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"He walked past and grabbed my bum"

Photo by Pexels

With 2,000 sexual assaults on the British transport network in the past year, students and parents are understandably worried about their safety.

A total of 2,472 sexual assaults were reported in 2017/18, according to the latest annual safety report by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, a rise of 16 per cent on 2016/7. Many crimes go unreported, the report adds.

Yet with Higher Education Statistics Agency figures showing that more than 328,000 students in the UK elected to remain in the family home, it is likely that many are commuting regularly to university.

Regan Ebsworth, 20, history student from Brunel University, says “As someone who travels on the tube frequently, I do have concerns for mine and my friends’ safety especially when traveling back to Brunel late at night.”

Colin Brown, 50, from Covent Garden and the parent of a university student, says he worries about his son “commuting back and forth to university, especially late at night when there are less workers and more crazy people about. [I] feel like he could be an easy target”.

Matthew Bridger, 23, a guard on South Western Railways, believes the rise in sexual assaults on trains stems from the de-staffing on trains and stations. “The department for transport are hell-bent on driver only operations, which removes the guarantee of a guard,” he says. “On a quiet late night train with no staff members to deter crime, it makes it much easier for people to commit crimes. More visible staff is needed.”

When asked if he has ever had to intervened to stop a sexual assault, Mr Bridger says: “I’m not sure if I could class this as a sexual assault, but I’ve certainly stepped in when I’ve seen men talking to women and the woman is obviously uncomfortable with it.”

Earlier this year, 16-year old teen model Harriotte Lane spoke bravely about her experience being sexually assaulted at Newcastle train station in August 2017. She decided to waive her anonymity to raise awareness and urge other victims to speak out.

The current Miss Teen Tyne and Wear was travelling for the first time on her own when a man groped her as she walked through the train station barriers, only yards away from her mother.

She rushed straight to her mother, who was unaware of what had just happened. “He walked past and grabbed my bum, it was humiliating,” Harriotte said. Her mother alerted police, who chased and caught the man. Steven Cartwright, 55, was sentenced to 250 hours of community service, 20 days of rehabilitation and was ordered to pay £100 compensation and to sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.

However, the recent British Transport Force For the Future annual report claims that being a victim of any type of crime on the railway “remain extremely low”, with only 19 crimes recorded for every million journeys in 2017/2018.

Deputy chief constable Adrian Hanstock says there are a number of services in place to protect passengers on trains. “Our Report It To Stop It campaign is targeted at increasing passenger confidence in reporting sexual offences,” he says.

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