm and 10am and banned on routes and services with a higher risk of anti-social behaviour. However, these proposals were dropped following a meeting between ScotRail and Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth, pictured right. (Herald Scotland, 19 August 2022, link).