Violence on a train
Sequence of Events
This morning 15 Dec 2016 a passenger got on the Metlink train north of Porirua, and when asked for his ticket starting arguing with the conductor. The passengers later explained to me this gang patched passenger believed he had the right for a free ride, and got angry when explained he couldn’t. And starting getting confrontational. The train conductor decided to call police to escort this guy off at the next stop, Porirua station.
I happily boarded the 8:46am train at Porirua station and sat down for the express trip into Wellington. We didn’t move and 10 minutes later, the train manager explained over the intercom they were dealing with a passenger situation. I thought medical.
Another 10 minutes later a passenger standing just 2 seats away by the train doors, started kicking the doors – as hard as he could. He launched at them a few times. I assumed he was just frustrated and being an idiot for the delay. He was actually the patched member who caused all the ruckus in the first place.
A passenger at the other end of the carriage pushed the emergency intercom and was panicky barking to the train manager let the guy off the train. Yep that’s right, all the train doors were locked.
The police arrived did an excellent job deescalating and getting the guy off the train. I hope they booked him.
I talked to the train manager at the Wellington station and asked a few questions. He explained his thinking and decision to stop at Porirua – for the welfare of the passengers. Excellent decision.
Poor decision – locking the train doors so that no one could get out. Here we had a situation where the train manager was concerned enough to call the police, and decided to lock the person in with the very people he was trying to protect. This does not make sense, which he agreed with in hindsight. I asked the train manager if they have procedures for dealing with potentially violent passengers, but he didn’t give a clear answer.
Fortunately no one was hurt but hundreds were delayed for 30 minutes. I can’t help but think unlocking the doors and letting the person out would have solved two problems. Increased safety and allowed the train to continue, with just a few minutes delay.
Recently, the Ministry of Social Development were charged with not doing enough to prevent violence from members of the public to their staff. This includes systems including barriers, separating public from staff.
Worksafe New Zealand state:
“We expect that companies and government agencies who deal directly with the public assess the risks of violence or threats of violence, identify controls, implement them and monitor their effectiveness, and if necessary revise to improve the controls. They should seek appropriate professional advice, if needed, to ensure this is a robust process,” Mr Stewart said.
Violence from members of the public is a known risk that train operators must deal with. We were moments from a situation going pear shaped. Creating a barrier to lock the violent passenger in with the passengers is not putting the protection of passengers first. Sure, the troublesome person might get away if the doors are allowed to open. Good! Protection of passengers must come first. While train managers need the freedom to make decisions, locking the doors to keep potentially violent passengers within the carriage should not be an option.
- Do metlink have a procedure for dealing with violent passengers? If no, there needs to be one.
- If yes, does the procedure include locking the passengers in with the violent person? This should stop immediately.
- What sort of training and system is provided with train managers eg do they have a flip card with steps to follow in such an emergency? In this case, the checklist could have included:
- To notify police (done)
- To inform the next platform to not let people board the train
- To open and have the doors locked open
- To have a script that informs the potentially violent person police are coming, and the doors are open and they can exit now (passenger safety first) or wait for police. Give them an out.
These are just some suggestions. But the key recommendation is NOT to lock the doors again.
This blog has been sent to Metlink – I’ll post any feedback below this blog.