Austria observes German ‘drink and ride’ debate

Public transport officials in Austria are looking across the border as Germany has become entangled in a heated debate over the possible introduction of a “drink and ride” limit for passengers.Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer told the Berliner Kurier newspaper today (Fri) the implementation of a legal limit for passengers may slash damage costs and the number of violent incidents.Especially public transport operators in the country’s capital Berlin have registered a dramatic rise of costs caused by trams, buses and underground trains which are damaged and dirtied. Some officials linked the development to boozing passengers. They also appealed on politicians to step in over the soaring number of fights among drunken passengers.Pfeiffer explained: “Alcohol reduces people’s inhibitions and often tempts people to become violent.”The criminologist suggested people using public transport while being seriously drunk could be fined or lose their driving licences.Peter Trapp of the German Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) Berlin branch said he opposed the idea. “Many people use buses and trains after having downed a few glasses.”Trapp claimed it was logistically impossible to check all public transport passengers’ alcohol level.Other political leaders and sociologists said it was impossible to decide between a potentially aggressive drunk and someone who simply took public transport to avoid driving under the influence of alcohol.The intensifying discussion in Germany comes on the back of news that 61 employees assigned to control tickets were attacked and injured by fare dodgers in Vienna in the first nine months of this year. Public transport operator Wiener Linien added 72 staff were harmed by violent passengers without valid tickets in 2009.The company said it would offer more violence-prevention courses to employees to reduce the number of incidents.Wiener Linien started offering a 24-hour underground service in September after 54 per cent of Vienna residents spoke out in favour of such a reform of schedules in a referendum.Two police officers are present on all night-time trains, while around 50 Wiener Linien employees patrol U-Bahn stations. Wiener Linien explained it would in the future only operate trains of a newer generation which are equipped with CCTV surveillance systems.The company and Viennese police stressed that only very few violent incidents have been registered since the 24-hour weekend service – which does not include trams – started.