ScotRail staff face new assault risk from passengers 'on fringes of criminality'

British Transport Police fears workers checking tickets could be targeted due to a ‘new culture’ of fare dodging during the pandemic when inspections on trains were suspended

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 7:30 am
ScotRail staff have only been checking tickets at stations during the pandemic. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

ScotRail staff will be at increased risk of being assaulted by fare dodgers as ticket checks are increased after being scaled down during lockdown, rail police fear.

British Transport Police’s (BTP) Scotland commander is also worried about “pockets of resistance” among staff to wearing video cameras, which he said had proved to deter attacks.

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Ticket checks on trains have been suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic as a precautionary measure.

British Transport Police said few ScotRail staff wore body cameras

However, BTP said this had led some passengers to regard travelling by train as free.

Chief Superintendent Eddie Wylie told the Scottish Railways Policing Committee: “An area we are really conscious of is assaults on staff.

‘Knock us back years’

“It’s incredibly low at the moment, but that in the main is because there are no points of conflict because most of the rail industry across the country are not engaging, so they are not constantly checking for tickets and getting into those areas of conflict with the public.

“My own personal concern is we are probably seeing a new culture develop and it’s going to knock us back quite a few years, where people who are on the fringes of criminality that now see the network as being free.

“So when they are starting to be challenged, that will be a potential issue for us which we will need to keep a close eye on, because we could then see rail staff being at the front of any abuse or assaults.

"We need to be alive to that.”

Few wearing cameras

However, Chf Supt Wylie said some staff were reluctant to use body-worn video cameras (BWV), which has been shown to deter would-be assailants.

A BTP report to the committee stated: “Officers still find there is a reluctance amongst some staff members to use BWV, with only a small proportion of staff choosing to wear it and activate if required.”

Mr Wylie said: “Where we could definitely make an improvement is around body-worn video by staff.

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“We have been trying really hard with body-worn video for a long time, especially within ScotRail.

”There is some pockets of resistance, but it is for everyone’s benefit.

“Various studies have shown that.

”The bottom line is we don’t want anyone assaulted, and reaction from the public when they see body-worn video generally pacifies the matter.”

Encourage

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), which represents most ScotRail conductors and ticket examiners, said it backed use of the cameras but staff could not be forced to use them.

Scottish organiser Mick Hogg said: “RMT encourage our members to wear and use cameras for their protection as we see an increase in anti-social behaviour throughout the network

“They do not form part of our members’ kit, therefore any usage is voluntary.”

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “Customers travelling on our services are required to hold a valid ticket, and even during the pandemic they are required to present a ticket at ticket barriers at all of our main stations.

“The safety of our customers and employees is our number one priority and initiatives such as body-worn cameras are having a positive impact, helping everyone to enjoy travelling across the country.”

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