Teenage Graffiti Vandals in Melbourne are invading underground rail tunnels in record numbers, delaying trains and risking their lives to post photographs of their exploits on social media.Trespassing graffiti vandals were caught on the tracks more than 1000 times in just seven months last year and the spike in “railway roulette” comes as authorities warn they are seeing tunnel explorers maimed and killed, and widespread delays resulting for commuters; along with the problem of increasingly difficult graffiti removal.
The self-described “tunnel rats” and “urban explorers” are mocking police efforts to crack down on their illegal behaviour as they seek to increase their online popularity for spraying graffiti in Melbourne. One member of a crew of Melbourne graffiti vandals, who would not be named, said he engaged in the dangerous activity because he enjoyed the rush and the challenge of “outsmarting the cops.”
Rail authorities warn self-proclaimed “tunnel rats” are not just disrupting travel for thousands of commuters but risk their lives and limbs too.
As anti-graffiti protection and graffiti removal in Melbourne become immediate priorities for the network, the duration of the delays for commuters when these graffiti vandals enter the tunnels “can range from 15 minutes to an hour”.
“When this happens, trains run direct to Flinders St station, disrupting the travel plans of potentially thousands of customers. “There is never a safe time to be on the tracks or trespassing on the train network.” But the teenagers continue to thumb their noses at the concerns of the authorities.
The trespassers pick locks or use bolt-cutters to gain access to the City Loop tunnels, where they engage in their potentially fatal railway roulette.They have even stolen driver cabin keys and Metro uniforms to sneak into forbidden areas below ground.
Victoria Police Transit Safety Division Inspector Darren Cooper said the consequences were often grim. “We’ve seen deaths and horrific injuries as a result of this risky behaviour,” he said.
The tunnel trespassers are usually male, aged 15 to 20, and are cavalier about death or injury. The prospect of fines of up to 2 does little to deter the young offenders. One of the trespassers is a 17-year-old year 12 student who had a friend end up in a wheelchair after falling while running from a train.
But, despite that, he insisted: “It would take me getting my legs or an arm chopped off to stop doing this.” The terrified mother of one of the boys said she wanted harsher penalties for tunnel rats like her son, as she feared his “adrenalin addiction” might get him killed.“It breaks my heart.
It’s frightening. I wait every night to hear from the police to tell me, ‘Your son has been hit by a train’,” the Caroline Springs mother said. “I’m devastated by the fact that they are willing to give up their limbs for graffiti.
“They have their whole lives ahead of them. “What a waste. They get a slap across the wrist and a ‘Naughty boys, don’t do it again’, and then the cycle repeats.”
Figures from the Office of the National Railway Safety Regulator reveal 1166 incidents of trespassing on tracks in the seven months from June to December last year.
In June there were 141 reports of trespassers across Victoria, which jumped to 212 in December. In the Metro network, incidents of trespassing on City Loop tracks reflected a similar number when compared with previous years — reaching a peak late last year.