Train Company Highlights Abuse of Staff in Ad Campaign

South West Railway asks passengers to be kinder to its employees

Passengers are advised to check before travelling during industrial action. Picture: SWR

March 6, 2024

South Western Railway (SWR) has launched a new campaign to make its passengers aware of the impact that verbal abuse can have on its staff.

The train company, which serves stations such as Chiswick, Putney and Brentford, has put up posters at its stations with messages such as ‘You Absolute Moron!’ and ‘You Dumb Cow!’

The aim is to make passengers, who wouldn’t normally be aggressive, but who might lose their temper when things go wrong on their journey, more aware of how shouting at station staff can have a lasting impact.

SWR staff can be subjected to a range of abuse, from physical assaults to verbal attacks, including swearing and insults.

While verbal attacks might be considered relatively ‘low-level’ compared to more extreme assaults, SWR says the consequences for staff can nonetheless be significant and enduring, affecting their mental health and overall wellbeing.

The campaign invites passengers to consider the lasting impact that heat of the moment words, often used in momentary anger, can have. This is especially true when the abuse involves personalised language regarding someone’s appearance or a characteristic such as their age or gender.

Hard-hitting printed and digital posters conveying this message are now on display across the SWR network, depicting four examples of thoughtless abuse staying with colleagues beyond their shift.

The posters show examples of abusive language on everyday household items: a doormat, shower gel, a kettle and a tin of soup, indicating how the abuse continues to play on the minds of staff even when they return home after work.

Frontline staff include on-train guards, staff at the gateline, dispatchers, revenue protection officers, community rail officers and any other employees who interact with passengers on trains or at stations.

The campaign is based on consultations with staff, who shared their experiences of abuse, and encourages passengers to be kind. ‘Be Kind’ badges are being given out to colleagues to help spread the message.

The campaign will be particularly visible on the network during certain events and times of the week, especially when passengers are more likely to have consumed alcohol, which tends to be when levels of abuse against staff are higher.

A video explaining the impact verbal abuse has on SWR colleagues and the campaign to tackle it can be viewed below.


Grant Robey, Senior Network Crime and Security Manager for South Western Railway, said, “We hope this campaign will bring the human impact of thoughtless abuse to the front of our customers’ minds and remind them to be kind to our colleagues, even when things go wrong on their journeys.

“We know that most customers wouldn’t purposefully abuse our colleagues; a lot of this behaviour arises when customers lose their temper and make heat of the moment comments.

Our colleagues come to work to keep everyone safe and they should not expect to face this behaviour. People wouldn't behave like this in their own workplace, so it isn’t acceptable in ours.”

To help deter abuse and assist with evidence gathering, SWR has also been conducting a phased roll out body-worn video cameras to frontline staff since 2021. All SWR guards now have access to them, with gateline staff due to have access in the spring.

A recently published study by the University of Cambridge, commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group and British Transport Police (BTP), suggested that body-worn video cameras can reduce the likelihood of assault against the wearer by 47%.

Last autumn, Network Rail published new statistics showing that 9/10 of its workers in the biggest stations in its Southern Region, which includes the SWR network, have suffered abuse, including verbal abuse and physical assaults.

SWR has achieved the highest possible score of 100% for its Safeguarding on Rail accreditation by the BTP.


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