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Outcry at Subway photo ban

PASSENGERS on Glasgow's Subway will face fines of up to £1000 for taking photographs on trains or within stations under proposals that have provoked a backlash from business leaders, amateur photographers and civil liberties campaigners.

out of focus: Glasgow Subway operator SPT wants to ban taking photographs on its trains and in its stations.
out of focus: Glasgow Subway operator SPT wants to ban taking photographs on its trains and in its stations.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport – which runs the ageing Subway system – is to ban taking photographs, filming or making audio recordings as part of an overhaul of by-laws dating back to 1980.

Under the proposals, which were put out to consultation earlier this week, filming and photography on trains or in any of the 15 stations on the network would be illegal and lumped in the same category as drinking alcohol, being disorderly or interfering with emergency equipment.

The only exception would be if a passenger had written permission from SPT, carried this with them and showed it to any Subway officers on request.

A breach of any of the proposed by-laws would result in a "level 3" penalty – set by Scottish ministers as a fine of up to £1000. By-laws currently in place on the Subway specify a number of fines, the highest of which is £200.

A spokeswoman for the transport authority said the proposed by-law changes reflected existing policies and was required for security reasons.

But it provoked an outcry from politicians and business leaders who warned banning photographs would affect the thousands of people who take pictures of friends while travelling to the city centre.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said it sent the "wrong message" to tourists.

"The last thing I want to see is a tourist arrested for taking a picture of the Clockwork Orange. If SPT has concerns over safety, I'd like to see them tell us which photos are safe and which are unsafe," he said.

Civil liberties campaigner Geraint Bevan said: "It sounds preposterous and completely unenforceable, given so many people have cameras on their phones."

The rules would be stricter than regulations covering the UK's railway stations, which prevent flash photography – so as not to distract train drivers – but allow other pictures to be taken if they are not sold.

Guidance published on the website of Network Rail, which owns Britain's railway stations, says photos can be taken but warns against putting tripod legs near the edges of platforms or in the way of passengers.

The ban has also provoked anger among photographers. Michael Pritchard, director general of the Royal Photographic Society, told Amateur Photographer magazine: "Photography is being targeted in a blanket way that is illogical and offers no benefit to the public or to transport staff.

"As most people carry a camera phone, the proposed by-law would be impossible to police."

In a statement, SPT said the restrictions were in line with those for any major transport hub, though critics were swift to point out that no such ban exists on London's Underground.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for SPT said the reforms would be made in a "sensible" way.

She added: "The great thing about consultation is that it allows everyone interested in the subject to get involved.

"Security will always be our top priority and safety protocols need to be aligned in a sensible way while considering things like the huge uptake in social media and availability of handheld devices which many of our customers use."

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: "While there may be safety reasons for this, a blanket ban is an unjustified reaction. The very act of policing a ban like this it would be impossible."

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