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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 November 2006, 08:38 GMT
Security guards on train journeys
A train
Security guards are to patrol rail routes with a history of trouble
Private security guards are to ride trains in the north of England to crack down on the abuse of rail staff.

The action follows more than 300 incidents of abuse and assault on Northern Rail staff so far this year.

Rail union RMT said some of its members have been kicked in the head, punched in the face and so badly assaulted that they have taken weeks off work.

Northern Rail said it takes the problem extremely seriously and is employing security staff for problematic routes.

Northern Rail area director Malcom Brown said the guards were being introiduced on services from Leeds to Skipton, Bradford and Manchester.

Some rail staff have suffered verbal abuse, threats of violence and have been spat at by passengers.

Broken jaw

According to the RMT, the incidents of assaults and abuse across the rail network doubled from 2001 to 2005.

So far this year there have been more than 5,000 reported incidents.

A conductor, who had his jaw broken in two places when he was punched by a drunk man who he tried to bar from entering a train, told the BBC was a "very aggressive" and "very violent situation".

The conductor was forced to take two months off work as a result of his injury and had a titanium plate inserted into his bottom jaw.

The new security teams are supported by British Transport Police as a highly visible, reassuring presence to the travelling public
Det Insp Andrea Rainey

RMT's general secretary Bob Crow said: "The statistics tell the sorry story of more and more violence against railway staff, particularly late at night and at weekends, and our members are telling Northern Trains that they have reached the end of the line."

"We will work with anyone who can help stop the violence - but Northern Rail really do not have the option of failing to respond positively to this campaign."

Stan Herschell - the regional organiser for the North East RMT - described the new strategy as a "negative response".

"Putting bouncers on tends to attract the trouble as opposed to taking it away," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"I think it just gives the yobs who are travelling a different target - they have a go at the bouncers.

'Highly visible'

"Yes, they may leave my staff alone, but it's just moving the problem from one place to another."

British Transport Police (BTP) have welcomed the use of security staff.

Det Insp Andrea Rainey has worked closely with Northern on the implementation of the new teams.

He said: "The new security teams are supported by British Transport Police as a highly visible, reassuring presence to the travelling public on Northern routes.

"We hope that their presence on Northern trains will have a positive effect in preventing anti-social behaviour and low-level crime."


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