Mayhem on London’s Underground as alcohol ban goes into effect

Labeled “Last Round on the Underground,” an orgy of drinking and merry-making yesterday throughout London’s famed subway network led to the arrest of 17 people and other dust-ups with local authorities.

Yesterday was the last day before a citywide ban on drinking alcohol on the Tube went into effect. At first, thousands of revelers gathered — many in costumes — for parties on the Tube’s many trains. But when police moved in to close things down, so to speak, things turned violent.

Besides the arrests, there were a half dozen assaults on Tube employees and police, the International Herald Tribune reports today, and several trains were so heavily damaged that they had to be taken out of service, sending significant delays rippling through a subway network that had 1 billion passengers in 2007.

Starting today, you cannot drink alcohol anywhere on London’s public transport system. While the move, meant to make the network safer for all travelers, has the backing of various alcohol-awareness groups, some of the people who are most displeased with the new law are not who you’d expect: The transport workers themselves.

Union representatives argue that their workers will be put in danger when forced to confront people breaking the alcohol ban, as is certainly likely to happen.