Statistics reveal ‘unacceptable increase’ in attacks on South East Railways staff

Nearly 1,000 abusive incidents have been recorded against railway staff this year.

Southeastern – which provides services across the county and in London – revealed that on average its staff were abused 250 times a month last year.

A train from the South East. Archival photo

The figures, given in a freedom of information request, include physical attacks, spitting, verbal abuse and hate crimes.

The most recent statistics available show that between January and May this year there were 986 incidents, of which 544 were verbal but non-threatening.

Exactly 3,000 reports were made by South East staff last year, 21% more than in 2019, last year’s schedules were unaffected by the closures.

In 2021, there were 2,419 reports of threatening and non-threatening verbal attacks, and 385 physical attacks.

In the same year, spitting accounted for 75 incidents and hate crimes for 121.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Over the past three years, Southeastern has seen an average of 30 physical attacks on its staff per month.

The worst month on record for all types of train staff abuse was October 2021, when 300 incidents occurred.

Reacting to the statistics, Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT who led a walkout of thousands of train staff on Wednesday, said: “These statistics are appalling and show an unacceptable increase in attacks on railway staff.

“It is Southeastern’s responsibility to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our members.

“The employer has a duty of care to its staff, including seeking legal action against those who abuse and assault railway workers.

Stock photo of the South East train.  Photo: Southeast
Stock photo of the South East train. Photo: Southeast

“RMT will defend the safety of its members by all means at its disposal and does not rule out taking industrial action if the situation does not improve.”

In response to the figures, Southeastern said it had mental health support for all staff, funded British Transport Police (BTP) patrols and had 1,000 body-worn cameras to distribute to staff who needed it.

A joint company and force statement issued in response to the figures said: ‘We have a zero tolerance policy regarding any abuse by our colleagues who are simply doing their jobs.

“Working closely with the British Transport Police, Southeastern will always prosecute those who commit abuse, and so our message is clear: any attack on our staff will be dealt with to the full weight of the law.

“We have robust measures in place to offer body worn video (BWV) to any of our frontline colleagues who requests it, making potential attackers think again, and we have put in place additional personnel on the gates, to protect everyone. who uses the railroad.

Any passengers who notice inappropriate behavior during their journey are encouraged to text BTP to 61016.