Officers working for the British Transport Police (BTP) have described what it’s like to work on Wales’ railways as drunken revellers make their way home at weekends.
The force has launched a new operation, called Operation Stronghold, which will see high visibility patrols at Cardiff Central railway station.
The aim of the operation, which was held over the weekend and will continue next weekend, is to prevent alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.
BTP says similar operations in other parts of the UK have led to a significant drop in incidents of anti-social behaviour.
‘It’s mainly drunken revellers’
PC Hywel Davies, who has worked for the BTP in Cardiff for a year-and-a-half, described what it was like to work on Friday and Saturday nights as people head back home from the capital.
“On Friday and Saturday evenings it’s mainly drunken revellers coming back from town. There’s too much of a party atmosphere, the train is a different atmosphere to a club and you wouldn’t expect it,” he said.
PC Davies added: “Occasionally you get violent offences when things get out of hand and people get assaulted. Luckily, we nip this in the bud before people travel on their journeys.
“The biggest challenge for Cardiff is when you get loads of people coming through to get on the last train who have had a bit to drink and are in high spirits. It only takes a minority of people to spark off a situation.
“The majority of people we deal with are verbal and try to give it the big one to cause a scene but occasionally you get people who try to assault you but that’s a rarity for us.”
‘They were intent on provoking a fight’
PC Davies explained how one incident involved three Swansea football fans heading back to Wales from Portsmouth following a match.
He said: “That was one particular incident that was alcohol and football related. They were intent on provoking a fight with a couple of rugby fans coming back from London.
“They were chucked off at Bristol but they got a taxi from Temple Meads to Parkway and got on a train from there to Cardiff.
“The fact they had been ejected once and got back on another train meant they were dealt with for both offences when they got back to Cardiff.”
‘All the crimes we focus on are things that happen on trains’
PC Davies starts the patrol shifts just after 9pm and clocks off at 7am. Once the last trains pass through the station, the BTP head to depots in the city to check on them.
Aside from anti social behaviour, the BTP also deal with luggage thefts, trespassing on the tracks and many different types of offences.
PC Davies added: “There’s no average shift but you get more alcohol-related incidents on the weekend than you will on a Wednesday evening.
“All the crimes we focus on are things that happen on trains. We deal with less domestic incidents but more offences against rail staff and fraud offences relating to tickets.
“Local forces have a very different community they know through policing. The transport community is different because every day people are passing through so the challenging thing is getting to know a much larger community than policing at a geographical level.”