With 439 million rail passenger journeys in the UK in Q1 2019, we thought we’d take a look at safety during train commutes for our fourth article in the personal safety series.

Rail travel poses several security risks to all travellers and is considered a “soft” target for several types of criminal or terrorist attacks. This is due to several factors:

  1. They operate over open ground for much of their journey
  2. They are easily accessible to the public
  3. Railroad terminals and stations are like self-contained cities, open to the public and frequently open for 24 hours per day
  4. A train bears similarities to a hotel, offering temporary accommodation, restaurants, bars and lounges

All of this ensures that it can be fertile ground for criminals, and even in rare cases, terrorists. Crime recorded on British railways increased by 12% from last year. Violent crime comprised a fifth of all cases, while theft from a person increased 36% year on year. This increase coincides with an increase in passenger numbers.

Commenting on the report in a BBC article, Deputy chief constable Adrian Hanstock said: “As stations become increasingly commercial environments, a large proportion of this increase is as a result of the theft of passenger property, anti-social behaviour or shoplifting…”.

This means it is as important as ever to consider the advice below to help you stay safe when commuting by rail.

What are the risks?

Generally, train stations and trains are easy targets for the following types of attacks:

  • Robberies and burglaries
  • Theft of unattended baggage on board trains and in rail terminals
  • Bombing and other forms of sabotage to railroad tracks, terminals and trains

However, violent crime and sexual attacks are also on the increase. With more people using the service, and with the development of many train stations, brings with it many types of crime. It’s worth asking the question of what small things you can do to prevent incidents happening, and that starts prior to departure.

What can you do prior to departure?

Here are a few simple tips that we can all use to make sure our travel is smoother, safer and less stressful – from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.

  • It should be noted that many cities have more than one railway station. Try to confirm in advance from which station (and platform, if possible) your train will depart
  • Make certain that you use the correct station for your journey
  • Make reservations in advance so that you do not have to stand in a long line at the rail station ticket counters. This is where thieves will like to operate
  • As always try to travel light. In the time that it takes to set it down and check a timetable, a thief can make off with your baggage
  • Watch your tickets. Keep them in an inside pocket or purse to lessen the likelihood of them being stolen
  • Do not discard your train ticket until completion of your trip and you have left the arrival area
  • Make certain that you board the right car and that it is going to your intended destination
  • Find out in advance if your car will have to be switched to another train en route, when and where this will occur and the name of the stop just prior to the switching point. Be prepared accordingly
  • If you must transfer to another train to reach your destination, determine this in advance and know where you will make the transfer, the time of the transfer, the train number and departure time of your connecting train (as well as the platform number, if possible)
  • Learn how to tell if you are in the correct car and if it goes to your destination. Name boards on the side, or internally on displays, will confirm this
    Be alert to your train splitting. This occurs when part of the train is split off and attached to another train while the remainder of the original train then continues its way. Check with the conductor to determine this
  • Try not to schedule a late night or early morning arrival. If you do you might find yourself stranded at a rail station with no public transportation. Think ahead.

How to stay safe while on the train

When on the train there are a few risks you need to be aware of. It’s a little bit of house-keeping to make sure you and your luggage is safe.

  • If you must leave your seat, either take your luggage with you or secure it to your seat or the baggage rack with a strong cable-lock. This is particularly true if you’re carrying a small bicycle with you
  • Try to get a window seat. This provides a quick means of escape in the event of an accident
  • Always keep valuables on your person
  • If you feel tired, loop your luggage straps around your leg or arm

When you reach your destination

If you’ve prepared correctly you shouldn’t find arrival too difficult as you’ll know what lies in store. However, it’s worth considering a couple of additional points to ensure safety.

  • Make certain that you depart from the train at the correct location
  • Use only authorised taxis for transportation to other destinations
  • Know which exit you’re likely to be leaving from, should there be more than one
  • Plan how you’re going to reach your destination before you arrive at the train station
  • Be alert in your surroundings and make sure you’re aware of those around you

Are you a business traveller, or are you responsible for people who travel frequently for work? Our travel safety guide Passport to Protection is full of advice on how to stay safe on your travels. For more information click here.

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