“Safety is our priority,” says Robyn Franks, Business Transition and Support Specialist at NSW TrainLink. That’s why she was excited to be asked to lead a search for a safety device for crew on long-distance services. With some colleagues, she found one used in New Zealand called body-worn CCTV. They then took the idea and worked with local suppliers to develop the new personal safety cameras.

“The camera is so discrete and light weight,” says Robyn. It’s a tiny camera combined with a standard ID card that staff wear around their neck. It’s GPS tracked and can be activated if there is a dangerous situation.

If a staff member believes someone is potentially a threat, they simply press a duress button on the back of the card and it sends an alert to a monitoring centre. There, an operator can listen to the incident and coordinate the response required.

“It live streams audio, and if the monitoring centre believe there’s a risk, they alert the Police,” says Robyn. The camera can also record both audio and images, which can be used as evidence if required.

“99.9 per cent of passengers are wonderful, it’s the 0.1 per cent that take up 90 per cent of our time, making it really challenging for our staff and uncomfortable for other customers,” says Robyn.

Robyn speaks from personal experience having worked for 10 years on regional trains, and has herself been a victim of assault.

“Most of our train staff have been victims of abuse, whether verbal or physical,” says Robyn. “It’s everything from alcohol and
drugs to anti-social behaviour, including threats and violence.”

Passenger Service Supervisor, William Lark, reflects on a time where he used the device to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.

“There was a drug affected couple and they were progressively more belligerent as the train went on. I activated my camera and the Police came to escort the couple off the train,” says William.

The device was trialled in 2015 on 309 trips. Staff were given devices to wear and promotional posters were displayed to inform customers that personal safety cameras were in use on all regional services. As a result, there was a decline of reported incidents of anti-social behaviour on trains and everyone was excited to see that there were no assaults against staff for the month of October, which was a first for regional services.

“It’s been a great success!” beams Robyn. “We’re getting feedback from staff and customers that the personal safety camera is making them feel safer, and the stats are showing it’s having a real effect in reducing bad behaviour.” 

NSW TrainLink is the first transport body in Australia to use the technology. The device has won the Australasian Rail Industry
Safety Award and the Solutions Award at the 2015 Transport Cluster Awards. Over 30 staff are wearing the personal safety camera and there are plans to deliver 100 more before Christmas 2016 because of its success.

Meet more of our safety innovators. Read the other articles in this feature: