British Transport Police (BTP) is stepping up patrols on trains and at stations after passengers were abused and staff threatened – some by oil workers from their own union.
BTP said there had been 27 incidents in the past six months, compared with 24 for the whole of the year to March and 25 in 2012-13. The cases all involved people being reported for prosecution, and officers said many other cases may have gone undetected.
Incidents included a 32-year-old man being arrested after verbally abusing a couple on an Aberdeen-bound train in August. Two days before, passengers were intimidated by a five-strong group of offshore workers travelling between Aberdeen and Newcastle.
Police said some passengers had been victims several times.
The Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) is angry at the “friendly fire” inflicted on train staff by members of the union, which also represents offshore workers. It has joined BTP for the crackdown and said trains were being delayed while those arrested were removed.
RMT official Willie Strang said: “Rail staff members from Edinburgh and Aberdeen tell me they have had intimidating and threatening behaviour. It is at its worst when there are groups of offshore workers returning home. It is getting to the point they are holding trains at locations they know have a BTP presence or will get support from Police Scotland and are having offenders removed.
“In some cases this could be called ‘friendly fire’, with potentially RMT offshore members inflicting antisocial behaviour on fellow members.”
BTP Sergeant Ashley Forbes said rowdy workers were causing problems on trains to and from Aberdeen throughout the week, despite the strict alcohol policies of offshore firms.
The problem has led to an alcohol ban on an East Coast train between Aberdeen and Newcastle on Friday mornings.
Forbes warned that all trains and stations had CCTV. He said officers in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle would stop drunks boarding trains.
Dr Alix Thom, employment and skills manager for Oil & Gas UK, which represents offshore firms, said: “The offshore oil and gas industry does not tolerate antisocial behaviour. Incidents identified by BTP, apparently involving individuals representing our community, detail the sort of behaviour this industry does not condone.”