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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Police pepper spray thugs in train fight

Police officers used pepper spray on suspects after a fresh outbreak of drink-fuelled disorder on a notorious Saturday night train service between Newcastle and Carlisle.

Train photo
Violence has increased on the service

The frightening incident on Saturday was the first of two which triggered a police response on the troubled service, which is being increasingly plagued by drunken louts.

In a later incident, on the 21.18 train from Newcastle, a fight broke out near a toilet, leaving one passenger with a bloodied nose, according to one witness.

Three Cumbrian men – one from Wigton and two from Carlisle – have been arrested and charged.

Some rail workers are now so terrified of the violence and disorder that they want to boycott the Saturday service.

The latest disturbances came days after a crown court judge jailed six thugs from Carlisle who attacked a group of men with bottles on board a train on the same line.

The RMT rail union says most of the trouble is being caused by young Carlisle men.

A series of real-ale jazz rail journeys which were planned for several Saturdays this year have now been cancelled because of the violence.

The issue is being highlighted as the News & Star uncovered disturbing evidence of the rising level of drink-fuelled violence on the service in recent months.

Recent disorder has included:

  • March 9: Train filled with drunk passengers, one arguing with a cyclist who bumped into him; a conductor allegedly assaulted by a female and others passengers seen taking drugs, one urinating in the coach; and one woman allegedly seen performing a sex act;
  • April 6: two groups of men having a running battle on the train, leaving one man left with facial injuries.

Bosses at Northern Rail, which runs the service, have declared the last Saturday night train from Newcastle “dry” but that appears to have pushed the trouble on to the earlier 7.25pm service, said Craig Johnston, from the RMT union for rail workers.

He said: “This problem hasn’t been caused by the train company or the police.

“It’s down to the atrocious behaviour of a small group of passengers who go over to Newcastle to get blitzed on a Saturday night. They’re consuming enormous amounts of alcohol and behaving in an appallingly anti-social and often violent way.

“It’s got so bad the staff who work that service absolutely dread doing the Saturday night shift. Some of our members want a ballot on industrial action so that they can boycott the service.”.”

A BTP spokeswoman said its officers were called to Hexham Station on Saturday following reports of disorder on board a train. Two men were arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly.

They were Thomas Garner, 21, of Stanhope Road, off Wigton Road, Carlisle, and Mark McCracken, 24, of Brindlefield, Wigton, who are due to appear at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court on June 19.

Officers were called to Haltwhistle Station later the same evening after a second report of disorder. Darren Furness, 33, of Cumwhinton Road, Carlisle, was arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly. He is to appear at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court on May 14.

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