Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Sunday, 1 June 2008 14:05 UK

Tube drinks party sparks mayhem

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Revellers drink and party on Tube

Six London Underground stations were closed as trouble flared when thousands of people marked the banning of alcohol on London transport with a party.

Four tube drivers, three other staff members, and two police officers were assaulted, and there were 17 arrests.

Several trains were damaged and withdrawn from service, which led to suspended services.

Drinkers gathered on Tube trains and station concourses for a last drink before the ban came in at midnight.

Police said what should have been a fun event came to an "unfortunate" end.

'Like rush hour but fun'

The ban on drinking from - or carrying - open containers of alcohol applies to the Tube, London buses, Docklands Light Railway and trams as of midnight on Saturday.

It was announced by London Mayor Boris Johnson shortly after he took office, with the aim of making public transport safer and more pleasant.

It's sweaty on there but I'm going round and round until I vomit
Peter Moore, from Brighton

The party, mostly on the Circle Line, was dubbed the Last Round on the Underground or Last Orders. It had previously been widely advertised on social networking and other internet sites.

The party began in a celebratory mood, with many people in good spirits and anticipating a good night.

Londoner Matt Wynn, 43, a banker, said: "I've come along with a bottle of Champagne because I want to show that you can drink responsibly on the Tube and not cause trouble."

But others took a different approach from the beginning.

Peter Moore, 35, a sailor from Brighton, said he had downed a can of beer in 10 seconds. "It's sweaty on there, but I'm going round and round until I vomit," he said.

'More considerate'

Transport for London's director of transport policing and enforcement, Jeroen Weimar, said the new policy on alcohol was a reasonable one.

"We are encouraging our passengers to show a bit more respect and to be more considerate and involve other people's views and other passengers views as they make their journeys," he said.

"And clearly drinking alcohol can create a culture whereby people feel it's ok to do that sort of thing, it's ok to get more drunk when you're travelling.

"We're not going to the stage where we're saying we're not going to carry people who've had a few drinks and who are trying to get home."

Damaged police vehicle

As Saturday night wore on, eyewitnesses described how drunken partygoers began fighting and vomiting, ripping up maps and adverts, spilling alcohol and leaving debris.

Partygoers at Liverpool Street
Liverpool Street was one of six stations closed after it was mobbed
British Transport Police said there was a "large amount" of instances of disorder reported.

Liverpool Street underground station was closed to ease overcrowding for several hours. Other Tube stations closed by police were Euston, Euston Square, Aldgate, Gloucester Road and Baker Street.

Seventeen people were arrested for offences such as assault, being drunk and disorderly, assaulting police, public order related offences and drug offences, BTP said.

One police vehicle was damaged and two officers assaulted and another injured.

Police also reported four assaults on train drivers and three assaults on other members of London Underground staff.

'Risk of assault'

Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) general secretary Bob Crow said: "Boris Johnson should apologise personally to all those who were assaulted and abused last night thanks to a half-baked gimmick designed solely as a publicity stunt and without a moment's thought for the people told to implement it."

He said the RMT supported measures to reduces anti-social behaviour but that the ban was imposed in haste.

"We warned it could put our members at greater risk of assault, but there is no comfort in being proved right when Tube workers have been injured and abused," Mr Crow added.

Police and revellers on a Circle line platform
Police said the evening started with people keen to have fun

As well as assaults, there were also "multiple instances" of Tube trains being damaged, which meant they were withdrawn from service, which in turn led to several Tube services being suspended.

A spokesperson for the Greater London Authority said: "Londoners are fed up of feeling threatened and intimidated on public transport. That's why the mayor has introduced an alcohol ban which came into effect today.

"It is ridiculous of the RMT to suggest that the alcohol ban threatens the safety of London Underground staff, when it was the consumption of alcohol that fuelled the reprehensible incidents of violence that took place yesterday."

The GLA said a majority of the London public welcomed the alcohol ban "as a reasonable step that is long overdue" and that Mr Crow was "out of step with ordinary Londoners and the vast majority of the hard-working men and women who work for London Underground".

'Dangerous'

Superintendent Ellie Bird said she had no doubt that the event had begun with a small number of people keen to have fun without causing trouble.

Inside of a Tube train
Other Tube passengers reported debris, broken glass and spilled alcohol
But she added: "Alcohol has a significant impact on crime and anti social behaviour, not only rendering people more vulnerable but raising levels of aggression.

"Those under the influence of alcohol are more likely to cause disruption to the service through their physical state and conduct.

"We have seen numerous examples this evening of the negative impact of alcohol and antisocial behaviour. It is dangerous for those individuals and others."


SEE ALSO
Johnson bans drink on transport
07 May 08 |  London

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