Tighter security on trains for holidays

By Mathew Dearnaley

Maori Wardens and police beefing up presence to deter violence.

A spokesman for the council body would not comment on the latest assaults. Photo / Richard Robsinon
A spokesman for the council body would not comment on the latest assaults. Photo / Richard Robsinon

Security is being boosted for the school holidays on Auckland's trains, amid concern about more attacks on rail staff.

Measures approved by Auckland Transport and confirmed by rail operator Transdev - after the latest two assaults on the weekend before Easter - include extending hours worked by Maori Wardens. That means their patrols on the southern line between Otahuhu and Papakura now run from 4pm each day until trains stop operating after 1am.

The police also say they are "assigning additional resources" to trains and stations as well as shopping centres over the school holidays, which began on Good Friday.

Counties Manukau prevention manager Inspector Richard Middleton said the police had met Transdev and KiwiRail to discuss setting up a working group to improve staff and passenger safety on trains.

The latest attacks left a Maori Warden with bruises and put a ticket inspector off work with undisclosed injuries after he was hit from behind at Papakura by an unseen assailant.

Although the company is vague about the number of violent incidents on the trains it runs under contract to Auckland Transport, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union says it knows of 12 since January.

General secretary Wayne Butson welcomes the extension of hours for Maori Wardens, but says that follows despair among his members over slow responses to calls for action.

Mr Butson said most assaults were committed by fare evaders, a situation he claimed was created by Auckland Transport no longer allowing ticket sales on trains. The problem was exacerbated by a failure of lawmakers to prescribe penalties against fare evasion.

A spokesman for the council body would not comment on the latest assaults.

But chief operations officer Greg Edmonds said AT was "continually working with Transdev on ways to reduce violence against their staff - it won't be tolerated".

Train violence
*12 assaults on Auckland rail staff since January alleged by union, including two this month on the southern line.
*Windows smashed on eight passenger trains by rock-throwing vandals in February on the western line.

- NZ Herald

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