Campaigners demand more action to protect women on Scotland's rail network

Campaigners have called for more action to boost women’s safety on public transport as new figures reveal 90 sexual assaults were committed on Scotland’s railways in five years.

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Official statistics from British Transport Police (BTP) show there were 63 reports of sexual assault on ScotRail trains between 2017 and 2021.

Over the same period, 26 sex assaults were recorded at Scottish train stations, and one other was reported at a Glasgow subway stop.

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The figures, released to 1919 magazine, emerged after Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth announced plans for a Scottish Government consultation with women’s organisations to “better understand their experiences” and make public transport “safer and more enjoyable” to use, revealing she had felt unsafe on trains.

The Scottish government is consulting on the idea of women-only carriages (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Campaign group Action Against Stalking has suggested that women-only train carriages to protect female passengers from harassment, abuse and assault.

The BTP figures show a huge rise in the number of sexual assaults reported in 2021. Reports more than doubled to 29 from 14 in 2019 before the Covid pandemic.

Almost a third of all reports over the five years were recorded in 2021, with the number falling to nine in 2020 amid Covid travel restrictions and advice for people to stay at home.

Alys Mumford, from the feminist organisation Engender, said: “Policy makers need to recognise the safety implications around, for example, removing guards from trains, and we need urgent action to change our culture which allows misogynistic harassment and abuse to continue unchallenged.”

Conservative MSP Tess White said: “These figures are sickening and highlight that women are being completely let down by the system which isn’t doing enough to protect them on public transport.”

Last month a survey by the Office for National Statistics suggested that nearly half of women in Britain feel unsafe using public transport alone after dark, compared with around one in five men.

Ann Moulds, chief executive of Action Against Stalking, said women-only carriages were currently “the only option available”.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Women and girls should be able to expect to travel on public transport without fear of being sexually assaulted, abused or harmed.”

Stephen Elliot, ScotRail security and crime manager, said: “We will continue to work closely with the British Transport Police to clamp down on unacceptable behaviour and prosecute offenders.”