London assembly for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

The British Transport Police – in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London – recently made 15 arrests during a week of action as part of Project Guardian, the initiative aimed at tackling unwanted sexual behaviour on London’s trains, tubes and buses.

It is estimated that 15% of women are harassed on the London transport network, but 90% of this unwanted behaviour goes unreported. Inspector Ricky Twyford of the British Transport Police and his team – through Project Guardian – want to change this by increasing the number of people reporting sexual harassment and increasing the number of people arrested and charged as a result of their intimidating and criminal activity. As part of this project, Inspector Twyford and his team carry out weeks of action that take proactive steps to seek out cases of sexual harassment and then follow this through with arresting people and, where appropriate, charging them.

Through this, the British Transport Police and their partner organisations aim to improve the levels of reporting among victims of sexual offences, and to create an environment where victims feel supported and able to report their cases to the relevant authorities.

The latest week of action, which ran from Monday 2 December to Sunday 8 December, involved uniformed officers stepping up patrols and advising the travelling public about Project Guardian. Plain clothes officers were also deployed to identify any suspicious behaviour across the transport network. In total 15 people were arrested across the capital in connection with sexual offences, one of which was in relation to a historic sexual assault at Angel LU station in the London Borough of Islington.

I am delighted to support Project Guardian – a terrific collaborative initiative between the British Transport Police, the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London – which aims to tackle unwanted sexual behaviour on London’s trains, tubes and buses.

No one should travel around our city in fear of sexual harassment. Safety on the TfL network – particularly for women – is an issue that I take very seriously, and something that I have campaigned long and hard for. The setting up of Project Guardian earlier this year is a significant step in stamping out unwanted sexual behaviour on our transport network once and for all, and proves that we are moving to a place where we take a zero-tolerance approach to this pernicious and unacceptable aspect of travelling around London.

With a team of over two thousand specially-trained police officers and PCSOs, under the leadership of Inspector Twyford and Superintendent Watson, I am confident that the authorities are taking the matter very seriously and that the culture of acceptance when it comes to unwanted sexual behaviour on our transport network will soon be a thing of the past. To this end, I urge anyone who has been made to feel uncomfortable on their train, tube or bus journey – however insignificant it may seem – to report it to the police immediately.

To report an incident of a sexual nature to British Transport Police call 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016 with details of what happened. For an incident that has occurred away from the railway network, call 101. In an emergency always dial 999.

Transport for London, which is chaired by Boris Johnson, today unveiled plans to cut 750 station staff and close all but six tube ticket offices in London by 2015.

While I appreciate that money is short and the modernisation of ways of working is important, the fact the Mayor believes the closure of ticket offices is the way to go, together with the speed at which he is pushing this through is deeply worrying for passenger safety, accessibility and general user experience.

These proposals will result in the closure of ticket offices across my constituency, including Highbury and Islington, Walthamstow Central, Leyton, Leytonstone, Finsbury Park and Old Street, which will affect people living Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest as they travel around the TfL network.

What makes this decision even more baffling is that Boris Johnson pledged in his 2008 manifesto to make transport more convenient: “By halting the proposed Tube ticket office closures, and ensuring there is always a manned ticket office at every station.”

The mayor was elected on a clear promise to keep ticket offices open. The last thing we need is a reduction in frontline staff. No station should be unstaffed while trains are running and at a time when fares are going up above inflation this is the very least Londoners should expect; TfL and the Mayor could be accused of charging more for worse customer service.

We need to make sure there are enough staff on duty to keep our stations safe, help passengers and deal with emergencies. We must protect standards of service and passenger safety. I believe there should be a Passenger’s Charter clearly setting out what Londoners can expect from their transport system. Passengers must be able to get help with tickets, refunds, information and access must be ensured for disabled people.

Residents living in outer London will be hit particularly hard. Not only are transport fares much higher but if there are no ticket offices open then residents will have to travel into central London in order to top up their Oyster cards or buy tickets at one of the six remaining offices.

I have previously campaigned against the removal of staff from the transport network because of the impact this has on the livelihoods of those losing their jobs, together with its negative knock-on effects on passenger safety – particularly at night – and accessibility for disabled passengers. TfL also needs to provide the documentation that shows that their decision complies with the legally-binding Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED); a duty that means all decisions taken must not impact disproportionately on those protected under the Equality Act 2010 – which includes people with disabilities.

To me, it is patently obvious that the removal of staff will have a negative effect on disabled passengers because there will be fewer staff available to assist them.

Despite previously raising all of this with the Commissioner of TfL, Sir Peter Hendy, and the Mayor, they have repeatedly rebuffed my concerns with platitudes. I ask for them to persuade me otherwise.