Unruly passengers would be banned from ScotRail network under new law being considered

A law banning unruly passengers from ScotRail is being considered by the Scottish Government, transport minister Jenny Gilruth has told MSPs.

The move follows a call from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) following concerns about women’s safety and anti-social behaviour on trains.

A ban could be introduced in the same way that fans can be banned from football grounds.

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Ms Gilruth said ministers did not currently have powers to ban people from trains and stations run by ScotRail, which is being switched to Scottish Government control on April 1.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth has expressed concerns about women's safety on trains. Picture: Scottish Parliament TV
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She told the Scottish Parliament’s net zero, energy and transport committee: “If there is an opportunity to look at how we might better support staff in this endeavour, then I’m keen to look at all options.”

Transport Scotland rail director Bill Reeve told the committee: “There aren’t specific powers for the banning of people who exhibit anti-social behaviour on trains in the way there are, for example, powers to ban people from attendance at football matches.

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"It’s something [on which] we have commenced discussions with [Scottish Government] justice colleagues.

"We would like to follow up with the British Transport Police (BTP) as something which deserves further consideration.”

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Ms Gilruth added: “From discussions with the union, there was a feeling of unfairness that the legislation did not extend to railway workers in the same way that it might in other parts of society.

"There would be people identified in terms of their behaviour and they would be back on the train the next day or in a couple of hours, and it was quite demoralising for staff.

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"We have to look again at the provisions in the legislation, working with BTP to ensure that we get this right.

"I share the view of the unions on this and I want to make sure that public ownership of the railways does not rule anything out and that we look at all the available opportunities to consider how we can support staff because nobody deserves to go to their work and face abuse.

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Ms Gilruth, who spoke last month from her own experience about the “systematic problem” of women’s safety on trains and announced a consultation with women’s groups such as Engender, also told the committee: “It’s not always a safe place to get the last train back to your house on a Friday night, which shouldn’t be the case in 2022.

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"We need to work better at ensuring our trains are safe spaces for women.”

Mr Reeve also said the cost of transferring ScotRail to the public sector was £3.6 million so far and likely to be less then £5m in total – half the cost of the last franchise competition in 2014, which Dutch state railways offshoot Abellio won.

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Ms Gilruth said she was “not personally” in favour of compulsory redundancies, but said the issue was still being discussed with the unions.

"I think the committee would be surprised if we went into public ownership and we didn’t have a policy of no compulsory redundancies [like under the Abellio contract], but we are not there yet because we haven’t established a pay deal,” she said.

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"I’d be very keen to get to that place with the unions, but those negotiations are ongoing.”

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