For the first time, rail passengers across Britain can report incidents to police via text, following the launch of a new non-emergency text number by British Transport Police (BTP).
The new text short code, 61016, will give passengers an additional tool to report incidents in real time wherever there is a mobile phone signal.
The number is designed to capture low-level, non-emergency incidents, similar to the non-emergency 101 phone number used by local police forces.
By creating a text capability, BTP hopes passengers will be more likely to report incidents such as anti-social behaviour, giving officers a better understanding of the nature, number, time and location of incidents which would previously have gone unreported.
Deputy Chief Constable, Paul Crowther said: “BTP aims to be as open and responsive as possible and this is the next logical step for us. Text messaging is a quick and everyday way to communicate and we know passengers want to be able contact us this way.
“By encouraging passengers to also report incidents via text, we hope we'll get a more complete picture of the sort of low-level but all too common incidents that affect people’s journeys across the network.
“However, text messages should never be sent in an emergency situation as there are no guarantees that they send correctly or are received promptly.”
The 61016 text number will be monitored 24/7 and whilst it is not for reporting emergencies, there will be the capacity to send a policing response if required.
DCC Crowther added: "Low-level anti-social behaviour, which we know occurs on trains often later at night and when people have been drinking, is undoubtedly under-reported. Passengers tend to accept or ignore the minority who make the journeys unpleasant for everyone else.
“We hope that the ease of being able to send a quick text message will encourage more passengers to report incidents when they occur. By building up a more accurate picture we can better focus our resources.”
David Sidebottom, Passenger Focus director, said: “Passengers tell us that they generally feel safe on the railway, however, they will welcome this initiative as it will provide them with an easy way to highlight the problems they come across.”