Support grows for cops on Auckland trains

By Mathew Dearnaley

Fights, vandalism, ticket dodging and threatening behaviour at stations prompt calls for transport police force.

The idea has emerged after criticism by Auckland Council members of a lack of gates at most stations to stop people catching trains without paying fares. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The idea has emerged after criticism by Auckland Council members of a lack of gates at most stations to stop people catching trains without paying fares. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Auckland Transport is considering forming a special police force to improve safety on trains.

The idea has emerged after criticism by Auckland Council members of a lack of gates at most stations to stop people catching trains without paying fares.

"The provision of transit police is under investigation as a long-term option," an Auckland Transport spokesman said.

Manurewa Local Board chairwoman Angela Dalton says fights on platforms and vandalism are becoming prevalent, and commuters are reconsidering their use of trains after "being intimidated by young people of gang persuasions".

"They are also seeking money from old people, who are a bit more vulnerable - my concern is that somebody is going to get hurt," she told the council's infrastructure committee last week.

Councillor George Wood said a senior police officer had told a meeting of local board members that police were reluctant to travel on trains in uniform at off-peak hours "because they feel intimidated", a claim denied to the Herald by Inspector Alan Shearer of the Counties Manukau police.

"This is a bizarre situation - the world's most liveable city - ride the trains and get beaten up," Mr Wood said.

Committee member Dick Quax said councillors were being told there was no cash to install more station gates "yet money is being gobbled up by the [$2.86 billion] City Rail Link".

"One of the first rules of business is that you look after the customers that you [do] have, and clearly we are not ... if they are being attacked and being subjected to people carrying weapons."

Auckland Transport is pointing to a reduction in offences across the rail network, to 59 reported last month from an alarming 167 in April, after operations with police on the southern line including platform blockades against people without tickets.

It has also hired security guards at 10 stations in a 15-week trial due to end on Friday, when it will review the benefits of keeping them on, against a "considerable resourcing cost".

Listed offences include assaults on train staff and passengers, vandalism, trespass and "surfing" or clinging dangerously to the outside of trains.

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union says there have been at least 14 assaults on rail staff this year, one of which left a worker with a broken jaw, and is welcoming the start today of a trial by train operator Transdev of small CCTV cameras on the lapels of some ticket inspectors.

But infrastructure committee chairman Mike Lee said yesterday Auckland Transport should focus on providing more station gates before putting more "ambulances at the bottom of the cliff".

"We need to have gates at the top."

Transit police

Countries where they are active include: Australia, Canada, United States, Britain, France, Germany, China, India, Russia.
Who controls them: Either state police or public transport providers.
What are their powers: Often those of a constable, including of arrest, although usually with a requirement to hand offenders over to regular police. The British Transport Police, who are 95 per cent funded by train companies, are allowed on patrol with Glock pistols.

- NZ Herald

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