'Last orders' turn nasty on Underground

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The Independent Online

For thousands, it was the chance to be part of a Facebook-inspired "flash mob" – a spontaneous group of partygoers enjoying the last night of legal drinking on the London Underground. But for sober Tube travellers, Saturday night's journey was the stuff of nightmares.

Police arrested 17 people for a range of public order offences and closed six Underground stations, with several trains taken out of service because of vandalism. The Circle line was suspended for a time.

Four train drivers and three other London Underground staff were assaulted, with another 50 further staff verbally abused or spat at. A police vehicle had its tyres slashed, two officers were assaulted and another was injured. Organisers had called on attendees at the "Last Round on the Circle line" – a celebration of the final night before Boris Johnson's ban on carrying or drinking from open containers of alcohol came into force – to follow in the good natured footsteps of other flash mobs.

But as the Tube carriages filled and broken glass from discarded bottles covered the floors, what began as a good natured knees-up was marred by fighting, vomiting and vandalism. Liverpool Street station was closed for several hours because of overcrowding.

As the lead train made its way through the City and on towards west London, the atmosphere was boisterous but friendly, with three carriages full of people dancing on the seats and singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". At Victoria station, a bemused, elderly, American couple hesitated to board the train before passengers grabbed them by the arms and pulled them on, pouring each of them a large brandy.

However, as the train progressed on its 22-stop circuit, some of the crowd began ripping maps and posters off the walls. With some drinkers pouring beer into their mouths through funnels, vomiting soon became common. One man dressed as a Star Wars character urinated between the doors to the adjoining carriage, on to the electrified tracks below, cheered by others.

At Notting Hill, shortly before 10pm, passengers broke the doors on one carriage, putting the train out of service. The Circle line was suspended soon afterwards. Elsewhere, Euston, Euston Square, Aldgate, Gloucester Road and Baker Street stations were also closed.

Desmond Fitzgerald, 48, a photographer from Croydon, south London, said: "At first the atmosphere was happy but anarchic. Then a fight broke out between about five people but because we were so tightly packed it soon spread through the carriage."

Supt Ellie Bird, of British Transport Police, said: "Saturday night's event showed the negative impact of alcohol and we took action to arrest those whose behaviour was disorderly and criminal."

RMT, the rail union, blamed the chaos on Mr Johnson and said his plans – a manifesto commitment – were "imposed with haste without consultations".



Revellers on the Underground on Saturday night



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