Railway police to safeguard passengers' safety

16th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Jan 16, 2006 (AFP) - French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy gave details Monday of a new railway police force to deter violent incidents such as the ordeal suffered by passengers on a regional train along the Mediterranean coast on New Year's Day.

MARSEILLE, France, Jan 16, 2006 (AFP) -  French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy gave details Monday of a new railway police force to deter violent incidents such as the ordeal suffered by passengers on a regional train along the Mediterranean coast on New Year's Day.

Travelling on the same Nice-Lyon service, Sarkozy said that the force would comprise 2,540 officers of whom 700 would be newly recruited into the police and gendarmerie.

"What it will mean is 250 patrols every day on trains in France. The idea is to get it through to certain yobs that impunity on our regional trains is a thing of the past," he said.

"With trains that cross through several départements (counties) the same police officers will ensure security on the whole route, whereas before we were handicapped by competing competences between different services and areas," the minister said.

Creation of the force was triggered by media coverage of a rampage on the Nice-Lyon train after New Year's Eve celebrations in which a gang of youths vandalised several compartments, robbing passengers and sexually assaulting a young woman.

In a recent poll for Ouest-France newspaper, 32 percent of those questioned said that they felt unsafe on French trains, either often or occasionally.

Last Thursday Sarkozy implied that initial reporting of the New Year's incident was exaggerated, saying that though he did not wish to "minimise the suffering of the victims... the shock of what happened was worse than the reality."  Only three people have filed suit.

Disruption Monday on a line of the RER suburban rail network east of Paris was caused by violent incidents late Sunday at Chenay-Gagny station, the rail authority SNCF said.

A gang of youths blocked the train in the station by repeatedly pulling the alarm signal. They threw stones at police who intervened with tear gas and made eight arrests.

SNCF staff were refusing to serve on the line Monday because of the lack of security, the company said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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