POLITICS

Women-Only Train Carriages Could Combat Rise In Sex Attacks, Jeremy Corbyn Ally Suggests

Chris Williamson says they could act as 'safe space'

22/08/2017 17:08 BST | Updated 23/08/2017 11:11 BST
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Women-only train carriages may be needed to create a “safe space” to combat a rise in sex attacks, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn has declared.

Shadow minister Chris Williamson said that the idea should be looked at following a steady increase in assaults in recent years.

The suggestion of gender-specific carriages was first proposed by Corbyn during his first leadership campaign in 2015 but was dropped following criticism.

However, Williamson, shadow fire minister and a long-time close colleague of the Labour leader, suggested the policy was worth reconsidering.

He retweeted an article which pointed out that Corbyn’s original proposal now looked prescient given the rise in attacks on women.

Japan, Mexico, India, Brazil, Egypt and Iran have women-only carriages on some train and underground services in a bid to curb attacks.

Figures uncovered by the BBC last month showed that 1,448 sexual offences on UK trains were reported in 2016-17 - up from 650 in 2012-2013.

Williamson, MP for Derby North who won back his seat as part of the ‘Corbyn surge’ at the last general election, told the PoliticsHome website that he wanted a consultation on women-only carriages.

“It would be worth consulting about it. It was pooh-poohed (when Jeremy Corbyn suggested it), but these statistics seem to indicate there is some merit in examining that.

Chris Williamson
Labour MP Chris Williamson

“Complemented with having more guards on trains, it would be a way of combating these attacks, which have seen a very worrying increase in the past few years.

“I’m not saying it has to happen, but it may create a safe space. It would be a matter of personal choice whether someone wanted to make use of it.”

In 2015, Corbyn’s transport manifesto included similar plans.

He said at the time: “My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform to the bus stop to the mode of transport itself.

Getty
A women-only carriage in Indonesia.

“However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome - and also if piloting this at times and [on] modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.”

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the train workers union TSSA, said: “A properly staffed railway at all times is the only way to keep travellers safe. 

“Our railways have more passengers than ever before but since privatisation station staff across Britain have been culled and we are now seeing companies like Southern trying to get rid of carriage guards. Our entire network is now woefully understaffed making travelling more stressful and sadly, more dangerous for passengers. 

“TSSA fully endorses Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour 2017 Manifesto commitment to taking train operating companies back into public ownership as the franchises expire.”

He came under fire from leadership rivals Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, and then women’s minister Nicky Morgan said the idea sounded like “segregation”.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the train workers union TSSA, said: “A properly staffed railway at all times is the only way to keep travellers safe. 

“Our railways have more passengers than ever before but since privatisation station staff across Britain have been culled and we are now seeing companies like Southern trying to get rid of carriage guards. Our entire network is now woefully understaffed making travelling more stressful and sadly, more dangerous for passengers. 

“TSSA fully endorses Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour 2017 Manifesto commitment to taking train operating companies back into public ownership as the franchises expire.”

Former Tory rail minister Claire Perry looked at the idea of women-only carriages in 2014.

A report that year by Middlesex University for the Department of Transport said bringing women-only carriages would be a “retrograde step” that “could be thought of as insulting, patronising and shaming to both men and women”.

Around the world, the practice of segregating the sexes on trains has been tried with mixed success. Indonesia tried the idea but it lasted only seven months because men complained they were often empty.

A Chinese city introduced women-priority carriages for rush hour this year.

‘Ladies Only’ compartments were first introduced in 1874 by the Metropolitan Railway, but the uptake was quite low. The women-only carriages were officially abolished on British Rail trains in 1977