Trains Need To Be Safer


Last week’s serious assault on a train manager (formerly called guards) at Mt Albert’s Baldwin Ave is a worrying trend.
Even more worrying is the news that such assaults are becoming more frequent.
Train guards, jumping off trains onto dark train stations at night are targets for opportunist criminals ready to try to grab some ready cash from the train person’s money collection bag.
And the fact this victim was a sole collector on a night train wandering from carriage to carriage is also unacceptable.

Mt Albert is one rundown isolated station where I have felt uneasy on a dark winter’s night with homeless and teenage drinkers lurking in the seating areas.

Dodgy youths drinking alcohol hang out in this Mt Albert station seating area

I use trains quite a bit at night and sometimes there are - shall we call them - lively loud people who have obviously been out on the town drinking somewhere and are clearly out of it and occasionally obnoxious.

Maori wardens do a great job

They don’t worry me even though a few can appear aggro but they could threaten or harass a train manager or a less confident passenger.
And the fact the train managers have no way to communicate easily with the train driver to say they have trouble on board is even more ridiculous and symptomatic of the antiquated communication tools on board.
That could easily be helped with the purchase of a couple of cheap walkie talkies from Dick Smith if the train authorities don’t want to outlay a decent system.
It’s good to note security watching over places like Britomart, Newmarket, Kingsland and the new Grafton station at night but these tend to be well populated well lit stations.
It will be expensive to add security - more than the odd security guard visit that happens now-  to watch over the other 20-odd stations.

Some of those stations like Mt Albert and Baldwin Ave are in more isolated spots away from busy streets and people may well feel nervous there. If we have to pay for extra security at such places, it will be through our fares but I would argue it’s a price worth paying.

Thankfully, the train guards on Friday won some concessions - the use of the Maori Wardens from 7pm instead of 8pm at night and better onboard communication. But is it really enough?

Later in the year, train services will increase at night - and the last thing we want to have, while encouraging the growing use of public transport, is to get to a situation like neighbouring Australia, where violence on trains and at train stations is getting way out of hand.
In Melbourne a few weeks ago, it was revealed that:

  • A confidential police intelligence report spoke of the city’s rail system being under attack with more than 1000 incidents including assaults, weapons, offensive behaviour and vandalism reported each month.
  • Train security officers are finding weapons such as knives, tomahawks and box cutters hidden in bushes at station car parks
  • 21 train officers were injured last month, including one who was admitted to hospital.
  • Rock throwing was rife.

The Police Association and Rail, Tram and Bus Union reacted by calling for 100 more “authorised officers” to ride the rails, and for 47 more train stations to be staffed from the first to last train.

The rail network has about 360 authorised officers, but as few as 60 are patrolling trains and stations in the evenings and only 77 of Melbourne’s 211 stations have permanent staff.

In Queensland, a report noted:

  • 45 assaults across the rail network for the year, an increase of 5.6 per cent on the previous year
  • The number of sexual offences doubled in two years
  • 6,500 CCTV cameras are on the network but more were in the process of becoming real-time cameras
  • 54 rail squad police patrol the train network

The type of onboard incidents across the Tasman is getting more frequent and more violent. Here are just examples from the last fortnight. Note the pathetic sentences.

  • Last week, a 40 year old  Brisbane father was jailed for 18 months (minimum 6 months)  for attacking the train passenger next to him because he objected to him speaking on a mobile. The passenger suffered a broken jaw, broken left cheekbone and lacerations to his face
  • Two weeks ago, a 17 year old Sydney youth got three years for the “manslaughter” of another youth on a train whom he fatally stabbed
  • Two weeks ago, in broad daylight during the morning rush period, a man was stabbed to death at a Melbourne railway station car park. Despite CCTV footage, police have no clues.

Security is a complex issue. CCTV cameras help after the fact but don’t always stop criminal behaviour.

But the more people feel watched on camera or in person, the safer everyone will be.




  1. rtc says:

    WIth integrated ticketing and cashless payments for trains etc we should reduce this hopefully. Ideally train guards should be checking that people have tickets rather than accepting cash. Mt Albert really does need a clean up regardless. It needs to be better lit and better integrated into the shops so that it’s a bit more lively at all hours. It’s currently a station to avoid.

  2. ingolfson says:

    I agree with Jon C - I’d like more security guards. We need to have public transport have a reputation as a safe transport form at all hours, not only on nice sunny days when lots of people are around.

  3. Steved says:

    While we in society continue to carry cash we will always have problems, ( “A cash-less” society in the long term is the way to go ). A short term solution for the train managers would be for them to have a light weight “eft pos machine” ( Wireless as taxis have ) as people like myself prefer to use the credit card, hence less money for the train managers to carry around. Just my Thoughts.

  4. cierat says:

    It’s really a lot more basic than more security guards as it doesn’t address the underlying problems… rail public transport really needs to look at where it locates its stations as well as the way they are designed.

    Some of the obvious sins that are commonplace:

    1. Stations hiding away in a secluded gullies rather than prominent positions
    2. Poorly designed or “retrofitted” Buildings that provide hiding places rather than exposing them.
    3. Subways instead of controlled crossings or overbridges, restricting access and providing unsafe passage off rail corridor
    4. Stations located in relatively isolated areas that are no longer relevant
    5. Poor integration with rest of community.
    6. Hiding rail corridor behind trees and shrubs
    7. Sites not locked off when not in use
    8. No use of ordinary and ultrasonic alarms to deter loitering, especially in wee hours.
    9. No hotlines at site to call for help
    10. CCTV is not enough, it must be monitored preferably with a two way intercom to really make a difference.

  5. Matt L says:

    1. Its interesting but not surprising that this happened at Mt Albert, in the Herald article about it last week it noted that ARTA wouldn’t name the station and now we know why. If they had of it would have been clear that the attack was at a station that hasn’t been upgraded and by naming the station it would have increased the pressure to upgrade it to the same standard of other stations which have much better lighting, security, shelters where people can’t hide and also security camera’s.
    It would be interesting to see if the other attacks on train staff have happened at stations that also haven’t been upgraded.

  6. Joshua says:

    Steved - I tend to disagree with effpos/credit card payment as often these take too much time, the train officials have problems as it is getting payment from all the passengers on board, with many dodging payment by sitting further away from the train collector. The problem will be solved when integrated ticketing is introduced, and payment is made before entry onto the train.

    Security does need to be heightened unfortunately as safety is a deterrent to many for using PT at night, If we can solve the security and run more frequent services, night PT use could be increased significantly. All these stations need to be upgraded, however Mt Albert is a different special station where the stock standard design roll out that is happening is not going to be sufficient enough, maybe bowling the old station and putting some temporary shelters in place could be a good solution until we carry out the proper New Lynn/New Market style station upgrade.

  7. ingolfson says:

    Violence is not only linked to train staff carrying money. Enough (especially drink-fueled) violence in our culture is “just because”, so integrated ticketing won’t simply solve this, though it may reduce the issue somewhat.

  8. Jon C says:

    @cierat Good points. Number one of stations being in isolated places and 2 of the secluded buildings certainly applies to somewhere like Mt Albert.
    Hopefully now the issue is out in the open, the issues will be addressed.
    The last thing we want to read about is media going big on “another train bashing”.
    It will kill night time train travel taking off in Auckland as services get extended..

  9. Jimmy says:

    This happened at Baldwin Avenue Station, which in my opinion is the worst 3 stations on the network (the other 2 being Te Mahia and Takanini). I’d consider Mt Albert probably at number 4.

    Mt Albert station is scheduled to be lengthened next month, but I don’t know if there were any plans to actually upgrade the station at this time. And Baldwin Avenue is still an unknown.

  10. Matt says:

    Given where the Mt Albert station is in relation to the road bridge, making it more open and easily-observed would be a simple matter of putting in good lights and reorienting the shelters so that people can be seen from the bridge.

    I’m surprised that Remuera isn’t a problem spot, to be honest given that the only shelter available is invisible from off the platform, and poorly-lit.

    Also, is the emergency intercom system to train control that exists at Remuera unusual? I’d have thought it’d be standard. It’s not like Remuera has been upgraded, after all.


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