How has railway crime increased and what needs to be done about it?


Crime on British railways has seen an increase of 12% in the last year, going from 60,867 in 2017/18 to 68,313 in 2018/19. Violent crime accounts for a fifth of these figures, with 13,591 such offences seeing a 16% rise from the previous twelve months.

Adrian Hanstock, the Deputy Chief Constable of the British Transport Police (BTP), said:

“With record levels of passengers using the railway, we anticipated there could be a subsequent rise in crime.” …”As stations become increasingly commercial environments, a large proportion of this increase is as a result of theft of passenger property, anti-social behaviour or shoplifting.”

In comparison to other UK crime figures, the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime on railways remains low. But the BTP have said it remains one of their highest priorities.

Susie Homan, of the Rail Delivery Group, said Britain’s railways remain one of the safest in the world:

“As an industry, we are working with the BTP to return to a long-term trend of falling crime on the railway, by trialling and investing in new technology like body-worn cameras for staff and working with police to increase the reporting of crime.”

There were six homicides on British railways between 2018-19. Plus, a 32% rise in police officers and rail staff providing lifesaving interventions and mental health support for vulnerable people.

Adrian Hanstock, of the BTP, said on the topic:

“It is troubling that the railway still attracts those in mental health crisis. Officers and rail staff work incredibly hard to safeguard those with vulnerabilities and help them access the most appropriate care and support.”

County Lines drug trafficking was cited as one of the biggest concerns for the BTP, in relation to railway crimes. Over 1,500 County Lines gangs are estimated to be operating in Britain, making around £1.8billion in annual profit. They make use of the railways to move drugs using vulnerable children and teenagers that are unknown to the police.

The BTP are working with national partners, including the National Crime Agency to oversee safeguarding and share information. As a result, they have already seized large quantities of drugs and have helped to protect a large number of vulnerable young people from criminal networks.

What are the Legal Obligations?

Network Rail and rail operators have a responsibility to do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risk of crime.

All rail industry parties, on mainline rail networks and London Underground, must comply with their legal obligations under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to reduce risk to the general public where practical. This includes:

  • Preventing unauthorised access.
  • Keeping the tracks clear of any materials that can be used in acts of vandalism.
  • Reducing risks to the travelling public.

The BTP have the authority on matters of criminal damage and railway bylaws for trespassing. Civil police can be involved in any vandalism issues that take place beyond the railway boundary.

Tips to Stay Safe on the Railway

National Rail employs the tagline ‘think safe, stay safe’. To stay safe, it’s important to be prepared and plan your journey before you travel. You should make someone aware when and where you are travelling and keep your mobile phone with you, so you are contactable.

If travelling in a group, arrange a meeting point in case you get separated on your journey. If you have a disability and need help with your journey, you should contact the relevant rail company you’re travelling with to arrange anything you need.

At the Station

  • Report any unattended bags or suspicious behaviour to police officers or a member of railway staff. 
  • Always make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings with you.
  • Avoid listening to headphones or have them on low volume as the more practical alternative, as they can decrease your level of awareness.
  • When in and around railway stations, try to avoid poorly lit areas and stay in sight of CCTV cameras.
  • You should always follow the instructions of rail staff. First and foremost, stay behind the yellow line on platforms and never get onto the tracks.

On the Train

  • Pre-book your seat if you can or choose a seat in a carriage where you feel comfortable. For instance, where there are more people so they can see you and you can see them.
  • Know where the emergency alarms and exits are in the event that you need to use them.
  • Report any unattended bags or suspicious behaviour to police officers or a member of railway staff.
  • You should always keep your belongings with you or in sight, if you leave the seat or are likely to go to sleep your valuables should be with you and out of sight.
  • Protect your privacy, giving out any personal details whether intentionally or not, is a good opportunity for thieves and can lead to your identity being stolen.
  • When using the onboard WiFi, don’t send private information unless you’re using a secure webpage.

