Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Sex attack fears over plan to axe guards on trains in Cumbria

A Cumbrian MP says that he will investigate a proposal to introduce driver-only trains at a time when sex crimes on trains are on the rise.

Elsie Martlew photo
Elsie Martlew

Carlisle City Council’s deputy leader Elsie Martlew spoke out about the issue after national figures revealed there has been a worrying rise in women rail passengers being targeted by perverts.

In the 12 months to March there were 1,117 sex attacks on trains – up nearly 21 per cent on the year before.

Mrs Martlew said the statistic showed now was not the right time to scrap guards on trains – which is one of the ideas under consideration as the Government prepares to award franchises for the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express networks.

She raised the issue with north Cumbria’s two Conservative MPs and has had a reply from Penrith and the Border’s Rory Stewart.

She said: “He has sent me a very positive reply, saying that he appreciates my concern and that he plans to make further inquiries with the Department for Transport.

“He said he will ask them to review the plan in the light of my concerns.”

She has not yet heard from Carlisle’s MP John Stevenson, or from the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Mr Stevenson said he had not yet received the letter but would be happy to speak to Mrs Martlew.

He told the News & Star: “The rail company has to take into account passenger safety and security as their primary concern. If they are to introduce driver-only trains they must make appropriate risk assessments and are aware of the potential risks to all passengers.”

Mrs Martlew added: “Being on a train is not like being on a bus. You can’t just ask for a train to stop in the middle of nowhere if something happens that worries you.”

She argued that for women in particular, having a guard on the train gave them reassurance and confidence.

Mrs Martlew believes that train operators should strengthen rather than weaken on-board security.

Last month, Cumbria County Council urged the Government to invest significantly in improving rail services

Politicians and business leaders in the county want the Department for Transport to give local rail services a major boost from 2016.

Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have published their joint response to the Government’s public consultation on the future franchise arrangements

They have called for:

  • More frequent passenger services on the Cumbrian Coast Line;
  • Investment in better quality rolling stock;
  • And extra spending on rail facilities, including stations.
  • Cumbria LEP argues that tourism is such a vital part of economic growth there is a clear need to improve rail links to other key areas.


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