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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Sex offences surge draws plea for rethink on driver-only trains

A surge in sex offences on trains has prompted a call for the Government not to introduce driver-only trains in Cumbria.

Northern Rail train photo

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

British Transport Police reported that in the 12 months to March there were 1,117 sex attacks on trains – up nearly 21 per cent on the year before.

The statistic is powerful evidence, said Mrs Martlew, that now is not the right time to be scrapping guards from trains, one of the ideas under consideration as the Government prepares two franchises for the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express networks.

Mrs Martlew said: “The idea of having trains with no guards is really, really worrying and these figures show why that’s the case.

“I feel so strongly about this that I’m going to write about it to the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

“This is precisely the wrong time to be considering a proposal like this.”

She continued: “It doesn’t make any sense; people are entitled to feel safe when they’re on a train.

“I remember an occasion when I sat on a train and there were four drunks near me and in the end I had to move. They shouldn’t be making security on trains weaker; they should strengthen it. As far as the travelling public are concerned, they really appreciate having the guard on the train. It’s somebody to turn to if things go wrong,” added Mrs Martlew.

Last week, a rallying cry went out from Cumbria urging the Government to invest significantly in improving the county’s rail services

Politicians and business leaders in the county are urging 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;
  • Extra spending on rail facilities, including stations.

Stephen Broughton, a Cumbria LEP board member and owner of Mountain Goat travel company, said: “Tourism is a vital part of the economic growth in the county and there is a clear need to improve connectivity by rail to Cumbria from regional cities and airports as well as the link to the south.”

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