Travelling at Night

Railway passengers should be as safe travelling at night as they would be in the day. BTP have regular late-night operations at railway stations and on train services, so they are there when the public needs them.

If you need help or see any suspicious behaviour speak to a police officer or a member of railway staff.


Alcohol and the railway are not a good mix. BTP ask that people travelling on the railway, who have had any alcohol should keep a clear head and think logically about their actions.

Most train operators do sell alcohol on their services; however, it’s best to check their websites for more specific details. Some do run ‘dry’ trains where alcohol is not allowed at all.

If the police believe you are drunk or have committed an alcohol-related offence you could be served with a Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND).

You can be refused permission to travel if you are drunk.

At the Car Park

  • If you are parking near or at the railway station, choose a parking bay that is close to the exit if you are going to be returning to your car at night time.
  • Always ensure when leaving your vehicle that it is securely locked and that you take all your valuables with you or keep them out of sight.
  • If someone is meeting you at the station, you should make sure you know where they’ll be.
  • Only use reputable taxi companies, if that’s your means of transportation.

How to report a crime on the railways?

To report any crime, seek crime prevention or make the BTP aware of any issues affecting your local station or train journey call them on 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016.

The text number is to report non-emergency incidents on the train or at the station. It is monitored 24/7 and officers will be sent if the incident warrants it.

In an emergency, always dial 999. An emergency qualifies as when a crime is happening, a suspect thought to have committed a crime is nearby, someone is injured, being threatened or is in danger.

If the incident has occurred outside of the railways you should call 101. In an emergency, call 999.

If there is an unattended package or bag that may be an immediate threat, contact the nearest member of staff or call 999.

Any anti-social behaviour including rowdy, noisy or drunken behaviour, offensive or threatening language, littering or vandalism, or forming part of a menacing group should be reported on 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016.

See BTP’s FAQ page for more detail.

How ARK can help

The ARK network is made up of some of the most highly-accredited, top-performing guarding and response companies in the UK, our Service Partners. Our Service Partners are specially selected and go through rigorous external and internal audits.

All our Service Partners, over 100 of them are strategically positioned for efficient responses to activations anywhere in the UK. They know how to adapt and respond effectively to theft, anti-social behaviour and shoplifting, making them highly useful on the railways to help staff and police to manage and maintain the safety and security of the general public.

Part of ARK’s network are our dog-handler teams, an effective deterrent against criminals in a range of settings, where their heightened sensory abilities make them fully capable of detecting drugs and possible explosives. This makes them perfect for railways where unattended bags are a risk, and the County Lines gangs are a high priority for the BTP. In addition to this, they are incredibly cost-effective and can do the work of up to eight conventional security guards.

Railway stations are more often than not very large spaces, making it difficult for railway staff to cover every corner 24/7. ARK’s Mobile Patrols can help staff cover the wider perimeter to deter criminals from acting unlawfully. They can carry out patrols, spaced randomly, at whatever frequency they are required. They also give the general public the peace of mind that they are in a secure space and any danger will be dealt with efficiently and promptly.

If the railway is smaller and has areas not covered by CCTV, ARK’s Manned Guarding adds a physical and psychological deterrent to protect the general public from potential threats. They are all highly capable and experienced dealing with different safety concerns. With the right team in place, they can help significantly reduce the number of assaults, accidents and emergencies on the railways.

CCTV systems not only support staff in the effective management of their stations, trains and car parks but also help to ensure the safety and security of the public and staff. ARK’s CCTV Monitoring means we are aware of what’s happening on the railway at all times, are able to identify potential problems and alert the necessary people to deal with them before they turn into real threats to the rail passengers or staff.



About ARK

Alarm Response and Keyholding is part of the Asset Protection Group and we specialise in providing professional keyholding and alarm response services across the UK. Securing your home or business to ensure the safety of your family and staff. We have been providing keyholding and guarding services since 1982. Because we take the responsibility for responding to out of hours of alarm activations.  As well as securing sites on behalf of owners with fully licensed SIA security officers.