VIOLENCE on Leeds’ railways has risen steeply, the Yorkshire Evening Post can exclusively reveal.
There were 219 violent crimes recorded on Leeds’ tracks and stations last year, six times the number seen in 2015, with offences peaking on the weekends.
The Leeds district now accounts for about three quarters of West Yorkshire’s violent crimes on the railways, figures obtained from British Transport Police (BTP) show.
Rail union RMT, which is in a long-running dispute with rail operator Northern over the future of guards on trains, branded the rise “shocking”.
General Secretary Mick Cash said: “If anyone wants to know why RMT is fighting to keep a guard on the trains they only have to look at this surge in violent crime on the railways.
“The destaffing of trains and stations in the name of profit leaves the railway as a playground for thugs, thieves and drunks.”
BTP, which oversees the policing of railways across England, Wales and Scotland, saw its officer numbers shrink by seven per cent between 2015 and 2017.
Superintendent Dave Oram said: “Like most police forces we have also seen an increase in recorded crimes across the Yorkshire area.
“Despite this increase, and to put it in context, the chance of you becoming a victim of crime on the railway remains low, with just 16 crimes for every million journeys made on our railways.”
He said the rise in crimes was partly due to increasing passenger numbers and greater levels of reporting. He added that stations like Leeds were increasingly becoming “entertainment hubs”, which needed policing accordingly.
He said: “In Leeds we police many bars and clubs as part of the night time economy, which brings its own challenges.
“Each weekend we have extra officers out at stations and on board trains undertaking late night patrols to reassure passengers.”
The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show there were also 36 sex offences on the Leeds railways in 2017, nine times the number seen in 2015.
There were 161 serious public order offences, nearly five times the number recorded in 2015.
Northern was approached for comment.