NSW government cancels high-security trains

End of service: late-night guardian trains are being cancelled.  Photo: Kate Geraghty
End of service: late-night guardian trains are being cancelled. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Rail unions and the state opposition have reacted with anger after it emerged the state government was cancelling guardian trains, dedicated late-night services with extra security.

The government was last month removing all references to the guardian services from train timetables, with police saying they would fill the gap by a smarter use of resources.

The guardian services were introduced in 2010 and were marked on timetables as special security-strong services running late on Fridays and Saturdays.

A passenger could be sure that there was security on board, and that they were being monitored on CCTV cameras.

But the focus of policing on NSW transport has shifted since police took over security on the city’s trains, buses and ferries.

When NSW Police Minister Stuart Ayres announced recently that there would be a high-visibility police presence on public transport through Operation Rolling Shield, it was not apparent to many this meant the guardian trains service would end.

Max Mitchell,  head of the Police Transport Command, said the new operation provided a better spread of security coverage than 14 dedicated guardian trains.

''Operation Rolling Shield is an intelligence-based policing deployment to those locations of greatest risk based on data and customer perceptions,'' Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.

Labor transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said guardian services had provided comfort for passengers worried about their safety.

''A parent knows that if their kid is on those services, there is guaranteed security there for them,'' she said.

Head of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union Alex Claassens had not been told that the new police operation implied the end of guardian services.

''I think they should be condemned for it,'' Mr Claassens said.

''If there are any incidents or assaults on those trains, I would ask that they let us know so we can call them to account for them.''

Under Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, responsibility for security on the city’s train network has been shifted from a corps of transit officers to the Police Transport Command.

But Ms Berejiklian, who is on leave and unavailable for comment, has previously indicated her support for the guardian trains.

They ''make it easier for commuters to leave the car at home and jump on to public transport on Friday and Saturday nights,'' Ms Berejiklian said when announcing extra guardian trains to Richmond in 2011.

The government was planning to keep the guardian trains as recently as September, according to a memorandum of understanding into security between NSW Police and Transport for NSW obtained by Ms Sharpe using freedom of information laws.

But Police Minister Stuart Ayres said the new arrangements allowed officers to ''respond to incidents occurring throughout the network''.

''The introduction of the Police Transport Command, together with an extensive CCTV network, has resulted in more than 5000 arrests, more than 9000 charges laid and over 92,000 infringements issued on the transport network since May, 2012,'' Mr Ayres said.

A spokesman for Transport for NSW said the memorandum of understanding signed in September last year and which included the guardian services ''allows improvements to be made''.


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