KIM MCGUINNESS: Government must back plans for safer public transport

The social media outpouring in response to the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in London made one thing clear: women, sadly, do not feel safe in public places and we must do something about it.

Friday, 6th August 2021, 12:00 am
Among other measures the plan aims to introduce “Street Pastor-style safety volunteers on patrol across the Metro network”.

So, a few months ago I told you about my Safer Streets Survey and we were inundated with responses.

You see, public transport in our region is pretty safe, the stats will show that, but the perception of safety on public transport doesn't necessarily match the statistics and for me feeling safe is just as important as being safe. Overall responses for Northumbria revealed that during the day time, 47 per cent felt ‘safe or very safe’ on public transport, compared to only 14 per cent at night.

Yes, our region is one of the safest but you’ve said more could be done to make things safer and we want to make them happen – we’ve listened. A strong police presence is of course important, and I will continue with my commitment to keep growing police numbers but there is so much more we can do to help police do their job and help you feel safe.

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And so things have got really busy. I approached the leader of Sunderland City Council as well as other neighbouring local authority leaders and transport operators to draw up a range of solutions to address the fears and concerns you raised. Together, we have put everything into this funding bid. A lot of time and thought has gone into creating a strategy that re-thinks public safety for local people.

So what do the plans look like? Well there are various parts to the strategy. We want to introduce a new reporting app to transform the reporting process, we want more body-worn cameras for transport staff, Street Pastor-style safety volunteers on patrol across the Metro network and extra CCTV linked to control rooms. A well as practical solutions like help points and improved lighting. We want to support all this with educational campaigns to raise awareness and promote the support services that people can turn to.

So what next? Well our wishlist of proposals are now sitting with the Home Office for consideration. They’ve been submitted along with the findings of the survey and a very clear message that Government must back these concerns with funds that allow us to do something about them.

I’m confident that we have brought some real solutions to the table that will make our region safer for everyone. We believe in the improvements we want to make and we want Government to believe in them too and do the right thing by funding plans for our region. Now is the time to re-think public safety and I hope come Autumn I will have positive funding news to share with you. Watch this space.