A number of high profile operations are being planned along the Real Ale Trail to tackle its rowdy revellers.
British Transport Police, West Yorkshire Police, Northern Rail and First TransPennine Express are continuing to work with local community groups, residents and business to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and raise awareness of the dangers of being heavily under the influence of alcohol on the railway.
Inspector Richard Price from British Transport Police said: “The Real Ale Trail has been on our policing radar for over a year now and as well as officers regularly patrolling the route, we have been engaging with train operators and the local communities, residents and businesses at stations which are being affected by the influx of people every weekend.
“The Real Ale Trail is a novel and fun experience and the vast majority of the people who follow the trail behave in a decent and respectful manner, and we would like to thank them for such. However there are a few whose behaviour, whether fuelled by alcohol or not is unacceptable. While crime is not a big problem, with only a few offences recorded, anti social and dangerous behaviour of some of the revellers is. This can range from people falling off platforms and running across the tracks, to inappropriate use of language, urinating on platforms and train doors being held open disrupting services.”
He added, “Fast trains regularly run through small stations on the trail, and we are concerned someone is going to get badly injured or even killed. In addition to our regular patrols, we are also going to be running a number of high profile operations over the next few months involving even more officers policing the line and engaging with those travelling on the services to highlight the dangers of their behaviour.
“We want people to have a good time but we also want to make sure that they stay safe and treat rail staff and other passengers on these services with respect. We also want them to really consider how they can be putting themselves at risk and how their behaviour may impact on others on those services and be an intimidating experience for others.
“We will not hesitate to take action against anyone who does commit a crime or behaves in a problematic manner. In addition to being prosecuted, they can be banned from travelling on the rail network and will receive a criminal record which may affect their employment. Is it worth it for a few hours drinking?”
BTP recently launched a non –emergency text service which provides passengers with an additional tool to report and capture low level, non-emergency incidents.
“Low level anti-social behaviour, which we know occurs on the trail when people have been drinking, is undoubtedly under reported. Passengers tend to accept or ignore the minority who make the journeys unpleasant for everyone else,” Inspector Price said.
“We hope that the ease of being able to send a quick text message will encourage more passengers to report incidents when they occur and would encourage anyone travelling on these services to text the number 61016 if they do have any problems or speak to an officer on-board. By building up a more accurate picture we can better focus our resources.”
Martyn Guiver, Head of Crime Management for Northern Rail said: “We implemented a crowd management plan at Marsden and Slaithwaite earlier this year to assist in managing the situation. Our Rail Response Team is present to deal with a variety of incidents and prevent trespassing on the railway and we have additional control measures in place to ensure platforms are as clear as possible for passing trains. Our priority is the safety of all our customers and these measures will help to ensure this.”
Billy Vickers, Police Liaison Officer for FTPE said, “The safety of our customers, the communities we serve and our staff is always our number one priority.
“Travelling by rail to visit some beautiful locations and enjoy some real ale is a great experience. We would however encourage all on the trail to be safe, sensible and respectful of the communities they are entering.
“We welcome the initiatives of the local pubs and communities that will help to reduce the likelihood of anti social behaviour and we will take every available action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all rail passengers and staff.
“Working with the BTP we will not tolerate threatening, abusive is dangerous behaviour on our services.”
Royce Franklin, Saddleworth Parish Councillor said, “I am sure the original idea for what has become known as the Real Ale Trail was sound and well meaning. In this technological age communication through social networking is easy and because of this the trail has been advertised country wide attracting passengers from all over England. It is therefore unfortunate because of the behaviour of a minority, measures are having to be taken to ensure the regular passenger feels safe. I am pleased British Transport Police and local Police Forces are taking action to control any unwelcome behaviour.’
Chief Supt Tim Kingsman of Kirklees Police, said: “We are aware of concerns in communities on the Real Ale Trail regarding anti social behaviour on weekends and we are working closely with partners to address these matters.
“West Yorkshire Police are providing additional patrols including mounted officers at key times to reassure residents and deter offending.
“Policing alone will not fully resolve the issues and we are building on existing partnership work with colleagues from agencies such as British Transport Police, Kirklees Council and licensees to put in place various measures to allow Real Ale Trail users to enjoy the experience safely and responsibly while also ensuring communities on the trail are not blighted by frequent poor behaviour by those who might seek to abuse it.”