Most days, Jane* sees her colleagues get either spat on, yelled at or hit.
The Flinders Street Station worker has been groped by a drunken passenger, pushed and even climbed on. She has been threatened with rape and murder.
Jane says there would be a physical assault about every two weeks at Melbourne's busiest train station, and violence skyrockets during night shifts and events like New Year's Eve and White Night.
"Sometimes it feels like it comes with the territory," she says.
"It can be really humiliating ??? you get spoken to like you're an idiot because once you're in the uniform you cease to be a real, independent normal person in society."
As tens of thousands of commuters zip through some of Melbourne's busiest stations each day, station officers, barrier attendants, conductors and platform staff say they are being harassed and violently attacked by frustrated fare evaders, drug-affected people and aggressive drunks looking for someone to punch.
Late last month, police charged three people over the violent assault of three PSO officers outside Flinders Street Station.
Emails and letters given to the Rail, Tram and Bus Union reveal worrying allegations of abuse at Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations over the past year.
The allegations have prompted calls from the union for barrier attendants to work in pairs, panic buttons to be fixed on ticket barriers, and an increase of 100 authorised officers who are responsible for checking tickets and providing safety backup for commuters and staff.
Some of the allegations in the documents include:
- A station barrier attendant saying they were spat in the face, then three weeks later being hit by a drunken passenger. "The incident is still so fresh in my mind that if anyone raises their voice it upsets me," they wrote.
- A station barrier attendant claiming they were punched in the face at Flinders Street Station in January.
- A serial offender targeted staff between Box hill and Flinders Street stations in August last year, assaulting one staff member at least four times, the union alleges. Metro says the perpetrator was arrested and had an intervention order taken against them.
- A customer service worker was called a "f------ s--t" and hit in the face with a bottle in August last year.
- A Flinders Street staff member was allegedly sworn and yelled at, and their life threatened in November last year.
Union state secretary Luba Grigorovitch said no person deserved to feel unsafe at work, and called on Metro Trains to ensure there were two officers at each set of train barriers, especially at stations along the city loop.
"If someone misses their train, or they're a few minutes early and they have to hang around a train stop, who does the passenger take it out on? It's the frontline staff, the station officers, the rovers, the conductors," said Ms Grigorovitch.
She said that since the start of the weekend all-night trains last year, authorised officers have been spread thin across the network, which meant that staff often lacked access to necessary security backup if attacked.
Metro Trains spokesperson Sammie Black said "any physical or verbal assault on our staff is reprehensible and unacceptable".
"Our frontline staff work very hard to ensure passengers get where they need to be and they deserve to feel safe in the workplace. The safety of staff and passengers is our highest priority."
Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said Public Transport Victoria was working closely with operators and Victoria Police to improve the safety and security of passengers and staff.
"We won't tolerate violence against our public transport staff - they work hard day and night getting people home safe."
Ms Grigorovitch is also calling for a safety barrier around the La Trobe Street bridge, which crosses over the Southern Cross Station rail yard.
Train drivers and controllers are dodging wheelie bins and shopping trolleys that get thrown off the bridge, she said. A motorcycle was once thrown over the bridge.
"If something hits someone, it could potentially kill a worker."
It is understood that PTV is now working with Melbourne City Council and V/Line to address the problem at the overpass.
Jane said there was an inconsistent approach to reporting violence to the train operator.
She was once encouraged to make a formal report to Metro by a manager when she was pushed and climbed on, but on a separate occasion, when she groped, she didn't report it as she was made to feel silly about it. So she didn't.
*Jane has requested that her real name not be used.