An angry rail worker has told of the fear stalking his colleagues after a conductor was viciously attacked at a station.

The senior union representative, who works as a conductor on the same line, said 1,000 Northern Rail staff had signed a petition demanding urgent action on safety.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union spokesman said rail staff felt harassed, undervalued and afraid after the middle-aged conductor was punched repeatedly in the face at Keighley station.

He told how graphic photos of his injuries were being circulated by rail workers on their company mobile phones as a warning to colleagues.

The union spokesman said: "This was an appallingly vicious attack.

"I have a photo on my phone. His face on one side is all black and blue and he has cuts under his eyes. It is a real mess."

The union representative cannot be publicly identified because of company policy. But he said yesterday: "He is seriously traumatised - and so are his colleagues."

The conductor needed hospital treatment and is still off work.

As previously reported, he was assaulted after a ticket dispute with five passengers on the 10.06pm service from Bradford Forster Square to Skipton on Monday, November 13. Northern Rail is offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to a successful arrest and conviction.

The union spokesman said the attack followed a similar serious assault on a conductor at Guiseley last year.

He claimed that the railway network between Skipton, Leeds and Bradford was a blackspot for attacks on staff.

"Every train that runs on that line after 6pm is a potential problem," he said.

He said that of the 1,100 conductors on Northern Rail, up to 800 had already signed the petition.

It demands an increase in staff numbers on trains and at stations, keeping stations open until the last train has gone, more use of British Transport Police and that Northern Rail managers work weekends to co-ordinate resources.

Union members also want "dry trains" on some routes and manned barriers so that people who have had too much to drink are barred from getting on trains.

And he fears an escalation of violence in the run-up to Christmas.

He said: "It might be the season of goodwill for other people but for our staff it heralds a time of harassment, threats and violence."

The RMT union says that, nationally, physical assaults, threats and verbal abuse on staff have more than doubled between 2001 and last year to more than 4,700.

There has been a further increase this year to more than 5,000 incidents, leading to union calls for a zero tolerance approach to violence.

Malcolm Brown, area director of Northern Rail, said: "The safety and well-being of our staff and customers is of paramount importance to us at Northern that is why we have a zero tolerance policy towards anti-social, abusive and criminal behaviour on our network.

"Our staff have the right to carry out their duties without fear of abuse and we will not tolerate anyone who threatens their safety.

"I would urge anyone with any information on last Monday's vicious assault to contact the British Transport Police."

A spokesman for British Transport Police said that in response to concerns by Northern Rail staff a senior officer had been seconded to the company since February.

High profile patrols were operating on some services to support rail staff.

Rail security teams are employed on Airedale line by Northern to combat violence.

Three teams of two-strong patrols are providing support to staff and passengers at stations and on board trains.

Anyone with any information about the attack should call British Transport Police on 0800 405040 or (0113) 2436686.


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