“They should be able to sit where they want” – unions wade into women-only carriages row

Virgin TrainsTrain companies should take responsibility for the safety of ALL their passengers, unions have said after Shadow Transport Chris Williamson suggesting there was “merit” in introducing women-only train carriages to help cut the number of sexual assaults on public transport.

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: “It’s up to the privatised train operating companies to make sure every space is safe on every train. That’s their job – and their responsibility. Let’s make all carriages, on all our trains, safe for all passengers rather than restricting where people can and cannot sit. Because we don’t want gender apartheid on Britain’s railways.

“Separate carriages for women would normalise these attacks. The attackers are the problem, not where women want to sit, and women have a right to sit where they want.

“That’s why we have argued that trains need staff – to offer protection to all passengers. I am calling on the train companies to stop taking staff off trains, and stations, putting profit before passengers, and ensure our railways are safe.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “A properly staff railway at all times is the only way to keep travellers safe. Our railways have more passengers than ever before but since privatisation, staff across Britain have been culled. We are now seeing companies like Southern trying to get rid of guards.Our entire network is now woefully understaffed making travelling more stressful and sadly, more dangerous for passengers.

“Some stations are no longer staffed at all. CCTVs may be in place but they need sufficient trained staff to keep carriages and stations properly scrutinised. And they need to be backed up by a full complement of British Transport Police (BTP) Community Support Officers and Officers. But monitoring staff numbers have been cut to the bone and we have long warned of the dire consequences and increased risk to passengers.

“Just today in Scotland we begun ballotting our members on industrial action because ScotRail are proposing to cut 22 CCTV monitor jobs. This leaves surveillance at stations,on tracks and in depots under-resourced and so increasing risk of harm to passengers.

“ScotRail’s cavalier attitude to passenger safety is matched by the Scottish government who will are trying to axe the Scottish end of BTP. Sadly, Scotland will left without a specially designated railway police – without so much as a whimper of protest from the Tories who themselves have reduced UK police numbers by 20,000 since 2010.

TSSA deplores the rising number of attacks on all our passengers and, indeed on our members, the railway staff. We want our rail companies to be brought back into public ownership because quite simply when you need to keep squeezing profit out of passengers to meet the demands of greedy shareholders you build more and more risk. It’s high time we ended this spiraling system of insecurity. That’s why TSSA fully endorses Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour 2017 manifesto commitment to taking train operating companies back into public ownership as the franchises expire. It will cost us nothing in compensation to the current franchisees and we can reinvest the profits into making a safer railway for all.”

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