“Buffer Riding” in Sydney Being Driven Down Under

Leonid Andronov / shutterstock.com
Leonid Andronov / shutterstock.com

Train hopping has been a thing ever since tracks were first laid. People have always tried to save a buck, and that was a great way to get around and not drain your pockets. For officials in Sydney, Australia though, this has become a massive problem.

With the innovation of faster and faster trains, the practice of “buffer riding” or riding on the buffer platform between cars that is open at the ends of the cars has become increasingly more dangerous. While bullet trains are sealed off, the short-line “commuter” rails are left open and are built for convenience, not security. People have easily hopped on the ends of these trains and clung on as they flew down the tracks going just under 70mph.

With the country already reporting a 13% spike since 2021, many Australians are fed up with the practice. While there are various reasons for the increase, many are quick to blame the massive increase in school holidays following COVID.

Sydney Trains Chief Executive Matt Longland spoke with 9 News in Australia about the problem, and the role CCTV plays in preventing more incidents. “We want to warn them that this is an extremely dangerous and stupid thing to do; all it takes is one misstep and your life could be over. One mistake could destroy not only your own life but also cause untold heartache and grief to your family and friends as well.”

He continued, “All too often we see lives lost by people trespassing in the live rail corridor. It only takes a train accelerating or braking quickly, or for it to move close to infrastructure for someone to be knocked onto the tracks. If the fall itself doesn’t kill you, the next train coming along probably will.”

According to Sydney Trains, they have had multiple people die already in 2023, and a total of 11 have died in the last five years. NSW Police’s North Central Police Transport Commander, Superintendent Cath Bradbury cautioned that the risks of such a ride “should not be underestimated.” With Bradbury also pointing out the involvement of the Police Transport command and the use of CCTV in catching offenders, both Sydney and Australia are dedicating enormous resources to this endeavor.

When caught, these hooligans could face significant fines. Categorized as “trespassing in rail corridors,” the fines can easily go over $550 Australian, or just under $375 in American cash. If this happens on the Sydney Trains network, that figure can climb to $5500 Dollarydoos or $3,735 USD for trespassing. These kinds of fines should detract people, but with the lack of officers stationed on platforms, it has been difficult to stop.

This is a problem the US has tangoed with extensively in the past. While NYC largely prevented this problem with longer trains and shorter platforms, other cities like San Francisco took longer to adapt to prevent this practice. From ledge-less platforms to bumps making sitting or prolonged standing incredibly uncomfortable, train engineers have spent countless hours trying to solve this problem once and for all.