Rise in crimes on region's railways

By Ted JeoryRAIL passengers called last night for on-board security to be stepped up after figures showed serious crime on East Anglian trains has risen by 20% in four years.

By Ted Jeory

RAIL passengers called last night for on-board security to be stepped up after figures showed serious crime on East Anglian trains has risen by 20% in four years.

But British Transport Police moved to reassure passengers, insisting its 14 East Anglia-based officers patrolled trains and stations as much as they could.

In an answer to a parliamentary question by Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for Essex North, transport minister Tony McNulty said there were now more than 2,000 serious crimes a year recorded on Anglia and Great Eastern trains.

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The figures showed there were about 1,700 serious crimes committed on Great Eastern trains during 2002/2003 – 20% higher than the 1999/2000 figure of 1,425 – while there was a 5% increase in serious crimes on Anglia Railways services over the same period, with 409 offences recorded during the last year.

The worst year in the four-year period was 2001/2002, when 1,841 serious crimes were reported on Great Eastern trains and 415 on Anglia Railways services.

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David Bigg, chairman of Witham and Braintree Rail Users' Association, said last night: "The thing about crime is that it's mostly about perception and there is a real fear among some passengers that there never seem to be police about.

"People have become wary about travelling, particularly late at night and especially in the run-up to Christmas with the so-called 'vomit comets' leaving London. I travelled on the London Underground today and it was reassuring to actually see officers patrolling."

Pc Phil Harrod, of British Transport Police, moved to reassure the public and said its officers concentrated on known trouble-spots in the region.

He added: "Without breaking the figures down any further, it is difficult to comment – it may be that a lot of those crimes happen in the inner London areas.

"We do go on the trains and we do go out at night, but we cannot be everywhere at once and be on every single train. What I would say is that if people are experiencing problems then they should report them to us."

A spokesman for Great Eastern, which has introduced new trains equipped with security cameras, said more than a million passenger journeys were made each week on its services and the level of crime on trains was actually "virtually unknown".

He added: "What concerns us more is the anti-social behaviour of kids hanging around the stations."

An Anglia Railways' spokesman said it has been implementing a programme of enhanced security, especially in and around stations.

"We have a conductor on every train and so there is always a member of staff present to act as a deterrent on board," he added.

"All 47 stations that we help to manage now have special help points that allow customers to speak to a contact centre directly and immediately – that was a big step forward."


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