The Telegraph reports that less than half of all trains have emergency call points installed and that retrofitting these on older trains would be prohibitively expensive. This is especially the case with the non air-conditioned S-Sets, which are due to be phased out by Waratah trains in the next 2 years. Here the Telegraph describes the Waratah trains as “troubled”, and tries to paint them as unsafe, pointing out that despite being installed with emergency call points, there have still been:
“189 incidents on trains, including 23 sexual offences and 64 assaults – reported to police in the first three months of 2012 alone” – Melissa Matheson, Daily Telegraph (3 February 2013)
This is trying to have it both ways – either emergency call points improve safety and should be rolled out, or they do not prevent incidents from occurring. Ignoring that fact, the “189 incidents” figure is more sensationalism than a serious issue, and something the media is known to do.
These are the numbers. By the end of March of 2012, there were 7 Waratah trains in operation. Some of these came online during the previous 3 months, so there was probably about 5 Waratah trains averaged out over the first 3 months of 2012. Cityrail has roughly 180 trains, so the 5 Waratah trains represent about 2.8% of total rolling stock. There were 74.7 million trips made in the first 3 months of 2012, which means about 2.1 million trips were made on Waratah trains during that period, assuming an even spread of passengers on all trains. If there were 189 incidents on Waratah trains, then the probability of an incident occurring to someone on a trip is 0.0091%. In other words, 99.9909% of all trips had no reported incidents, which suggests that Waratah trains are incredibly safe.
But this raises the problem of the older C-Set and K-Set trains (the old silver models which are air-conditioned) that are likely to be retained even after all the Waratah trains are rolled out. Assuming that retrofitting emergency call points on these is prohibitively expensive (which would seem reasonable), then why can’t stickers be put on the inside of their carriages with the phone number that passengers can call to report incidents? The trains with emergency call points already have similar stickers with information on getting information on delays (“call 131500 and push 2”) placed all over their carriages, and given that most people have mobile phones these days, why can’t this be used as a substitute for emergency call points? It’s true that some people may not have mobile phone access (no phone, no signal, no credit, etc). But the emergency call points can also break down, so it’s not like they are a fail safe measure either.
If ensuring access is the goal, then this is surely a cheap and easy way to ensure it.