Railway staff play a crucial role in reassuring rail passengers and keeping them safe. Research by the independent watchdog, Transport Focus, found that passengers value having staff around and believe that staff make a genuine and positive difference.
As you may know, there has been an increase in the number of crimes reported on our railways in recent years. For 2018/19, the British Transport Police announced the number of recorded crimes rose by 12% from the previous year, including a 16% rise in violent crimes. In addition, reports of crimes under the Sexual Offences Act have almost doubled in the past five years, despite prosecutions barely rising.
The Government has stated that train operating companies are responsible for station operations and are therefore best placed to determine the appropriate level of staffing for each station. However, I believe the spike in crime on our railways underlines the importance of a properly staffed railway to keep passengers and employees safe. The value of staff in preventing anti-social behaviour and providing reassurance and security to passengers is clear.
Staff are also vital to ensuring our railway is accessible to all passengers. Although the Government has launched its Inclusive Transport Strategy to make the necessary changes to rail infrastructure, I believe we need to see staff at our train stations and on our platforms to provide a public service that enables, not disables, people.
The Government recently admitted that in 2018, passenger satisfaction and performance were at their lowest in 10 years. It also advised that later this autumn, it will be responding to a review of the structure of the rail industry and the way passenger rail services are delivered. I will await this White Paper with interest.
I am committed to ensuring safe staffing levels, ending the expansion of Driver Only Operation and introducing legal duties to improve accessibility for disabled people. It is time we prioritised public service over private profit and bring our railways back into public ownership.