Metrorail's ticket troubles

2016-07-05 06:00
Liam Brown, who was allegedly assaulted by Metrorail staff.

Liam Brown, who was allegedly assaulted by Metrorail staff. (Gary van Dyk)

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Metrorail staff’s methods of dealing with the public have come under the spotlight after a young man’s experience left him traumatised.

Liam Brown, 19, from Woodstock found that pointing out bad manners can land you in hot water if you deal with Metrorail staff at Parow Station.

He explains that on Tuesday 28 June he boarded a train at Woodstock to start his night shift at a Parow factory.

“The problem started when the ticket box (at Woodstock) was closed when I got there,” he says.

“Normally this is not a problem, and there was a number of people who could not purchase tickets when they got onto the train.

“When we got to Parow we explained the situation to the staff at the barriers and we were taken to what seemed to be a canteen or staff area because there was lockers in the room. From the start the woman who was there to write out the tickets was very rude to the people. When it came for me to get a ticket and I told her that the office was closed at Woodstock, like others had told her, but she just refused to listen to me and told me that I must not have an attitude.

“I pointed out that she was the one with attitude because of her rudeness to the people and how she must respect people especially older people. That really upset her and she ordered the other staff present to search me and that I must give them all of my money.

“That is when I panicked and tried to get away but one of the conductors grabbed me and head-butted me and told me that they were going to keep me there until I paid.

“I tried to explain that they were making me late for my shift but they refused to listen to me and because I did not have a phone asked one of them to let me call my mother.

“After I called her and explained the situation I asked to see their supervisor but got no help from him as well.”

While Liam’s mother, Nicky Asher-Pedro, tried to get family in Ravensmead to go to the station, he was kept at the station for about an hour.

“My mother eventually called back to the phone that I used and I don’t know what she said to them but they eventually let me leave when one of my uncles arrived and I paid the normal price for the ticket.”

Asher-Pedro confirmed that she was very worried when she got the call from her son.

“I told them that they have no right to abuse their power and assault people,” she says.

“When I asked for their names they refused to give it to me and the woman that I spoke to told me I have an attitude and switched off the phone.
“My brother-in-law managed to go to the station and was shocked to see how distraught Liam was. They tried to convince him that they had not assaulted my son.
“I just want the public to know their rights in this type of situation.”

Many commuters have reported incidents where ticket offices are closed.

Estelle Mathee works in Woodstock and adds that many of her staff from as far afield as the Kuils River and Bellville areas and in the southern suburbs from Retreat and Steenberg have experienced problems.

“Many of them have to leave for work before the offices are open,” she says.
“The problems start when they get to their destination and they have to convince staff at the barriers that the offices were closed when they started their journey.”

Trevor Vosloo is from a business based in Claremont who has also experienced the same problems.
“My staff have also experienced the same situation and it does not help when the trains do not run on time or are delayed.
“I hope that Metrorail can assist by informing all their staff at barriers what the proper process is when people start their journeys before offices open. We understand that people must not travel for free but why must they be punished for something that is not their fault.”

Metrorail spokesperson, Riana Scott, has responded in a statement: “Metrorail is obliged to ensure that all commuters travel legally. Travelling without a valid ticket or in the incorrect travelling class for the ticket purchased is a criminal offence in terms of the Legal Succession Act.

“Hundreds of fare-paying commuters complain daily about fellow non-paying passengers invading premium space in Metroplus carriages – it adds unnecessary pressure to already over-subscribed ultra-peak hours. Metrorail reserves the right to levy a booking fee (currently R40) and/or prosecute persons without valid train tickets. Commuters issued with such a booking fee must insist on a receipt.”

Ticket office hours are generally determined by the timetable, analysis of ticket sales and passenger numbers using the particular station, Scott says. “Should a ticket office at the origin station be closed, commuters are obliged to purchase a ticket either on the train from teams with portable ticket issuing machines or at their destination station before exiting.

“Those found to be in contravention of the law, are required to wait at the station in a designated area until they have been processed. Many ‘defaulters’ offer reasons/explanations/excuses for having transgressed the law and Metrorail employees have the unenviable task to make a judgment call as to whose emergency is valid or not. Verification staff must confirm that the ticket office at the commuter’s station of origin was closed.”

Until modernisation brings the requisite technology (automated ticket vending machines and ticket scanners), Metrorail currently is left with no option but to rely on human intervention, Scott says. “The most effective way to deal with the matter is through special actions. Optimal deployment of resources is based on analysis of ticket sales and commuter numbers. These include random actions on trains and at stations with space to process commuters.

“We do not condone any misconduct by our security personnel or employees and commuters should not be subjected to unacceptable behaviour. We encourage individuals to open a case of assault with the police if behaviour warrants that or report non-conforming employee behaviour to, citing all relevant details such as date, time, station, description of individuals/incident and contact details of any eyewitnesses, all of which will assist in applying successful disciplinary action.”

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