TRANSPORT police are cracking down on anti-social behaviour on Balloch train services in a bid to ensure rail travellers feel safe whilst travelling on the line.

Officers from the British Transport Police (BTP) are working in partnership with ScotRail’s Travel Safe Team to provide reassurance to both passengers and staff on board trains travelling between Dalmuir and Balloch.

It’s the first time the BTP and ScotRail have joined forces on a specific route anywhere in Scotland.

Inspector Ryan Tierney from BTP explained that the reason this line is the “main focus” of this operation is due to the fact that the “vast majority” of problems have been seen on Balloch trains in the past.

He said: “There’s been an increase in large groups of youths travelling onboard between here and Balloch – naturally for the country park at Balloch – but with that obviously comes large congregations of youths, alcohol and all the associated problems that come with it.

“At the moment this is the focus line for us to step this up on, just because the vast majority of the problems that we have been having has been on this line.

“Our focus of course is anti-social behaviour right across the Scottish network, but for the minute, in terms of partnership working with the Travel Safe Team, this will be the main focus.”

Inspector Ryan Tierney, British Transport Police.

Inspector Ryan Tierney, British Transport Police.

Increased patrols will see BTP officers stationed on key routes and stations in an effort to ensure the safety of those using the network.

The new ScotRail team, launched last November, puts in place an “internal support mechanism” for rail staff as well as assisting police in clamping down on anti-social behaviour.

Inspector Tierney added: “It’s not a case of introducing a safe network – it’s restoring it back to what it was.

“Where there will be open spaces and parks we will always get these large congregations of youths.

“It has been an issue for a long time, and we have always tried to tackle it in partnership with Police Scotland, but now, given that we have the Travel Safe Team as well, it’s certainly given us great food for thought for the future.

“We want our passengers to return back to the network, as do ScotRail – hence the reason that we’ve stepped this up.

“We don’t want people to fear anti-social behaviour, or indeed the perception that anti-social behaviour is there.

“We sincerely hope this initiative will help ease the nerves of staff on board.

“One of the biggest things we’re doing just now is really getting in and listening to the staff. The Travel Safe Team is key to that. There was no one on trains and now they are back on the trains and we will support them back into working.

“If you see police, feel free to speak to them contact us on 61016 if you see any form of disorder or indeed if you feel unsafe at any point.”

This new scheme is being piloted on services travelling between Dalmuir and Balloch.

This new scheme is being piloted on services travelling between Dalmuir and Balloch.

As part of the new scheme, neighbourhood policing teams will be attending schools across West Dunbartonshire to highlight the issue of safety, both on trains and at stations, as well as spreading the word to young people about the dangers posed by railway infrastructure.

During their checks on trains, officers will take steps such as asking young people where they are going and whether they have a safe way home – as well as removing people from trains at the next stop if they have cause to believe they’re creating trouble.

Inspector Tierney added: “I think the biggest thing for us is the youth element and their parents and carers. Where are the children? Have you had that conversation with them?

“Of course if any sort of abuse or damage to property and staff happens,we’ll certainly deal with it very robustly.

“We don’t want to stop people enjoying themselves but we certainly want them to enjoy it properly.”

As well as the increased BTP patrols on trains, members of the Travel Safe Team will also be stepping up their presence on Balloch services, supporting both their ScotRail colleagues and the travelling public.

There will be increased patrols on this line in an effort to clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

There will be increased patrols on this line in an effort to clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

Team members will be making their way through the train making sure no-one is breaching the company’s blanket ban on drinking alcohol on trains and no anti-social behaviour taking place.

Kevin Culbert, a member of the Travel Safe Team working on the Balloch line, said he feels the initiative has made an impact already.

He said: “Over the last two weeks it’s definitely made an impact. There’s been no real issues with any cancellations or late running trains due to anti-social behaviour, which makes a big difference.

“Feedback has been very positive, everybody’s feeling a bit more comfortable at work, passengers have commented that they feel really safe.

“We cover the full network. Where there has been any issues we get sent out to those areas.

“Our purpose is to support passengers or anyone who isn’t feeling comfortable.”