South Coast rail commuters 'not at risk': police

Superintendent Bernie Ryan.

Superintendent Bernie Ryan.

Commuters' safety will not be at risk as the government moves to scrap special late-night South Coast trains with added security, according to Superintendent Bernie Ryan.

The so-called Guardian trains were introduced in 2010 and included extra security on board in the form of transit officers on designated Friday and Saturday night services from Sydney to other areas in the network.

For example, the South Coast train that left Central at 11.29pm on Saturdays was a guardian service.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said those trains provided peace of mind for late-night commuters.

‘‘This is a significant downgrade of security on our rail network that leaves passengers to fend for themselves if there is a threat to their security on their train,’’ Ms Sharpe said.

However Supt Ryan, who is in charge of the south-west sector of the Police Transport Command (PTC) – which includes the South Coast – said the same number of officers would still be on duty but would be more efficiently deployed to known hot spots in an operation tagged Rolling Shield.

‘‘We’ve decided putting police on trains, essentially as security guards on a particular run, is not the most efficient way to provide a safe transport network on those Friday and Saturday nights,’’ Supt Ryan said.

‘‘So what we’re doing is deploying police right across the metro area at various hub locations and certain train services.

‘‘We’re putting people at Wollongong Railway Station and other railway stations where the intelligence tells us we should be.

‘‘We’re still deploying above and beyond the number of transit officers that were there – we’re just doing it in a different way.’’

He said the guardian system meant two police officers would have to be on a train from Wollongong to Central and then catch another back to Kiama, where a police car would have to pick them up and return them to Wollongong.

That meant those officers would be on a train for more than half their shift – even if there was nothing going on.

‘‘We were patrolling these trains but it wasn’t where the crime was happening,’’ he said.

‘‘We are still providing a presence for those trains but we’re finding it’s more efficient to target hub locations like Thirroul, Wollongong or Sutherland, and having that supported by mobile vehicles.’’

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