The issue of UK rail employee safety is being dealt with “head on” after one of its train operating companies (TOCs) introduced 275 bodycams across its network to help act as a deterrent and secure convictions. Virgin Trains, along with four other TOCs, began a trial of the technology in February and has since said that incidents of threatening behaviour fell by more than half in six months.
Body-mounted cameras have already been put to good use on the UK rail network, where the rate of assaults against rail staff at ticket barriers fell by 47% as a direct result of their use. Virgin Trains’ security cameras will be directly linked to the British Transport Police (BTP) through a cloud-based system that allows them to view the footage when the cameras are docked, functionality that the operator hopes will speed up investigations and possible prosecutions.
Now in action across Virgin Trains’ network, which links Glasgow and Edinburgh in the north with London in the south, the bodycams have already resulted in one criminal conviction after a man pleaded guilty to a public order offence. Around 90% of staff that wear them said they felt safer as a result, as revealed by a Virgin Trains staff survey. The five-Toc bodycam trial, which was conducted by the University of Cambridge, has proved so successful that work is now underway to introduce them across the country and is being facilitated by the BTP and Rail Delivery Group (RDG).
“Being assaulted or verbally abused simply for doing your job is completely unacceptable. No one should ever have to feel unsafe – especially when they are at work,” said Chief Inspector Lorna McEwan from the BTP. “We will continue to actively work with all rail companies to tackle this issue head on.”
The RDG chief executive, Paul Plummer, said: “One assault against a rail worker is one too many. Our research shows that body cameras can make a difference – cutting assaults on staff by almost half. We’re now working together as an industry to develop plans to roll out this technology nationwide.”
Lewis Komodromou, who is a member of Virgin Trains’ revenue protection team, has been a victim of verbal abuse before, said bodycam addressed staff safety concerns. “My colleagues feel much safer wearing the bodycams and they have more confidence in situations which could escalate. The response has been really positive.”
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