Union says ban anti-social behaviour offenders from trains and increase staff to help women feel more safe
Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article
The RMT branded it a ‘scandal’ that passengers who commit anti-social behaviour are not barred from travelling on trains and have called for operators to adopt a zero-tolerance approach.
Speaking to the Evening News the Union said women-only carriages were ‘pie in the sky’ and claimed a ban for offenders together with increasing staff as a deterrent was the only way to improve women’s safety.
It comes after Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth promised to make the railways safer saying there is a “systemic problem” of women being scared to use public transport because of “men’s behaviour”.
She told Holyrood she never boarded the last train home because it was full of drunk men who would “squeeze in beside you despite the fact that you’re surrounded by empty seats”.
With ScotRail set be taken into public ownership, the Minister vowed to consult with women’s groups and said women-only carriages would be considered with other measures.
The change suggested by Action for Stalking has sparked debate over women’s safety on Scotland’s trains, while figures show reports of sexual assault and harassment are up on previous years.
According to BTP, there were 16 sexual assault offences in Scotland in 2019/20, which fell to four during the same period in 2020/21. However, there are 21 recorded cases in the current crime recording year.
Reports of sexual harassment on UK railways has risen by 63 per cent to 421 compared to pre-pandemic figures from 2019 of 259. This includes exposure and groping, upskirting, sexual comments and leering.
Mick Hogg, RMT regional organiser for Scotland, said a crackdown on all anti-social behaviour would improve safety for women and all passengers. But he said it would only work if stations and trains are staffed adequately.
"We would welcome support for women and all passengers to feel safer on trains.
"For months we’ve argued for more staff presence to help passengers feel safe. Anti social behaviour is out of control. We can ban troublemakers from football grounds, shopping centres and even buses. But not from our trains. I find that staggering. It's time this was sorted once and for all.”
“Some of these offences occur in and around train stations. What we need is for stations to be properly staffed, booking offices to be staffed and for our trains to be staffed to ensure Scotland’s trains are safe.”
"Women only carriages is pie in the sky because the only way it could work is if we had more crew and more of a police presence. A guard looks after the whole train, so to me it would only increase the risk of abuse for our workers. The harsh reality is we have less than 200 BTP as it is so it’s a bit rich to consider a move like this.”
Currently, Abellio are consulting on ticket office opening hours with 117 ticket offices facing a reduction in staffed hours and three ticket offices marked for full closure.
The Minister has been urged to halt further cuts until the consultation on women’s safety has concluded.
Politicians have backed Union calls for a crackdown on ASB but have raised concerns about how it would be resourced.
Councillor Lezley-Marion Cameron supports calls for a clampdown on ASB but said women-only carriages is not the answer.
She said: “Harassment or assault is unacceptable and the fact that its increased on trains is appalling.
"There is a need for us to address this collectively. I would welcome a clampdown and for this to be shown clearly on trains. We need to encourage people to feel safe enough to report it. As bystanders we must call this out if we see it too.
"I don’t think women only carriages would work, it’s a sticking plaster. But I welcome a zero tolerance approach to anti social behaviour and a look at deterrents - increasing staff presence is vital.”
Lothian MSP Sue Webber said: “Like all women, I’ve experienced sexist and intimidating behaviour in public spaces and I know how horrible it can be.
“We need to ensure that anyone who tries to harm or intimidate women is punished with the full force of the law. I do have concerns over how a ban on anti-social offenders on trains would be implemented in practice.
“No-one should have to feel afraid when travelling on public transport, but women-only carriages will not solve the problem of gender-based violence.
“The first priority for the SNP should be ensuring that our rail network has the necessary levels of staffing and funding to prevent this kind of abuse.
“And we must also see some real action to tackle the growing problem of anti-social behaviour across the board – which has surged under the SNP’s soft-touch justice system.”
Action Against Stalking, the charity that proposed women-only carriages said operators are accountable for women’s safety.
Founder Ann Moulds said: "Women should be able to travel on the train without being subjected to the threat of abuse.”
“For operators to throw their hands up and say we don’t have enough staff is not an excuse. They must be held accountable. If they can’t staff trains and stations properly then they are neglecting their duties to allow women safe passage.”
"Women-only carriages could be a short-term solution but there’s a much wider issue. Gendered violence must be prioritised and addressed with real repercussions for those responsible.”
A Scotrail spokesperson said: “ScotRail works closely with BTP to tackle antisocial behaviour, however policing of the railway is the role of British Transport Police.”
A spokesperson for the British Transport Police said: “Tackling sexual harassment is our top priority and we have specialist patrols across the network day and night to catch
offenders and reassure passengers as they travel. We encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses sexual harassment to report it to us discreetly by texting 61016.”