Rail staff need to tackle hate crimes

Rail union leaders are calling for more staff on stations and trains to tackle hate crimes against disabled travellers.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said official figures showing an increase in incidents in recent years should be a “wake-up call” to the industry about staffing levels.

The union said surveys of disabled passengers showed that cutting staffing levels makes them less likely to travel by train because they felt vulnerable without on-board assistance being available.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

“We have a growing problem with hate crimes towards disabled people on our railways. It is frankly disgraceful that disabled people, who already take far fewer trips by rail, are being increasingly subjected to hate crimes when they do travel.

“If we’re going to build back better after the pandemic so that disabled passengers feel safe to travel and the rail network is truly accessible, we need to stop the profit-driven cost-cutting and put more trained and skilled human beings back on our trains and at stations.”

The number of disability-related hate crime incidents on trains in England fell between 2014 and 2016, but increased by 24%, from 63 to 78, between 2016 and 2019, figures show.

Gemma Hope, director of policy at the Leonard Cheshire charity, said:

“Disabled people have a right to feel safe in society. We know from our own research that disability hate crime is on the rise, up 12% across England and Wales in 2019/20, and we need more resources to tackle these insidious instances wherever they occur.

“As a charity, too often we hear how these crimes have a profound impact on their victims. This cannot continue unchecked and we echo the RMT’s sentiments around investment in staff training.

“It’s also important to remember this is yet another barrier disabled people face when travelling, with our latest rail audit revealing 41% of stations lack step-free access.”

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