Police are appealing for witnesses after a transgender woman was subjected to a torrent of abuse by four drunk men as she boarded a London Kings Cross to Durham train with her partner on Sunday 19 January.

PC Jeremy Webster, leading the investigation, said: ‘The victim, a 45-year-old woman from County Durham, boarded the train with her partner at Kings Cross. After the train departed a group of four men, believed to be heavily under the influence of alcohol, began playing loud music and shouting and swearing.

‘A short while into the journey the victim got up to put something in a bin near to the group. As she did so she was subjected to transphobic abuse from one of the members of the group. The victim went and sat down and approximately fifteen minutes later was approached by the man, who abused her again.’

The victim and the group of men all left the train at Durham.

The incident has led to some experts saying that public transport has become a no-go area for transgender people.

Trans-rights activist Emma Roebuck said: ‘As a trans person going from A to B, you’re at risk and many avoid getting buses or trains as they know they are going to be targeted. It can be anything from having someone look at you like you’re something on the bottom of their shoe to physical violence.

‘You get comments and you become public property, with people thinking they have a right to touch your boobs or ask if you still have your genitals. People will say you should be shot and they’ll threaten to beat you up.’

She urged victims of abuse to report their experiences as Durham Constabulary described hate crime as ‘massively underreported.’

Writing on the RailUK Forums, Cassie, who identifies as transgender woman, commented that while she wouldn’t regard public transport as no go, but she nevertheless has to be on her guard when travelling on a train or bus.

‘Public transport is frightening,’ she said, ‘because you can’t get away, and because people are sitting looking around them. You’re more likely to be noticed. Sure, there is CCTV in every carriage of a train but it’s only a partial consolation if you wake up in hospital.’

The woman was sitting in Coach F between 7.45pm and 10.50pm; if you have any information, please contact British Transport Police free on 0800 40 50 40 quoting background reference NEA/B5 of 7/02/2014, or you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

PC Webster, has said officers are trawling CCTV from the train and at the station, and added: ‘We take reports of such unacceptable behaviour very seriously, and will not tolerate abuse of any kind towards passengers on the rail network.’