These are the public transport laws you should be aware of

In some parts of the UK, alcohol is allowed on trains and it is even sold on many (Photo: Shutterstock)In some parts of the UK, alcohol is allowed on trains and it is even sold on many (Photo: Shutterstock)
In some parts of the UK, alcohol is allowed on trains and it is even sold on many (Photo: Shutterstock)

This week Labour MP Diane Abbott apologised after a photo showing her drinking a Marks & Spencer canned alcoholic cocktail on a Transport for London overground train was circulated.

However, the widespread joking online at the expense of the person who took the photo suggests that Brits across the country enjoy a drink on public transport.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Although drinking is banned on all TfL vehicles, rules differ up and down the country. There are also lots of other rules regarding behaviour on public transport that you might not know.

Here are some of the different public transport laws you should be aware of.


Since 2008, it has been illegal to have open alcohol on all forms of TfL transport. This includes tubes, buses and trains. Unopened containers of alcoholic drinks are allowed to be transported.

In most other parts of England and Wales, alcohol is allowed on trains and it is sold on many. Sometimes there will be a temporary ban, for example on trains heading directly to a football match - however these bans will always be announced with signs in the carriage.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All ScotRail trains ban drinking between the hours of 9pm and 10am. This rule came into action in 2012 in an attempt to cut down on antisocial behaviour. The Caledonian Sleeper train, which travels to and from London, is exempt from this rule. Scottish trains also sometimes inflict temporary bans.

In Northern Ireland, alcohol is banned on all trains except for one route. The trains that travel between Belfast and Dublin permit the consumption of alcohol.

Bus operators across the UK generally ask passengers not to drink alcohol on their buses.


In London, in areas where signs are in place instructing passengers to ‘queue here’, it is illegal to jump the queue. You must wait at the back of the line.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad


According to a long-standing and archaic law, it is illegal to catch a bus if you have the plague.


Although not a strict rule, many bus and train companies advise that people avoid eating smelly foods, particularly hot ones, on public transport.

Bus provider Stagecoach says this is because it is “unpleasant” for the other passengers in the vehicle.

There are also rules on most public transport that ask people to clear up their litter when they leave.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad


Many bus and train companies limit what you are allowed to take on board with you so as to prevent people from taking up too much space and making life difficult for other passengers.

Items over two metres long are generally not allowed, nor are any luggage items you are not able to carry by yourself.

Unfolded bicycles are not allowed on most buses. Bicycles are allowed on trains, however there are usually specific areas to store them.

Adult content

As long as what you are watching is legal, there is nothing to stop you from watching it on public transport. In the past this means that some people have been spotted watching pornography on buses.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, there is a law that could lead to somebody being prosecuted for watching porn on public transport. Known as the Indecent Displays (Control) Act, it is concerned with preventing the display of “indecent” material to the unsuspecting public.

Some transport providers, including TfL, have said that if somebody is made uncomfortable by what they see on public transport, they should contact the driver.

Fare dodging

If a passenger is caught travelling without an appropriate ticket, they can be required to pay a penalty fare. These are usually higher than the cost incurred when purchasing the ticket in the first place. The individual transport company enforces these.

If you pay your penalty fine you are not considered to have committed a criminal offence. This is because penalty fares are civil debts and not fines. However, persistent fare dodgers and those who fail to pay penalty fares can find themselves taken to court and even imprisoned.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Edinburgh Evening News

Related topics: