Commuter has to wee in bag on halted train
An Upper Hutt woman is angry and embarrassed she had to resort to urinating into a plastic bag in front of passengers on a broken-down Wellington train.
The woman, who did not want to be identified because she was recognisable after appearing on a popular television show, was on the 5.50pm from Silverstream to Wellington City on February 28.
A fallen power line caused an electrical fault, forcing the train to a standstill for nearly two hours.
Passengers were told they could not leave the train while it was being repaired, as a live electrical cable was resting on the carriage.
The woman, who was desperate to use a toilet, felt she had no option but to urinate into a plastic bag in a carriage containing about 20 other passengers.
"I just tried to hide between the seats," she said.
"After a while I got to a point where I was like 'I just need to pee, I don't care about anything else, I just need to pee.
"After I had finished I just sat there in shock and started crying. It was so humiliating, the most embarrassing moment of my life."
Trains on Wellington's suburban routes do not have toilets.
When passengers were finally allowed to leave, the woman carried the bag of urine off the train.
"It was disgusting and so embarrassing. I hid from everyone. I made sure I was the last person off the train."
Tranz Metro manager Scott Brooks said he was not aware of the incident, and the company had not received a complaint.
He confirmed that the train did break down, but it was due to a "very rare occurrence".
"As overhead lines usually carry a load of 15,000 volts, when incidents like this occur customers are held on board until we are certain there is no risk to their safety," Brooks said.
The woman said she did not file a complaint because she felt uncomfortable that her name would be documented in reation to the incident.
"I didn't want to email the complaints person because I knew it would go through a system, and the more people seeing it associated with my name, the less comfortable I was with it," she said.
She sent an email to Fran Wilde, chairwoman of the regional transport committee, but did not receive a response.
The woman was frustrated with the lack of any procedures to handle a situation like hers.
"Why do they not have emergency facilities? Even a little cubicle, or an emergency bag, whatever, just something that isn't just 'go pee on the seat'. It just makes no sense."
Greater Wellington Regional Council rail operations manager Angus Gabara said toilets for emergencies were costly to install and maintain, and took up a lot of space.
"The costs of installation and maintenance and the amount of seating that would be lost would need to be taken into consideration and weighed against the extremely low probability of emergencies occurring where people are going to need to use a toilet," Gabara said.
"If we installed toilets on the current fleet, we'd lose 498 seats and it would cost at least $16 million."
The distressed woman said there was a lot of confusion during the breakdown, with passengers not adequately told when they would be able to leave the train.
"I wish that they had just, instead of being like 'another 15 minutes, another 15 minutes' they had just gone 'this is what's happening, this is the time frame, sorry, you guys might be sitting here for this amount of time.'
"It seemed like [the conductor] didn't get any information either, so he was just as lost as we were. He was telling us everything that he knew. I feel like it wasn't really his fault."
The incident was deeply embarrassing, and had discouraged her from getting on the train again.
"I refused to catch a train until last week. I was just so nervous. I also carry a vomit bag now, just in case something like that happens again.
"I am worried I will meet the train conductor again, or the people who were on the train with me. I had my hair out that day, and when I catch the train now I'm not going to wear my hair out because I don't want them to recognise me."
The Dominion Post