TRAIN company GNER is to ban smoking on all its East Coast Main Line passenger services.

The York-based company said provision for smokers on its trains would be withdrawn from August 29 in response to the majority of passengers' wishes.

GNER said customer complaints about smoking had risen by 172 per cent over the past two years.

Its research showed more than 90 per cent of passengers did not smoke and were in favour of a ban. It was also suggested smoking on trains could deter some people from travelling. GNER's chief operating officer, Jonathan Metcalfe, said: "We have regularly reviewed smoking provision on our trains over several years.

"During that time there has been a noticeable shift in passenger preferences, which has coincided with a hardening of attitudes about smoking in enclosed public places across society at large. Up until now, we have tried hard to accommodate the diminishing number of people who wish to smoke while travelling with us, but it is now very clear that the majority of our passengers are in favour of a total ban on smoking on our trains."

The move was welcomed by passenger groups and the anti-smoking lobby.

Christine Knights, chairwoman of the Rail Passenger Committee's East Coast Passengers Panel, said: "We are pleased that GNER is responding to the feedback from passengers by banning smoking."

Fiona Dunlop, acting director of campaign group Smoke Free North-East, suggested the company had been prompted by legislation due to be introduced in Scotland early next year, resulting in a blanket ban on smoking in workplaces.

She said: "There is strong public support for smoke-free workplaces. So when a company like GNER announces a ban, it raises the profile of the issue and indicates that people are taking the problem of second-hand smoke seriously."

GNER said it had no plans to introduce spot fines for anyone who breached the ban and it hoped a "big stick approach" would not be required.