Drunks, thieves, transvestites at station
Former policeman Ken Brewer reckons he's being forced into retirement earlier than he'd like because he no longer feels safe riding the train to work.
The 68-year-old Manurewa resident has been using the southern line for five years to get to his job in the city but he's had enough.
"I have taken to driving more and more lately as, frankly, the train drives me nuts."
Brewer recounts several worrying incidents while using the network and says he once had to run for his car while a group of men chased him for his briefcase.
"I refuse to use the train on a late shift or night shift due to the fact that it can be very unsafe, not just on the train but on arrival at Manurewa late at night where being alone on the streets can be downright dangerous.
"My experiences on the train range from raging drunks and individuals on illegal substances causing mayhem, to transvestites propositioning me and every other male in the carriage, including schoolboys."
His is one of numerous complaints about train safety received by the Manurewa Local Board in recent months. Manurewa is among the top 10 Auckland stations for vandalism and crime.
Board chairwoman Angela Dalton says she receives constant complaints from train users and believes a lack of gating has led to "unfettered access to the train stations".
"Counties Manukau police in turn are documenting incidents of intimidation of train commuters, fare evasion, fighting, graffiti and vandalism and breaches of local liquor bans," she says.
"Auckland Transport has failed to gate and secure the train stations. The response . . . has been to demand action from the police and central government.
"This inadequate response lets down law-abiding train commuters who come off second best. People will continue to abandon the trains in favour of cars until there is attention focused on security issues at suburban train stations."
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan says security guards are now being trialled at 10 stations in response to safety concerns.
And there's been a recent drop in criminal activity across the rail network with 167 reported crimes in April, 99 in May and 59 in June, he says.
Police, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and rail operator Transdev have also formed the Combined Safer Network Group in a bid to reduce crime on the rail network and an action plan to reduce offending is in place.
It aims to improve security cameras, develop "safety zones" on platforms within well-lit areas and monitor how effective security guards are at stations.
Hannan says there has been a strong call for gating stations for security. But a 2012 assessment determined that would cost $2.1 million for Manurewa alone, including $80,000 a year to staff each station.
A paper on gated stations will be presented to the Auckland Transport Board this month.
Mayor Len Brown says Aucklanders should be reassured by the "rigorous assessment of train security" which resulted in the action plan.
CCTV is already installed at every train station and 13 key stations now have guards on platforms. But more needs to be done, Brown says.
"There must be zero tolerance of alcohol, vandalism and other antisocial behaviour that poses a risk to patrons.
"All Aucklanders, young and old, have a right to feel 100 per cent safe on our rail network. This action plan is a significant step towards making that the case."
Brewer can't wait for things to improve and he's giving up trains altogether.
"I enjoy my job in the city but the travel, especially on trains, has caused me to retire earlier than planned.
"It can be an ugly and very uncomfortable experience that I will be very happy to put behind me."