Virgin Trains employee who intervened to stop the racist abuse of mum Sanaa Shahid and her four-year-old son has been honoured in a prestigious awards ceremony.
Matt Litton, 42, was commended in the Frontline Employee of the Year category at the Scottish Transport Awards, organised by Transport Times, where he was praised for “standing up to intolerance”.
His actions were praised by Sanaa, who said: “Matt’s actions restored my faith in humanity and gave my son and I immense comfort during a very difficult period.”
Matt, a Preston-based train manager, was working on a London to Glasgow service on December 29 when Sanaa and her son Zayn were subjected to racist abuse by fellow passenger Alexander MacKinnon.
Matt stepped in to prevent any further abuse from MacKinnon, ensuring he was taken from the train and arrested at Carlisle, and stayed with Sanaa and Zayn to offer comfort and reassurance.
Mackinnon later pleaded guilty to a Racially Aggravated Public Disorder offence and was fined more than £1000.
A career railway man, Matt was recruited as a trainee for British Rail in 1991 and has worked through in number of roles at Warrington, Wigan and Preston stations before taking on the job of Train Manager on Virgin Trains’ Anglo-Scottish route 15 years ago. He lives near Wigan with his wife and two children.
His actions have been praised by the panel judges, British Transport Police and Scotland’s Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP, who attended last night’s ceremony in Glasgow.
Sanaa has spoken in support of Matt’s submission and said of his award last night: “I am very pleased Matt has received the recognition he deserves. He was the only person in that carriage who came to our help. I believe he genuinely went above and beyond his call of duty when he stood up for my son and I that day by telling Alexander Mackinnon his behaviour will not be tolerated any further and arranging his swift removal from the train. We need more people like Matt around us, who aren’t afraid to speak up when they see injustice.”
Mr Yousaf said: “Everyone in our communities has the right to live and work safely in 21st century Scotland, including when travelling on our rail network. Matt is a real example of how we must stand up to defend Scotland’s diversity and inclusion when faced with unacceptable hate crimes.”
David Begg, Chief Executive of Transport Times and chair of the awards judging committee, said: “The judges were very impressed with the way he stood up to intolerance. It is vital that we continue to recognise those who showcase the courage to eradicate racism within our industry and society as a whole.”
Patrick McGrath, Virgin Trains’ Executive Director of Human Resources, added: “Racism has no place in our society or on our transport system. But these values are only as good as the people upholding them. Matt showed courage and compassion in dealing with a difficult situation and standing up to intolerance. We’re delighted his actions have been recognised tonight.”
Matt said of his commendation: “For anyone working in the transport or customer service industry, we’re paid to be tolerant and patient. But there are certain situations that we can’t tolerate and we can’t accept. We can’t accept racism. I wouldn’t expect to go about my life being treated like that so why should anyone else have to put up with it?”