Drink 'fuels transport violence'
BBC News: 24 August 2005
Violent crime has risen nearly 12% on the UK's railways - despite a fall in the number of other crimes, police say. Alcohol was behind much of the violence on public transport.
Many of the 9,748 attacks on passengers and staff involved alcohol, said British Transport Police.
It said it had "serious concerns" about plans to extend licensing hours as it launched its annual report.
The figures do not include the London bombings, but the force said it was facing the threat of further attacks and that it was training officers.
Overall, the number of offences British Transport Police dealt with was down 2%.
TRANSPORT CRIME 2004
There were a total of 9,748 cases of violent crime on the UK's railways
1,604 fewer crimes were reported - a fall of 1.9%
Robberies were down 20%
A third of all crime on the London Underground and Docklands Light Railway was pickpocketing
Violence rose 14% on the London Underground
Public order offences up 27%.
But it said the increase in violent crime - including a 23% rise in Wales and an 11% rise in England - was worrying. Violent incidents fell by 2% in Scotland.
British Transport Police Chief Constable Ian Johnston said there had been a noticeable increase in the reporting of alcohol related incidents and longer pub opening hours could exacerbate the problem.
He told BBC News: "We flag crimes that have an alcohol connection. So if we arrest a burglar or a robber who's drunk we flag the crime.
"And we've had about a 30% increase in that level of flagging across the force over the last year."
Mr Johnston said the "big issue" is that "longer hours means longer coverage", with the possibility of resources being overstretched if officers have to spend more of their time dealing with drunks.
It is not the first time government plans to extend licensing hours from 24 November have attracted criticism.
"Alcohol-related crime and disorder blighting our town and city centres is happening now" - Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman
Judges have warned the move will lead to an increase in the number of rapes and serious assaults, while police chiefs have warned of a holiday-resort style drinking culture.
But the government said the "status quo" and not extended opening was the problem.
"Flexible opening hours will reduce the need to speed drink," said a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
"It will end the double madness of people gulping two or three rounds of drinks to beat last orders and then all being thrown out onto the streets at the same time."
Rail Maritime and Transport union general secretary Bob Crow said: "It is deeply disturbing that violence on the railways is still on the increase.
"We need adequate staff on every station all the time they are open and a guard on every train, including on the Tube."