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Rail staff could boycott Balloch to Glasgow line over safety fears

By Fraser Clarke

Rail staff could refuse to work on services between Balloch and Glasgow that have been blighted with unruly behaviour.

RMT regional organiser Mick Hogg issued the warning, as he outlined fears that it could only be a matter of time before a member of Scotrail staff is seriously injured or killed as a result of thugs using train services.

Earlier this year we reported how the number of crimes reported at West Dunbartonshire train stations have rocketed by almost 50 percent.

Across the area 92 offences were reported to British Transport Police (BTP) in the year up to November 2021, with criminal damage and fire-raising, violent or sexual offences and thefts all common.

While the number of passengers dropped dramatically during the pandemic, the number of crimes increased from 62 in November 2019 to 92.

And last week a member of Scotrail staff said that she had been left traumatised after attempting to remove brawling thugs who boarded a service in Alexandria.

The staff member saw a gang of teenagers attack a younger boy with a bottle, and feared for her own safety as she tried to break up the fight when the train reached Renton.

And Mick said that her experience was not an unusual one on local routes.

He told the Lennox: “One of our members was subjected to a terrifying incident when members of a notorious young team boarded the train at Alexandria.

“She managed to remove them from the train at Renton and then block the doors as the driver closed them, but it left her traumatised and fearing for her safety at work.

“That just gives you a flavour of what’s taking place on a regular basis. And no one is listening.

“If nobody listens then we’ll instruct our members not to work on the impacted routes.

“I’m sad to say that someone will be seriously injured or, god forbid, ends up losing their life. And I don’t want to have to turn round and say ‘told you so’.”

Earlier this year Scotrail confirmed it would proceed with plans to cut staffed hours at stations across the area - including Alexandria, Balloch and Dumbarton Central.

This prompted outrage from councillors, with Mick adding that he fears it could make issues worse.

He continued: “There’s a real fear from the most vulnerable in society who will be reluctant to use trains. Particularly if the cuts to station staff go ahead.

“Unstaffed stations and a lack of staff on trains is an absolute magnet for the thugs to use Scotland’s trains to cause havoc.”

An unruly gang were eventually thrown off a service at Renton. (Lennox Herald)

He added: “If we can ban people from shopping centres and football grounds, then why can’t we ban those people from Scotland’s railways?

“Give them lifetime bans. We need to do something. There’s no incentive to stop this thuggery.

“Under public ownership you’d hope for a more robust approach. It’s a shambles.”

Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton constituency MSP, said: “No-one should feel unsafe when they are at work. I commend the RMT for standing by their members and passengers as this is completely unacceptable.

“I would urge anyone who witnessed this incident or who knows the youths involved to contact the British Transport Police so robust action can be taken.

“My thoughts are with the ticket examiner who was clearly extremely traumatised by this incident. I hope lessons can be learned from this for the safety of both staff and passengers.

“There is clearly a need for more British Transport Police to be on our railways. Incidents like this strengthen the argument as to why we need stations which are properly staffed rather than ticket offices in our area being stripped back.

“With ScotRail now under public ownership, this ill-thought out plan needs to be reversed and more resources are needed for the police.”

A BTP spokesperson said: “Through partnership working with ScotRail and Police Scotland, we’re working tirelessly to deter criminality and anti-social behaviour on the railway network, and we have been increasing patrols on the Balloch line using targeted operations to deter offending.

“Where offences involving youths take place, we regularly engage with schools and campus officers to identify those responsible and deal with them accordingly.

“We will take action as the railway needs to be a safe place for everyone using it.”

Mick Hogg of the RMT (DAILY RECORD)

ScotRail security and crime manager Stephen Elliot said: “The safety of our customers and employees is our number one priority.

“Anti-social behaviour, whether that’s physical violence, verbal abuse, or any other form, is completely unacceptable.

“Everyone has the right to go about their day in peace, so we’ll continue to work with the authorities to ensure that anyone responsible for anti-social behaviour is brought to justice.”

A spokesman for British Transport Police said: “We were called to Alexandria railway station at 5.07pm on Sunday May 1 following reports of an assault on-board a train.

“Enquiries into this incident are ongoing and officers are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward. You can to this by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 378 of May 1. “Through partnership working with ScotRail and Police Scotland we’re working tirelessly to deter criminality and anti-social behaviour on the railway network, and we have been increasing patrols on the Balloch line using targeted operations to deter offending.

“Where offences involving youths do take place we regularly engage with schools and campus officers to identify those responsible and deal with them accordingly. We will take action as the railway needs to be a safe place for everyone using it.”

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Dive Deeper:
Glasgow train staff threaten to boycott rail line plagued by 'young team' violence
The union says it could only be a matter of time before a member of ScotRail staff is seriously injured…
Three ScotRail staff assaulted with one in hospital following attack on Paisley train
British Transport Police are currently investigating the incident.
Services on Lanarkshire railway affected by train derailment return to normal
Engineers worked around the clock to rerail train between Coatbridge Sunnyside and Airdrie stations and repair track damage
Half price rail travel available to Lanarkshire passengers this week
Scottish Government funded initiative aims to encourage people to 'rediscover their sense of adventure'.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
ScotRail to slash all off-peak tickets by 50 per cent until May 15
In a push to encourage customers to make use of the now publicly owned train operator, off-peak tickets will be…
Lanarkshire rail line reopens after two months of engineering works
Network Rail has thanked commuters for their patience after two months of disruption.
Get all your news in one place