The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on women’s safety on public transport, a minister announced on Wednesday.
With ScotRail set be taken into public ownership, transport minister, Jenny Gilruth, said harassment of women is a “systemic problem” and one that she has faced on public transport.
Ms Gilruth told MSPs – as she opened a “national conversation” about the future of rail services – that the Government needs to identify “where it is that women feel unsafe on our public transport systems – and then identify how we’re going to fix it”.
“To that end, I am announcing today that the Scottish Government will be consulting with women and women’s organisations across the country to better understand their experiences and how we can improve our public transport system to make it safer and more enjoyable for them to use,” she said.
The British Transport Police and trade unions will also be consulted on how to fix the problem.
Last year, YouGov found that 55% of London-based women asked had experienced some sort of unwanted sexual behaviour while on public transport, compared to 21% of men.
Opposition MSPs have railed against potential cuts to ticket offices at train stations, saying it could compromise the safety of travellers.
“It’s not just about our station platforms – it’s the walk to the station, it’s the journey on the train home, it’s making sure you don’t catch the last train to Fife because it’s full of drunk men who will squeeze in beside you despite the fact you are surrounded by empty seats,” the minister said.
“And so you sit quietly with your headphones in, until you get up the gumption to move.
“And when you do move seats, like the woman across the aisle, you’re shouted at for daring to escape.
“‘I’m only having a laugh’ as he shunts his leg against yours and you hope he doesn’t follow with his friend when you move away.
“So let me say to the opposition benches, but particularly to the male opposition members who last week wanted to tell me about women’s safety on our trains.
“I know all about it. I have been there.”
She added: “It is a systemic problem and it is not just about our ticket offices, it’s about all the places on our public transport networks where women are scared to go because of men’s behaviour.
“So, as we look to the vision for Scotland’s new railway, we have many choices to make.
“I want our railways to be safe places for women to travel.”