Ticket takers attacked

SIMON DAY
Last updated 14:32 16/04/2014

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Fifteen staff have been assaulted on Auckland's rail network this year as the new ticket system creates more confrontation between passengers and ticket inspectors, according to the union.

Auckland transport completed the roll out of the AT HOP card, a reusable pre-pay smart card for travel on trains, ferries and buses, last month and passengers can no longer buy tickets on public transport. 

This had lead to more fare evasion and more conflicts with ticket inspectors, according to the Rail and Maritime Union (RMU).

Since January, 12 rail staff have been assaulted, four requiring medical attention, and three maori wardens have been attacked on Auckland trains by fare evaders.

"The majority of the incidents which lead to assaults are committed by fare evaders. This is a situation that has been created by Auckland Transport no longer selling tickets on board trains and only having ticket inspectors on random trains.  It is anyone's guess how many people are riding the network free each day, and when people are questioned incidents do occur," Wayne Butson, General Secretary of the RMU said. 

The assaults often included racial abuse towards the ticket inspectors, said Butson, who added the Union had a high number of Indian members.

"It is predominantly people saying things like this is my country, we don't need you bloody immigrants coming here telling me what to do," he said.

The incidents often involved young people and staff anxiety would increase with school holidays approaching.  Staff held genuine concerns that one of their colleagues would get seriously injured any day, he said.

"There has been an escalation of these events since the new ticketing system came in. There is a culture that has developed that there is this group of people who just believe they can travel free on trains," said Butson.

However, Auckland Transport said there has been no increase in fare evasion since the introduction of the new system and they have in fact taken measures to reduce people riding public transport for free.

Fines have increased from $10.30 to $20 and Auckland Transport ran a "blitz" of suburban stations.

"The introduction of the AT HOP card has had no effect. You can still buy tickets from the machine on the platform. It is a soft excuse to say they didn't know they couldn't buy a ticket on the train. There is no material difference," said Wally Thomas, spokesperson for Auckland Transport.

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- Fairfax Media

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