A Sunday Post investigation has revealed record numbers of train passengers and staff are falling victim to physical and sexual attacks while going about their daily business.
Violence across the network has leapt by almost a third in the past five years with 8,979 assaults reported last year – or 25 a day – compared with 6,921 in 2010.
Overall there have been 46,016 vicious assaults over the period, including unprovoked knife attacks and pitched battles between football hooligans.
Critics last night described the UK rail network as a “playground for thugs and criminals” and warned the surge in attacks was “spiralling out of control”.
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Lilian Greenwood, said: “This is extremely concerning.
“Particularly since the information comes at a time when the Government is proposing funding cuts of up to 8% for the British Transport Police and some operators plan to reduce staffing on trains or at stations.”
Figures obtained by The Sunday Post under Freedom Of Information show there were 4,313 sexual assaults recorded at the UK’s train stations over the past five years.
The number has risen steeply from 544 in 2010 to 1,179 last year.
In Scotland, the country’s busiest stations – Glasgow Central, Glasgow Queen Street, Edinburgh Waverley and Edinburgh Haymarket – are the worst for violent and sexual crime.
Transport police south of the Border logged 191 violent and sex offences at Newcastle, 181 at York, 154 at Preston, 67 at Carlisle and 65 at Blackpool.
Thousands more were carried out in front of horrified commuters at London’s train and the capital’s underground stations.
Bruce Williamson, of the campaign group Railfuture, said transport police should be protected from Government spending cuts.
“It’s perverse to cut the police when crime figures such as these are rising,” he added.
In one attack last June, a 43-year-old conductor was rushed to hospital after being stabbed on a Glasgow Central to Largs train as it headed towards West Kilbride station, Ayrshire.
A 40-year-old male passenger was also treated following the vicious attack.
The shocking stabbing came just months after a railway sex attacker, who claimed to be an oil rig worker, was caught on CCTV before he sexually assaulted a 21-year-old woman.
The young victim reported her ordeal to police after the man got off the train at Aberdeen.
Football yobs have also been blamed for the rising tide of violence.
In September 2013, 17 thugs were banned from matches for more than 43 years for their part in a bloody train station battle in front of horrified families.
One man had part of his ear bitten off during the riot at Glasgow Central.
Notorious hooligan Andy Frain, 49, from Essex, was among those jailed.
Fellow thug Andy Blance, 48, also helped co-ordinate the mass brawl following the Scottish Cup tie between Ayr United and Hibs in March 2012.
Mick Cash, leader of the RMT union, which represents railway workers, described the figures as “shocking”.
He added: “Our network is being turned into a playground for thugs and criminals and we need more staff, not less, to clamp down on this surge in assaults and abuse spiralling out of control.”
ScotRail introduced a booze ban between 9pm and 10am in 2012 – the first UK train company to do so – in a bid to combat crime and disorder.
A spokesman for the ScotRail Alliance, a partnership between owner Abellio and Network Rail responsible for more than 350 stations in Scotland, said it was also trialling body cameras for staff.
“We do not tolerate crime of any kind, and always work with the British Transport Police to ensure offenders are brought to justice,” she said.
Since its launch in 2013, British Transport Police (BTP) have encouraged passengers to tell cops about non-emergencies by texting the code 61016.
A BTP spokesman said overall crime on the railways was down to its lowest level in more than a decade, despite millions more passengers passing through stations every day.
He said the chances of falling victim to crime were “minimal”.
More police patrols as well as use of CCTV is tackling the rise in violent crime, he added.
He said: “Many of these stations are busy hubs with huge numbers of people passing through, so numbers of offences are always likely to be higher than at smaller stations.
“Larger, busier stations also have a higher police presence, so more offences are likely to be recorded as a result of police-generated activity.
“Some serve as the end-of-line reporting location for offences which take place on board trains, or on neighbouring services, which contributes to the figures.”
“We’re committed to providing a safe environment for all passengers and staff.
“The network is a CCTV-rich environment and uniformed officers are deployed every day to patrol stations in order to help reassure passengers.”
Tens of millions of pounds have been spent on improving train and station security measures, such as CCTV, in the past decade.
In my view: Graeme Pearson, Labour justice spokesman
TRAINS across Scotland provide one of the safest means of travel for people.
The upward trends in criminality with violence, sex crimes and general anti-social behaviour must, however, be stamped out.
If effective responses are not delivered, people will vote with their feet and reduce their travel at a time when we would want to see passenger numbers rise and railway companies want to generate income.
The creation of a drinking ban, though useful as far as it went, does not prevent already inebriated passengers from boarding a train. There is therefore a need to provide a greater presence of police and rail staff on board trains across the network and throughout the day.
I would like to see uniformed police officers use trains travelling to work and be encouraged to do so by being given free travel. The creation of Police Scotland offers an ideal opportunity for a greater co-operation between British Transport Police and their territorial colleagues in terms of operation responses, particularly when dealing with crowds on trains and football supporters. In addition, the existence of the 61016 help line should be promoted to ensure the travelling public can seek assistance.
I would also like to see railway staff properly supported on trains as they attempt to manage difficult members of the public causing problems.
Finally those convicted of crimes on the railway should be properly punished and their convictions publicised. It would be helpful too to see serious offenders banned from the railways.