Myki gates and railway station evacuations

The last thing anybody wants when trying to evacuate a building is a set of locked doors – which in the case of railway stations, is usually a set of ticket gates. For this reason an emergency release is usually included as part of the gate array, to ensure a clear exit in times of need.

Slow Myki gates cause a queue to exit Southern Cross at the Bourke Street end

Given all of the ways that myki screwed up, it is good to know that an emergency release switch was included as part of each gate array. Once pushed, all gates revert to the open position.

Myki gates at Southern Cross Station all opened, due to the emergency button being pressed

Outbound Myki readers continue to operate as usual, but inbound readers display a ‘Validation disabled – Emergency’ message on the screen.

'Validation disabled - Emergency' message on a myki reader

However it seems that pushing the button doesn’t tell station staff anything – ticket gates left in ’emergency’ mode are a common sight on the unmanned platforms at Footscray station, with users turning to Twitter to get them reset.

I would assume that pushing the emergency release button would trigger an alert in the station control room, with staff able to remotely reset the gates once verifying it was a nuisance alarm.

A further flaw is the inconsistent location of the unlabelled buttons, so in the case of a real emergency only qualified staff would be able to find and activate them – wasting precious evacuation time.

Emergency release button beside a set of myki gates

What about stupid passengers?

Even with a working emergency release, would it speed up the evacuation of a railway station, or would stupid passengers be the limiting factor?

In February 2017 a bus passenger in Sydney evacuated a burning bus, only to climb back onboard so they could tap off their Opal card.

Would a passenger trying to touch off during an emergency evacuation situation result in a crowd crush occurring behind them? I hope we never find out.

Or stupid management?

While in 2012 Daniel Bowen found an electronically released emergency gate at Flinders Street Station, with a padlock and chain securing it. Their solution once alerted to the issue – remove the emergency exit sign!

Footnote

Back in the Metcard days, fare gates also had emergency release buttons – but with a label on them.

Emergency barrier release button at Footscray station

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12 Responses to “Myki gates and railway station evacuations”

  1. Cat says:

    Sounds incredibly obvious to me. So what’s wrong with management at PTV?

  2. Shaun Clarke says:

    I don’t know for sure as I’ve never played with the barrier release buttons, but being an emergency button it is likely that the switch latches when pressed, requiring that the switch be turned to release it.

    While this is no excuse for the switch state not being monitored, it is likely that it would require physical intervention to reset the switch.

  3. Tom the first and best says:

    Does this breach fire regulations on emergency exits?

    Is this secrecy to reduce unauthorised fare gate opening?

  4. albert3801 says:

    Just for comparison – Sydney does not have any emergency release for Opal gates – but they can all be opened from the station control room. Any station that is not staffed or has no staff near the gates must leave the gates opened.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Thanks for that – quite interesting. In Melbourne only the ‘wide’ gate is kept open when staff are not standing at the barriers, so that passengers with non-myki tickets can still access the platforms.

  5. Beren says:

    I am betting the gates at footscray get disabled due to how congested the area gets. That station is a nightmare sometimes. Also there are many occasions when tapping off is pointless. At the end of the day especially.

  6. Jordan says:

    Would a ticket inspector believe you if you said that you could not touch on because someone had pressed the emergency release button?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I believe that Authorised Officers get told when ticketing equipment goes down at stations for an extended period, so they can fact check claims by commuters.

      As for the emergency button being pressed – AOs will only get know if staff at the station were there to tell them. One would hope that if a passenger gets reported for non compliance, it gets cleared up before a fine is issued.

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