Mckinnon station was the site an infamous incident in 2010 that perhaps, more than any other, solidified popular support for the state Coalition’s policy of two Protective Service Officers on every station after 6pm. It was an unusual event, but very frightening for those involved: passengers coming home from Friday night football.
Passengers had to fend for themselves for several minutes as the train sat idle while a mob brandished broken bottles and hurled rocks at the windows.
Passengers who were attacked by a group of youths have questioned why they had to defend themselves for so long, only for the train to move on once police reached the scene, carrying away dozens of potential witnesses with it.
I would think it’s entirely likely that the presence of PSOs would have nipped this in the bud, or prevented it from happening entirely.
So it’s significant that Mckinnon’s PSO pod looks to be complete. There might be internal works going on, but I won’t be surprised if PSOs start duty there soon.
As I’ve written before, the anecdotal evidence is the increasing presence of PSOs is increasing public confidence in the railway system at night… but it’s not clear if this is translating into increased patronage. Time will tell if this and other measures help (a few years ago, evening trains on this line went from 30 to 20 minutes until about 10pm, for instance).
One incident in a blue moon doesn’t necessarily justify a permanent, two-person, armed presence, of course. It remains a concern that at relatively quiet stations like this, little or nothing will happen, while other stations continue to suffer through security incidents, including before 6pm when there is no security presence. (The 2009 stats showed just one assault recorded at Mckinnon, and it was before 6pm.)
There’s still an argument to be made that security around stations is better and more cost-effectively served by fulltime regular staff, backed up by a rapid response force that can be quickly deployed when required, along with a fulltime security presence at hotspot stations where security is a genuine concern, as well as more patrols on the trains themselves.
Meanwhile, PIDs (Passenger Information Displays) are also appearing at Frankston line stations. Bentleigh got them last week (on the main two platforms only; not on little-used platform 3), and as you can see in the picture, they’ve also been installed (but are not yet running) at Mckinnon. Hopefully this will be part of upgrades at every station along the line — it is likely to be of more long-lasting benefit than the lick of paint stations are getting.
At Bentleigh the PIDs is a nice accompaniment to the “rainbow” network status board, though notably the Smartbus sign just outside the station still isn’t showing train times after more than three years.
As with all such useful upgrades (particularly the 7-day 10 minute frequencies, but also the improved realtime information) the hope would be that in time it gets pushed onto all the other lines and stations.
Of course, truly reliable services, and good, frequent, connecting buses remain elusive.
- Marcus Wong is tracking the PSO rollout