30,000 Crimes at Suburban Stations in Just One Year
Byline: ROSS LYDALL
AN inquiry into safety at suburban train and Tube stations was today hearing that more than 30,000 crimes a year are being reported to the police.
The figures, from British Transport Police, show that the number of incidents outside zone one has risen sharply in the past three years.
They included sex attacks, robberies, thefts, drug offences and criminal damage - with passengers and station staff falling victim.
While the level of crime at the 355 mainline rail stations included in the study has gradually increased, the most dramatic change has been at the 248 suburban Tube stations.
These were the scene of 11,852 incidents in 2002/3 and 13,460 in 2003/4.
Over the past 12 months there were 18,068 crimes - out of a total of 30,428 at all stations.
The figures have been obtained by the London Assembly's transport committee, which was seeking answers today on how to reduce crime at the stations.
Senior police officers and rail firm executives have been called to City Hall to give evidence, including British Transport Police chief constable Ian Johnson and the head of crime and security for South Eastern Trains, David Scott.
It comes after an Evening Standard campaign to improve safety at stations that are often left unstaffed late at night, creating a threatening environment for passengers.
The hearing was investigating actual crime levels and the fear of crime experienced by passengers. The figures show there were an average of 34 crimes a year at each rail station and 72 at each Tube station. But at stations that offer an interchange between Underground and mainline services, this rose to 204 crimes each year.
Assembly members were asking whether CCTV cameras could be rolled out across the network and what the effect on security would be if the Mayor's Transport for London authority was given control over train franchises.
The fragmentation of the railways and the profit-driven nature of private sector train franchises have been blamed for a lack of investment in station infrastructure.
Roger Evans, Tory chairman of the transport committee, said: "We are looking to 'best practice' when it comes to making stations safer for passengers, particularly with regard to the surface rail network around London. A lot of the stations are unwelcoming and feel unsafe.
"Tube stations have got quite a lot of cameras and lights and there have been antiterrorism measures for quite some time, but a lot on the railway network - particularly on quiet lines - have very poor lighting.
Some of them are a crime scene waiting to happen."
Mr Evans said the level of crime was "surprisingly high" but TfL said an increased reporting of incidents was due to more " proactive" policing on the Underground, with extra manpower allowing a crackdown on antisocial behaviour and ticket touts.
Mr Evans said: "Criminals do congregate around stations. People come off trains and get their car keys or mobile phones out. They are easy prey outside the stations."
The figures show men were more likely than women to be victims, especially in cases of violence and robbery. But nine in 10 sex-crime victims were women. There was a roughly even split for numbers of theft victims. Almost half the victims were aged 17 to 30 but about half of robbery victims were under 17, showing the risks schoolchildren face. Mayor Ken Livingstone has criticised the failure of train companies to guarantee safety at their stations.
Yesterday, the Government made clear that TfL's desire to take over the North London line franchise is set to happen in 2007.
"Ministers have agreed in principle to transfer the Silverlink Metro services to TfL," they said in a consultation document on extending the Mayor's powers. This would allow longer trains and platforms, a doubling of services and improved stations under a [pounds sterling]91million package of improvements scheduled by the end of the decade. …