What is inside a PSO pod?

Have you ever wondered what lurks inside the blue and white buildings that have appeared at most railway stations across Melbourne? They are used by Protective Services Officers once they start duty at 6 PM every night, and cost a shitload of money to build.

Completed Baillieu Box at Newmarket station

A look inside

This presentation from the ‘Department of Transport Planning and Local Infrastructure’ (DTPLI) given an inventory of what is inside the average Protective Services Officer office.

Protective Services Officers - presentation by DTPLI

First off they have a desk and a phone for completing paperwork.

Inside the PSO office at Montmorency railway station

And a kitchenette.

So PSOs posted to the middle of nowhere can have a warm cup of tea on a cold Melbourne night?

Kitchenette inside the PSO pod at South Yarra station

Then to the side, an internal door leading to what is officially known as the ‘handover room’.

Office inside the PSO pod at Macleod

In reality the ‘handover room’ is a holding cell where Protective Services Officers lock up the people they arrest, until a sworn Victoria Police officer is able to attend. They are easy to spot from the outside – the same style of ‘NO ENTRY’ sign appears on each one.

PSO pod retrofitted into the otherwise unused station building at Tottenham

Now I’ve just got to travel around Melbourne and collect them all!

PSO pod incorporated into the new station building at West Footscray

They can try and hide them by painting them different colours.

Brown painted PSO pod on platform 1 at Essendon

By cladding them in weatherboards and adding a gabled roof to the top, when a railway station is heritage listed.

PSO pod at Newport station: standard layout but with a gable roof and weatherboard cladding

Retrofitting them into existing heritage structures.

Heritage styled PSO pod on platform 2 at Clifton Hill

Or inside 1980s brown brick abominations.

PSO pod inside the disused station building at Blackburn platform 3

But if you know what to look for, they stand out like dogs balls.

PSO pod on the island platform at Camberwell

Construction cost

Originally $17 million was allocated in May 2012 to fund the construction of facilities for Protective Services Officers at 66 railway stations around the network, at an average of $268,000 per station.

The 2013 budget allocated an extra $67 million in funding to build another 149 structures, with the average cost rising to $455,000 per station.

$2.5 million has also been allocated each year in cleaning expenses – around $12,000 per pod per year, and the toilets aren’t even open for the public!

And graffiti removal

Turns out putting a symbol of ‘The Man’ at every railway station attracts vandals – according to The Age around 20 of them are graffitied every month.

On the nickname

I’m a fan of the ‘Baillieu Box’ nickname – it commemorates Ted Baillieu, the former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu who decided that putting two ‘almost’ police officers on every railway station after 6 PM would win votes for the Liberal Party.

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10 Responses to “What is inside a PSO pod?”

  1. Jacob says:

    Isn’t it ridiculous that Fire Hydrant doors do not have to be painted red. So many inside shopping malls are painted the same colour as the surroundings. Or should I say camouflaged.

  2. Charlotte says:

    Overheard a guy chatting with some PSOs a few months back while waiting for my ride at the station. The kitchenette in there is not just for cups of tea, but because if you work over 5 hours you have to have a meal break, and they need to have somewhere to heat up food since at most stations you probably can’t go buy some after 6pm at night. I also can’t tihnk of them as anything but the “Baillieu Box” moniker they were given on twitter!

  3. Philip says:

    I wish I was the contractor to build them. You can build a 40-square, double storey house from a custom plan, with multiple bathrooms and an enormous kitchen, for about $400,000. A pod the size of a large caravan should be achievable for less than $90,000 from scratch. Let alone if you’re working to a cookie-cutter design.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      $268,000 to $455,000 per station does sound overinflated compared to building a house, when most PSO pods could just be a demountable site hut. Apparently part of it the cost is due to the effort needed to install power, water and sewage to a site in the middle of a railway station platforms while working around operating trains, but even then it doesn’t seem to add up.

      • ross says:

        My favourite is the one at Moreland station. They seem to have converted the old waiting room area into the PSO hangout. The only time you see them appear is to fine somebody for smoking on an empty platform before running back to their little cubby to escape the cold.

  4. Bobman says:

    So, is the toilet in the ‘handover room’ & what does that holding cell look like?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I believe only some PSO pods have a toilet inside the building – at stations where toilets already exist, those are used instead.

      As for the ‘handover room’ I don’t have a photo of the inside (any volunteers…) but I’m guessing it would be similar to a prison cell.

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