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Metlink makes moves on enforcement

Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] will soon be deploying transport officers on its Metlink trains and buses who hold warrants from police to catch fare-evading passengers.

The agenda for the recent Transport Committee meeting said a contracted team of transport officers have been working on the network since November 2021 as an “interim measure” before the implementation of the new fare evasion system, following the implementation of electronic ticketing system Snapper.

The “temporary team” focussed on the “engage, encourage, and educate” aspects of the model adopted under a letter of agreement signed with police, and have not held “delegated powers”.

The agenda said the police policy is that the soon to be hired warranted enforcement officers must be employees of the public transport authority and that enforcement powers should only be given to staff who have completed a police vetting process and training.

The new officers will be able to issue infringement offences to those failing to pay a fare or to comply with a request to provide “identifying details”.

They will also be able to ask people to disembark or not to board the train or bus.

“While the team will have a strong focus on the revenue protection and enforcement functions, the transport officers will have a broad customer experience focus, including security and monitoring of passenger safety, and information provision and assistance, on and off-board.”

Wellington central-based councillor Yadana Saw raised her concerns at the meeting about profiling people who “present in a certain way” and asked for assurance that passengers will be checked fairly.

She also asked for council staff to monitor the demographics of people they have checked for fare payment.

Metlink manager of operations and partnerships Mel Anderson said the public transport provider is “very conscious” of profiling.

“Since implementing Snapper, we have brought in systems that make sure we’re not bee-lining for particular people or particular services, and we will continue that and roll it into the training for these warranted transport officers.”

She offered to report back to the Transport Committee once the 10 officers have been employed and trained – with recruitment beginning on June 30 and deployment planned to begin in “late 2023”.

Upper Hutt-based councillor Ros Connelly asked what the benefits of the officers are, and said she is concerned that GWRC will be viewed in a similar way to police using speed cameras for revenue collection.

Metlink senior manager of commercial, strategy, and investment Tim Shackleton said it is understood that the majority of the impact of the officers is their visibility.

When trialling Snapper on the Johnsonville line, fare evasion decreased and bottomed out at two per cent with the presence of the current [non-warranted] officers.

Connelly was also concerned about data leaks because officers will be collecting information about fare-evading passengers.

Anderson said Metlink is implementing a model that police use: “We’re being very careful with the powers and doing a full privacy assessment.”

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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