What happened to Metro’s station staff promise?

Back in November 2009, Metro Trains Melbourne took over the operation of Melbourne’s suburban rail network, and bringing with them a long list of promised improvements to the system. So how well has one of these promises fared?

Metro Trains Melbourne 'You'll be seeing more station staff' poster from early 2010 still in place

Improving staffing levels on the network was one promise Metro made, as found in this media release dated November 30, 2009:

Metro takes the reins
30 November

More staff, better customer information, an increased investment in infrastructure, stations brought to life and greater reliability and punctuality will start to roll out as Metro takes the reins of Melbourne’s train network today.

Metro CEO Andrew Lezala said “Our first priority is to get the basics right by improving network reliability and customer information.”

Metro is now recruiting for more than 200 new roles as it prepares to start work improving customer services and information as well as network infrastructure.

The first group of 13 Platform Assistants has been in training and will commence their role helping customers. Tasked with encouraging a smooth and safe flow of customers through crowded stations, the spread along platforms to ease areas of congestion, assisting the flow of customers boarding and exiting trains in the peaks and giving information on the timing of the next trains.

“This is a Melbourne solution for a Melbourne challenge,” Mr Lezala said.

“Some visual and audible changes will be experienced in the first couple of weeks but many of the initiatives will take some time to put in place,” Mr Lezala said. “We’ll be working really hard to make improvements to customers’ travelling experience.”

Metro did actually follow through on their improved customer service promise, when they published this media release on May 4, 2010:

Metro recruits more station staff and adds 22 new staffed stations
4 May

Metro’s recruitment drive for customer service staff and station staff is set to continue following the announcement of the 22 new stations to be staffed.

An initiative described when Metro was named as the successful franchisee, the list of 22 was today revealed with each station to be staffed for a four-hour period each weekday at a time when staffing is most needed. Manning of these stations will start from June and be complete by September due to works required at many stations.

Today’s announcements bring the number of staffed stations to 145 out of 211 across the network and the number of new roles created in the first half of 2010 to 211.

“In our first five months we have analysed the network and selected stations based on customer numbers as well as crowd movement and customer safety and assistance requirements. We have established a new category of station which will be staffed for 4 hours each weekday in the morning, shoulder-peak when large numbers of school students are using our services, or evenings. Whenever it is needed the most” Andrew Lezala, CEO said.

The 22 new staffed stations are Spotswood, West Footscray, Royal Park, Merlynston, Oak Park, Glenbervie, Strathmore, Pascoe Vale, Kensington, Tottenham, Canterbury, Burwood, Hawthorn, Gardiner, Dennis, Regent, Rosanna, Toorak, Hughesdale, Hawksburn, Sandown Park and McKinnon.

“As well as improving network reliability, we are focussed on providing our customers with a better experience of our services. We have been looking at ways of improving the perception of safety and working hard to improve customer information, announcements and signage and overall customer service” Mr Lezala added, “the changes we are making will become more and more noticeable in the coming months”.

“Following this announcement we will commence recruitment of 26 new employees who will work four-hour shifts at the 22 stations soon to be staffed. This is on top of 26 additional barrier staff starting this month at stations in Dandenong, Glenferrie, Caulfield, Ringwood, Camberwell, Glen Waverley and Footscray” Mr Lezala said.

Anyone interested in these customer service focussed station staff roles can enquire through the careers section of metrotrains.com.au

This additional recruitment is on top of:

  • 63 new platform assistants who started at city loop stations in December and January;
  • 31 new platform assistants, (half started last week, half start next week) located at Flinders Street, Parliament, Melbourne Central, Southern Cross, Flagstaff, Clifton Hill, Watsonia, Footscray, North Melbourne, Sunshine, Tooronga, Auburn, Box Hill, Frankston, Malvern, North Brighton and Richmond;

With additional staff in place at City Loop stations during afternoon peak, platform attendants kept the doors clear and indicated to drivers that it was safe for the train to depart.

Platform attendant at Flagstaff indicating to the driver the doors are clear with an illuminated paddle

Additional staff were also deployed to suburban stations in morning peak for the same reason.

Station host waves the despatch paddle at Ascot Vale

There they served double duty, welcoming the regular commuters, as well as updating them of delays and disruptions to normal services.

One train is 6 minutes late and the next one cancelled - at least they didn't write 'Have a nice day'!

Unfortunately all good things come to an end, and so did the renaissance in station staffing on Melbourne’s railways – in October 2012 Metro pulled station staff from the Craigieburn and Upfield lines as part of a six month long ‘trial’ of full time CCTV monitoring, with the removal of platform staff at City Loop platforms in afternoon peak ending soon after.

It is now five years since Metro took over in Melbourne with a blaze of promises around station staffing – now we are two years into a ‘six month’ long trial of CCTV replacing station staff, and have spent $212 million for two guys with guns to patrol every station after 6 PM each night.

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4 Responses to “What happened to Metro’s station staff promise?”

  1. Thomas Hofer says:

    I do believe that platform staff have returned to the Platforms in the loop. And now signal train drivers when they can depart.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I’ve only seen staff sitting in the glass booths making announcements, not directing passengers on the platform.

      However a new thing is Authorised Officers on crowd control duties in peak times – North Melbourne platform 1 of a morning, and Southern Cross platform 10 of an evening.

  2. Leigh says:

    The metro train network map has always shown Ascot Vale to be a host station, even during the trial.

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