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MORE than 70 ticket inspectors have been bashed by fare-dodgers on Sydney’s transport network, and the union says dozens more do not report attacks to avoid lengthy internal investigations.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union said at least 15 transport officers have been attacked in recent months among the just 190 officers working to detect fare evaders across the city’s trains, buses, ferries and trams.
Latest NSW Bureau of Transport Statistics figures reveal more than 5 per cent of public transport passengers travel without paying the fare.
A Police Transport Command officer checks tickets at Bankstown train station.In a 12-month period on rail alone, close to 20 million passengers travelled without tickets or an activated Opal card, improperly used concession fares or travelled further than their tickets allowed.
Sydney Trains figures show that in 2014 there were 34 assaults on transport officers reported to Sydney Trains security. There were 22 assaults reported in 2015.
RTBU state secretary Alex Claassens said attacks on ticket inspectors was the latest in a long line of safety concerns plaguing the state’s public transport system.
Last month The Daily Telegraph reported police were hunting a group of thugs who incited members of the public to attack ticket inspectors.
Going by the name Free Transport, Full Communism, the anarchist group runs a poster campaign which also encourages passengers to refuse to pay fares.
Mr Claassens said a decision in 2013 to remove 600 transit officers, some of whom had the powers of special constables, from patrolling trains and checking tickets had led to safety concerns for staff and passengers.
The government has instead set up the Police Transport Command, which has 610 officers available to patrol across the whole transport network, including taxi ranks.
Alex Claassens: “This leaves workers stuck in dangerous situations.”“In just the past few months more than 15 transport officers have been assaulted while checking tickets and maintaining safe trains and stations,” Mr Claassens said.
“The worrying thing is many do not report being assaulted. There could be dozens more workers who don’t come forward for fear of becoming a target of management.”
Mr Claassens said Sydney Trains has a policy that transport officers are not able to arrest passengers who assault them but can affect a “citizen’s arrest” which can lead to a lengthy investigation and suspension from active duties.
“This leaves workers stuck in dangerous situations without the resources or powers to protect themselves or passengers on our trains,” he said.
“This government has let down all users of the train network by stripping away transit officers and special constables from our transport system.”
A Sydney Trains spokesman said: “We work closely with the NSW Police Transport Command which is responsible for crime prevention across the rail network. Only police have the powers, training and resources to effectively respond to crime.”
This article first appeared on www.dailytelegraph.com.au
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