THE murder last week of a City lawyer, Tom ap Rhys Pryce, is a horror story for anyone who regularly uses public transport in London.
Mr Rhys Pryce, 31, was mugged and stabbed to death shortly after leaving Kensal Green station in north London following an evening out with friends.
Two teenagers have been charged with his murder.
Half an hour earlier, an Asian man was mugged in the same station, which train operator Silverlink admits was unstaffed at the time. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who has often used Kensal Green himself, described it as "one of those stations which Londoners know of all across the city, where they don't see staff [and] don't get that reassurance".
Quite. My own station in west London is the same, almost always dark and deserted when I return home from a movie or supper with friends in town. This means I have to get ready for a long walk along the platform, eyeing other passengers for signs of evil intent, followed by a walk down a steep flight of steps and through the cavernous ticket hall to reach the "safety" of the street.
Fortunately there are restaurants and bars nearby, all of whom take their responsibilities seriously and would not dream of sending all their staff home while customers are still using the premises. On one occasion, when a man approached and demanded money just before midnight, I fled to the nearest burger bar, where the staff were very kind and walked me home.
Why do we not expect as much from train operators, who habitually abandon paying passengers just at the moment when so many of us are returning home from a night out, as Mr Rhys Pryce was? Last week's attacks at Kensal Green took place at 11.06pm and 11.34pm respectively, which is hardly late. In a city where thousands of people work shifts, it is also a time when nurses, cleaners and other poorly paid workers are finishing work, without being able to pay for the luxury - and these days they really are a luxury - of using black cabs.
It's not as if train operators are unaware of the risks faced by passengers.
My local station, like many others, currently displays a sign warning that thieves operate in the vicinity, in search of mobile phones and other easily portable items. …