Metro pulls support staff from stations

The information machine at Sunshine.
The information machine at Sunshine.

CUSTOMER service officers at some Melbourne stations are being relocated to centralised control rooms as part of a Metro ''customer assistance trial''.

Melbourne's train operator said the transfer of some staff was ''aimed at improving customer information and service''.

The trial began last year on the Craigieburn and Upfield lines and is expected to be rolled out soon on the Sandringham line.

''The reason for these changes is to provide customers at all stations with an inquiry button and more extensive monitoring of platforms and station areas,'' a Metro spokeswoman said.

She said before the trial, the red button at stations was for emergencies only but now it could be used for customer information requests.

''Since the trial, red buttons on the Craigieburn and Upfield lines connect customers to a staffed control room on each line to have their inquiries answered and where CCTV is monitored and platform announcements are made,'' she said.

''In order to respond quickly to customers pressing the red button, we needed to allocate more staff resources to these control rooms.''

She said the change had been ''very successful on the lines being trialled''.

Trevor Dobbyn, state secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, said members had been briefed on the trial but there had been no agreement with the union to make the changes permanent.

Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton said a button was no replacement for staff at stations.

''There needs to be a full staff presence at every station from first to last train … it is simply penny-pinching to not provide that staff presence now,'' he said.

''It is no doubt that some fare evasion on the train system is opportunistic evasion that might be avoided if there was a consistent staff presence on stations and people had an idea that they might get caught.''

He said a button was ''no substitute for someone who is on the spot to assist people who need physical assistance, with prams, with wheelchairs''.

Mr Morton said not having a staff presence at stations slowed the system because train drivers were required to help commuters in need.

Metro said the trial relocation of staff had no link to the rollout of protective services officers.

This story Metro pulls support staff from stations first appeared on The Age.