London

Tube staff safety concern after '44% rise in assaults'

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Media captionLondon Underground says the reporting of abuse has increased

Assaults on London Underground (LU) staff members have risen by 44% since 2009, figures have shown.

London Assembly member Val Shawcross highlighted the figures, saying changes including the closure of ticket offices and cuts in staff numbers would leave workers feeling "dangerously isolated".

LU said overall crime was at its lowest ever level, and attributed the rise to increased reporting of cases.

But one union said the rise showed staff are at "constant" risk of attack.

Image caption Queensway station was one of the first to move employees from ticket offices into ticket halls and on to platforms

The figures, from the Transport for London Health, Safety and Environment Report 2013/14, indicate the number of assaults have increased from 1,917 in 2009/10 to 2,753 in 2013/14.

Assaults are classed as "any incident where, in circumstances related to their work, a member of staff is physically assaulted, threatened or abused, thereby affecting their health, safety or welfare".

A Transport for London spokesman said for the first three quarters of this financial year, verbal assault made up the majority of assaults, 49%, threat of violence, 35%, and physical violence 16%.

It was announced in 2013 that Tube services would run for 24 hours at weekends. From 12 September, a service will start to run on some lines on Friday and Saturday nights.

But ticket offices have started closing at stations as part of the new "wider vision" for the Tube and about 890 roles are to be lost.

'Responsibilities to protect'

Labour assembly member Ms Shawcross said: "Axing almost 900 staff from the Tube stations and spreading the remainder out across the ticket halls and platforms risks leaving staff feeling dangerously isolated."

But Nick Brown, LU's chief operating officer, said overall crime on the Underground was "now at its lowest ever level, having decreased by over 14% in the last year alone".

He said: "Physical assaults on the network are also down compared to last year.

"When we introduce the night Tube, all stations will remain staffed and controlled at all times when services are running and our hundreds of staff will be backed by a police presence."

He added the Tube network was covered by a network of 12,000 CCTV cameras.

But, Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said: "The new research shows that assaults have nearly doubled in just five years and it is RMT members who are left vulnerable and isolated and at constant risk of attack as the cuts are driven through."

Following industrial action and meetings with unions, LU said that with the ticket office closures no member of staff will face compulsory redundancy or losing money.

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