ILLAWARRA residents will no longer be able to rely on the safety and security of travelling on Guardian Trains after the state government announced it was cancelling the service.
Introduced in 2010, Guardian Train Services operate on Friday and Saturday nights, and have dedicated transit officers on trains running from Bondi to Kiama, providing security for passengers, as well as CCTV.
Shadow Minister for the Illawarra, Keira MP Ryan Park, said the decision to axe the service puts local travelling on the South Coast Line on Friday and Saturday nights at risk.
"These additional officers provide peace of mind to passengers who are travelling late at night as they know that these officers are monitoring for any security threats," Mr Park said.
"Passengers are now feeling vulnerable and fearful for their personal security. We encourage people to use public transport, especially if travelling up to Sydney for major events, and their safety is something they should not have to worry about."
The cancellation of the Guardian services is due to a shift in focus by police, now responsible for security on the trains, buses and ferries.
When NSW Police Minister Stuart Ayres recently announced there would be a high-visibility police presence on public transport through Operation Rolling Shield, there was no indication from the government it meant the end of the Guardian Trains.
Assistant Police Commissioner Max Mitchell said the new operation provided a bigger and better security coverage than Guardian trains.
"Operation Rolling Shield is an intelligence-based policing deployment to those locations of greatest risk based on data and customer perceptions," he said.
But Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW branch secretary Alex Claassens was not even aware that the new police operation would replace Guardian services.
"I think they should be condemned for it," Mr Claassens said.
"If there are any incidents or assaults on those trains, I would ask that they let us know so we can call them to account for them."
The decision appears to fly in the face of Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian's previous commitment to the Guardian service.
"The guardian trains make it easier for commuters to leave their car at home, and jump on to public transport on Friday and Saturday nights," she said in 2011.
"This is a substantial reduction in security on the South Coast Line," Mr Park said.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said Labor had no credibility on the issue.
"The safety of all customers on the public transport network is a priority of this government,'' she said
“That is why Transport for NSW and NSW Police launched the new Police Transport Command in May 2012, to take full responsibility for security on all public transport.
“By December 2014, the Police Transport Command will comprise 610 specialised officers.
“There is nothing more reassuring to passengers than a high visibility, high profile police presence on trains, buses and ferries.”
Ed's note: The Transport Minister was not on leave at the time of publication as stated in a previous story online and in the printed edition of the Kiama Independent.