The Scottish Tories have called for ScotRail’s “draconian” ban on alcohol to come to an end.
Drinking on trains and at stations was banned as a public health measure during the pandemic, but it has not been relaxed in the way that other restrictions have.
The publicly-owned operator has said the move will be considered as part of the Scottish Government’s “national conversation” on rail, in what transport minister Jenny Gilruth said was a chance to consult both the public and staff.
But Scottish Tory transport spokesman Graham Simpson said the restriction should end, pointing out that ScotRail is just one of three rail operators outside London with a blanket ban on drinking.
“The SNP’s draconian ban on drinking alcohol on Scotland’s trains is out of step and out of touch,” he said.
“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.”
The Scotsman newspaper reported last month that the operator put forward proposals that would see the ban lifted between 10am and 9pm – a return to the pre-pandemic norm – but the plan was never put in place.
“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,” Mr Simpson said.
“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.”
Stephen Elliot, ScotRail’s security and crime manager, said: “The safety of our customers and our colleagues is always our number one priority.
“The current alcohol ban on ScotRail services was introduced to support Covid-19 precautions and guidance, and will remain in place while it is considered as part of the Scottish Government’s national conversation on rail.”
In response to the calls from Mr Simpson, Ms Gilruth said: “It is rather revealing that the Tories have, for some reason, ignored the 406 bus, train, tram and tube stations in London in which an alcohol ban has been in place since 2008.
“The Conservatives have never sought to change this policy in London.”
The minister went on to say the party “do not accept the public should be consulted on alcohol use on Scotland’s trains”, adding: “The premise behind this decision was not an ‘indefinite ban’, but rather a democratic consideration of the views of the people who actually pay for Scotland’s trains.
“It is also vitally important that staff are adequately consulted, particularly in relation to their safety in the workplace.”
The minister went on to say: “Earlier this year, Mr Simpson appeared to be very concerned with women’s safety on public transport.
“Perhaps he should refocus his previous interest in this subject and consider all the issues that relate to the safety of passengers and why it is important that we gather people’s views and experiences before deciding on what to do about alcohol on trains in the long term.”
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