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Concern summary

Safety concern regarding access and egress issues due to the high number of bicycles permitted on railcars.

Reporter's deidentified concern

The reporter is concerned for the safety of staff and passengers on [Operator] trains operating between [location A] Railway Station to [B] or [C] Railway Stations. Access and egress issues are a safety concern due to the high number of bicycles [Operator] are allowing on each railcar. It is reported that up to 60 bicycles have been permitted on a 2 railcar train with normal provision for up to 4 bicycles per railcar. Bicycles are blocking access and egress within the saloon of the railcar as well as being a tripping or projectile hazard. The bicycles also present a slipping hazard in wet weather due to mud and water from the bicycles.

The reporter advises that the concern has been raised previously with the operator, however the issue has not been adequately addressed. [Operator] solution to roster a staff member on some but not all services to monitor and assist with the loading and storage of bicycles onboard has not been effective. Staff members have been advised to load the train until full (Operator have not provided staff with a maximum number of bicycles allowed). When the train is full, and staff attempt to stop further loading, they can often be subjected to abuse and threats by bicycle riders, therefore staff are reluctant to prevent access. Passengers are not willing to wait until the next train for space and are boarding against the direction of staff.

The reporter queries what measures have been implemented to mitigate the obstruction and projectile hazards in the event of an emergency stop or derailment. Is the carriage of so many bikes consistent with SMS policy?

Named party's response

The issue of bicycle numbers on the [Location B] Line train service is an inherited and known issue with the risk controls in place by [previous operator] continuing when [Operator] took over the operation. For many years a downhill bike track has existed between [B] and [A]. There are various tracks in the area both official and unofficial that attract significant numbers of participants and utilise the passenger metropolitan railway to service their relocation from the downhill track to the top. Early in 2021 this risk was further reviewed with additional controls put in place which are outlined further in this response.

As stated in official Working Timetable documentation, [model number] railcars have dedicated space for bicycles to be secured. The space is at the A end of the railcar with signage on the outside advising passengers which door to use that leads to the space for four bicycles. This space is the opposite end to allocated space for people who use mobility equipment. Under the direction, more than 4 bikes may be permitted onboard if Rail Traffic Crew determine that there is sufficient space available on the train. While bikes are allowed to travel on board services, there are strict conditions that [Operator] continues to enforce by committing resources to the monitoring and behavioural management of the groups that utilise the bike trails along the [A] Line.

Both additional Passenger Service Assistants and security resources have been deployed during peak times (weekends and during school holidays) at identified 'hot spot' stations to monitor the loading of trail bikes and to provide further support in the safe boarding of all passengers. While the legacy rule of four bikes per carriage remains in place, staff have been empowered to apply this rule on a discretionary, case-by-case basis depending on the real-time situation and passenger safety at the location. As per our Safety Policy staff are also inducted to be actively responsible for the health and safety of themselves and others. All staff working across the network are trained to ensure that passengers are safe within the rail environment and are expected to monitor the boarding and alighting of all passengers as part of their regular duties.

[Operator] continues to explore longer-term bike carrying solutions, maintaining close dialogue with the State Government, and are currently engaged in an independent SFAIRP assessment associated with the increase in bikes. We remain committed to assessing recommendations that result and will continue to work closely with the State Government to drive solutions that maintain our ongoing focus on the safety of our people and passengers.

Regulator's response

ONRSR confirms it received ATSB REPCON report number RR2022-00011 regarding excessive bikes creating an obstruction and trip hazard for train passengers on a suburban line in [location]. ONRSR has reviewed the reporter’s concerns and operator’s response. ONRSR will undertake an unannounced site visit to assess the situation and will also liaise with the operator to review the SFAIRP assessment noted in the operator’s response.

ATSB comment

Acknowledging the safety action already taken by the Operator, these measures have not solved the problem and the safety hazard remains. An update provided by the reporter indicates that an excessive number of bikes continue to be carried on these particular services and their presence creates an ongoing hazard to carriage occupants. Despite the problem persisting, it appears that the Operator has made an attempt to manage the situation by allocating human resources at the appropriate times. Additionally, the train staff have been given the authority to exercise discretion regarding the carriage of bikes in excess of the maximum number permitted in the allocated storage areas per carriage. It is reasonable to expect the staff to discharge their duties in accordance with company directives and safety management policy. Extra measures that are required to ensure the safety of the staff and passengers are the responsibility of the operator.