October 2012 Excluding women from railways

01 June 2013

During last month’s TUC I spoke about increasing the diversity of train drivers. But while I argued that women could be encouraged to our profession, other forces seem intent on driving them away from our trains.


Last month we found the Women’s Institute wading in and taking up the cudgels on behalf of women passengers. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise, but the bizarre wriggling of the government and the train companies certainly was.


The WI said if there are less uniformed staff ontrains and stations, passenger safety is compromised. As women are especially vulnerable, they would be most affected. It’s difficult to argue with. Or is it?


A Department for Transport spokesman said that safety on the rail network was paramount but the number of passengers buying tickets at stations was falling. Well, yes – but surely a factor is that they are given no choice! If your booking office is closed, it is illegal to get on a train without a ticket and if you buy one on the day it will be at a hugely inflated price - well, yes: you find some other way of buying a ticket. But it’s not exactly a decision, is it?


A spokesman for London Midland went on a bit about ‘commercial sense’ and then added the mysterious phrase, ‘There is a perception that staffed stations are safer.’ It doesn’t require the services of Sherlock Holmes to deduce that this is a fact, not a perception.


The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said it took safety very seriously and had spent millions installing CCTV. Which rather misses the point that if there were staff in attendance, they could have prevented someone being attacked or robbed, rather than supplying a blurred picture of who did it. Which do you think the WI would prefer?


The government is intent on removing 20,000 jobs from the railways. The figure is ludicrous, but obviously some jobs could go. I suggest we start with the men at the top.

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