News – Lack of late-night transport links across the UK is putting women’s safety at risk, campaigners say

Women across the UK are calling for improved and safer transport options at night

The UK’s lack of late-night transport links is putting women’s safety at risk and services need to be improved, campaigners have said.

With a half-functioning Night Tube system in London and a total absence of underground metro system in other cities, women across the UK are calling for improved and safer transport options at night.

“Women have the right to be able to travel through the city safely,” one campaigner said.

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), told i that “women are acutely feeling the threat of male violence” following the murders Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa which sparked national conversations around women’s safety.

Measures such as the full return of London’s Night Tube would help women to feel safe while travelling around in the dark, she said.

London

The Night Tube in London was suspended in March 2020 when Covid-19 hit. It was originally planned to be reopened in Spring 2021, but in April of last year, Transport for London (TfL) announced that the service would stay closed until at least 2022.

Tens of thousands of women signed a petition for the Night Tube to be reopened in autumn 2021 due to fears that its closure over winter would leave women feeling unsafe in public.

Joanna Lonergan, 23, said it is “incredibly frustrating” that the Night Tube has not reopened as it would help her to feel safe while travelling around London in the dark.

She lives in Angel, North London, and would benefit from the Northern Line to run through the night.

“It does annoy me because it’s a serious consideration for me,” she told i, adding: “At night, if friends invite me round for dinner, one of my first considerations is, ‘how am I going to get home?’

“Yes, I could get the bus but waiting at a bus stop in some of the areas just doesn’t always feel very safe.”

Ms Lonergan – who is a law student – has experienced catcalling and, on multiple occasions, people have thrown alcohol at her from car windows while she has been waiting at bus stops.

On one occasion when she was walking home in the evening, someone started filming her with the flash on. She turned into a street to get away but he followed her shouting: “What’s the matter love, don’t you like being on camera? Camera shy.”

She managed to walk away from him, but she suggested this might not have happened if she could get the tube instead as other people would be around.

Ms Lonergan said she is far more aware of the risk of “getting attacked” following the murders of women such as Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

She said: “I know realistically, the chance of that happening quite low. But I am taking the risk every time I [travel in the dark].

“And just because there’s a low risk doesn’t mean there’s no risk.”

However, she said that the Night Tube is by no means a “perfect solution”, as the problem of violence against women on the streets remains.

“You can’t solve the bigger problem with just a tube ride,” she said.

Currently, only the Victoria and Central Lines are running, and both are impacted by strikes. According to TfL, there has been a good service on the Victoria Line and a “regular service” on the Central Line with at least two trains per hour through Central London.

According to TfL, the Night Tube on the Northern, Jubilee and Piccadilly Lines will return as soon as possible in 2022.

It has not yet returned fully because of delays to driver training due to pandemic restrictions and because the return must be coordinated with upgrades and engineering closures.

It was previously unclear on the TfL website that the Night Tube is not running as usual, which could have been misleading for people. After raised this with TfL, the website has been updated to reflect the limited service.

A TfL spokesperson said: “Everyone should feel safe and be safe when travelling around London at all times and ensuring women and girls can travel safely on London’s public transport networks is an absolute priority for us.

“A near-normal Night Tube service is operating each weekend on the Victoria line, with a reduced but regular service on the Central line through central London, despite the RMT’s six months of planned disruption. We are working hard to resume services on the remaining Night Tube lines as soon as possible.

“The Night Overground and our extensive night bus network also continue to operate, and licensed and regulated taxis and private hire vehicles provide door to door transport around the clock.”

Manchester

In the summer of 2019, Parklife founder Sacha Lord – a key mayoral advisor – called for a 24-hour night transport system in Greater Manchester.

Mr Lord is the Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester and his plan for Metrolink, buses and other transport links to function after-hours was backed by Andy Burnham, the Mayor.

However, the plans have not yet come to fruition, despite women in Manchester calling for better overnight transport connections.

Hannah Trueman, 25, a from Manchester, said she “loves” the idea of a London-style ‘night tube’ equivalent coming to her city.

Mrs Trueman – a Creative Technician in a secondary school – told i that she goes out less in winter and “the fact that it’s dark at night is definitely an aspect of that”.

Manchester’s tram service, Metrolink, stops nearby her house, so she said she would “definitely” feel safer if this service ran throughout the night.

She said: “Trams have good CCTV, they’re well lit and the tram stops themselves feel safer than a bus stop in the middle of nowhere.

“Night trams would definitely make me feel safer than night buses. A night bus just feels quite dodgy.

Sacha Lord and Andy Burnham have been contacted for comment.

Bristol

Bristol has an extensive network of bus services that run throughout the night, but there is no tube or tram equivalent in the city.

Amelia Davies, a 20-year-old student at the University of Bristol, said that she usually gets an Uber if she is on her own at night rather than the bus.

She said: “The reason I don’t really get public transport at night is because it does feel like an extra danger, especially when I am alone.

“Getting in an Uber and knowing it’s going to arrive does feel safer than waiting for a bus that might be really delayed.”

Even in the daytime, she has been catcalled by men in cars as they drive past. At night, she feels “a lot more vulnerable” as there are fewer safety options such as calling for help.

She said that heightened security would make her feel safer on public transport, but added that “better behaviour from a lot of men” is what is really needed.

“Most of the time I feel unsafe is when I’ve received a particular kind of comment that I’ve not deemed appropriate, or someone has done something that made me feel uncomfortable,” she told i.

“I do find it quite frustrating that the onus is on women to keep ourselves safe when normally it’s not women who are causing the danger,” she added.

Ms Simon also pointed out that measures to improve night transport services would ultimately not end the problem of gender-based violence on the streets.

“We cannot hope to solve the issue of men’s violence against women with a sole focus on increased safety measures or better transport options for women at night,” she said.

“At the heart of this is a widespread failure to properly invest in prevention work that tackles harmful gender norms and sexist attitudes through education, public awareness campaigns and work in schools.” 

https://inews.co.uk/news/women-right-travel-through-city-safely-campaign-night-transport-1444339

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