25 January 2022

Today we published our new report ‘Personal Security on London’s transport network: Recommendations for safer travel’, which summarises seven months of conversations we had with Londoners and sets out what needs to be done to improve people’s safety when they get around the capital.

What did people tell us?

We found there is a lot that could be done to improve personal security, whether it is a law to address Public Sexual Harassment (PSH), better use of technology to keep people safe or making sure public transport services stay frequent and reliable. You can read about the full recommendations here.

For us, there were two stand-out reflections which hold important lessons for the transport industry, and us as London TravelWatch.

1) It will take behaviour and culture change to tackle the key problems: something the transport industry can lead on

Two of the key issues we looked at were hate crime and sexual harassment. The underlying reasons for these sorts of crimes are what we call systemic – they play out across all areas of society, not just on the transport network. But tackling these issues is something the transport industry can lead on, by making buses, trains and the streets safer for the people most at risk of these crimes.

So much of what people told us was about either the fear of other people’s behaviour or because they couldn’t rely on bystanders to help or support. By talking to campaigners and people who travel in London, it was clear that so much more could be done by the transport industry and police to take leadership on these problems and make it clear that such behaviour and abuse is not tolerated.

All of us, whether passengers, staff or transport bosses really need to reflect on the duty we all have to change and challenge behaviour which makes people unsafe, but the industry and police really need to make clear what people should be doing in the first place so that the behaviour change can start. This means telling us what to do if you see someone in an unsafe situation and modelling what better behaviour in different sorts of situations looks like.

2) We need to ensure public transport is safe for everyone: which includes keeping it frequent, convenient and reliable

We learnt through this research that safety is an even greater concern for certain people, including women, disabled people and older people, LGBTQ+ people and people of colour. However we know that as well as being more at risk due to things such as race, disability and gender, other barriers to transport can also affect personal safety.

Things like where an individual lives, where they work, how much transport costs, how good public transport links are, and how accessible it is , all have an impact on the ability of people to make safe journeys across London.

Too often we hear those in charge talk about how safety is important, but this doesn’t come across in the actions and decisions made by those at the top. While not immediately obvious, committing to keeping night bus services running and making sure that public transport is frequent and reliable plays a key role in making sure public transport is safe and comfortable for all who use it, and adds another reason why adequate funding should be available for London’s public transport options.

As London’s transport user watchdog, what can we commit to?

We started this project knowing that we didn’t have enough knowledge or awareness about the issues that matter to people when it comes to safety. Despite being one of the most important factors when it comes to travel in London, we had never done a major piece of work to see where we could better advocate and push for things to be better.

What we’ve learned is that transport is a key area when it comes to personal security, and that those who provide it have a responsibility to make safety a priority.

This project has been eye-opening, and our intention is to keep working to push the transport industry, police and decision-makers to make the transport network safer. For us, this is the beginning of working in this area, including supporting the great work other organisations are doing to tackle the underlying issues and making sure we are advocating for all those who travel in London.

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