Thursday, April 03, 2008

Johnson Gets it Wrong

Boris Johnson has announced a new policy to ban alcohol from the Tube. He said:

London has a higher rate of alcohol-related crimes than any other region in England and I have been told time and again that people are scared of taking the Underground late at night because of aggressive behaviour by drunken yobs.
Too many people find themselves forced to sit opposite someone swigging from a can of lager and engaging in behaviour that is intimidating or worse. I want everyone’s journeys to be safer and more pleasant.
Iain Dale comments:
As a liberal Conservative I instinctively recoil from banning things. However, is it liberal to allow tube users to be abused by drunken louts? No, definitely not. I think this policy will be welcomed by many as long as it is policed properly.
I think this is the problem. How will this be policed? The press release states:
Under the London Regional Transport Railways By-laws, TfL staff are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to remove persons who breach any of the by-laws. TfL staff can prevent people from going through ticket barriers if they are in breach such as carrying any open alcoholic drinks. In the same way that anyone smoking can be prevented from travelling on the Tube.
This is all fine, but it only helps if a) there are TfL staff at the station and b) they see the person carrying an open alcohol drink. And what about unopened drinks that are opened on the Tube? Johnson could try banning all alcohol on the Tube but then runs the risk of stopping people taking bottles of wine to a friend or to work or wherever. And of course we have the problem of people already drunk before they get on the Tube.

The only realistic way to police this policy is to have staff, preferably from the British Transport Police, on the trains. But if they're there anyway there is no need for the ban on alcohol.

Overall, the aim is good but the policy itself won't work. No doubt it will be something of a vote winner but in terms of practicalities and effectiveness Johnson has got this one wrong.