PROBLEM teens at the heart of alleged violence and disorder on trains between Balloch and Helensburgh have been given free train travel.

As reported previously in The Reporter, anti-social behaviour on trains from Balloch and inside Helensburgh Central train station, has reached such a level that staff threatened to boycott services.

ScotRail was also forced to put emergency security patrols in place – a first at a Scottish station.

And at a meeting of Helensburgh Community Council last week, BTP Inspector Brian McAleese, said train passes had been given to youngsters in the care of West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) in the hope of preventing incidents from “getting out of hand.”

Inspector McAleese told the meeting: “The children have been given zone cards by social work. If they behave they can use the network.

“We have no issues with children using the rail network anywhere in Scotland, as long as they respect staff and other passengers using the network. Anti-social behaviour will never be tolerated.

“We are working closely with the parents and guardians of children we believe may be involved but it is a slow process, this isn’t an overnight fix and our powers are limited.We are fully engaging with partners including ScotRail, Police Scotland and the local authority. We are pleased that progress is being made, however this is a complex process and will take time.

“We are using all the legislative power at our disposal to disrupt the ongoing anti-social behaviour (in and around Helensburgh.)”

Asked to confirm the issue of the passes to the young people concerned, a spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership said: “A number of actions are being taken as part of a multi-agency response to concerns on anti-social behaviour. These actions are having an impact and we will continue to review and monitor all of these approaches until this matter is fully resolved.”

The Reporter asked West Dunbartonshire Council how many passes had been issued to the young people involved, for how long and at what cost to the taxpayer.

The council’s spokeswoman said the query would be dealt with as a “freedom of information” request, giving the authority 20 working days to respond.

The move, though has sparked a furious reaction from the community on social media, with several people describing it as “shocking”, “a joke” and “a reward for their disrespect.”

However, Helensburgh and Lomond South councillor Richard Trail, who attended last week’s meeting called for a more measured response to a genuine attempt to placate the situation.

He said: “When councils take children into care they take on the responsibility of a corporate parent.

“They try their best to fulfil the role of the absent parents. A parent gives their child unconditional love and that can be difficult when a child misbehaves. The giving out of the travel cards should be seen in that light.”

Meanwhile, the threat of a driver boycott remains in place, despite a recent review.

However, incidents were still being reported on trains between Dumbarton and Helensburgh – including verbal abuse of rail workers and one occasion where a blind passenger was spat upon.

Dumbarton and the Vale’s MSP Jackie Baillie said multi-agency efforts were ongoing to tackle the problems. said: “I chaired a multi-agency meeting last week with the British Transport Police, Police Scotland, social work and staff trade unions and I am organising another meeting at the end of the month to monitor progress.

“All partners are working together to stamp out anti-social behaviour on local rail services with some success in recent weeks but there is still a lot more to do.”

The Reporter did approach Lomond Councillors Jonathan McColl, Martin Rooney and Sally Page for a response to the issue but did not get one at the time of going to press.