'Not good enough': Officer slams lack of light rail incident training

Frontline firefighters are yet to receive practical training to deal with light rail incidents, according to a frustrated ACT Fire and Rescue officer who says it is "not good enough" when firefighters are already responding to emergencies involving trams.

The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said two incidents last Saturday morning were proof that while the light rail network was not yet taking passengers, the potential for death or serious injury was there.

Emergency services at the scene of a collision involving a tram and a pedestrian at the intersection of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive on March 9. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Emergency services at the scene of a collision involving a tram and a pedestrian at the intersection of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive on March 9. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

In one of the incidents, a man was injured after being hit by a tram when he stepped in front of it at the intersection of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive with headphones in and against a red signal.

While an Emergency Services Agency spokeswoman said firefighters had "undertaken extensive training" in Mitchell every Friday afternoon since November last year, the officer who spoke to the Sunday Canberra Times said the training was "very, very limited".

The officer said frontline firefighters had simply watched a PowerPoint presentation and been given awareness training where they were shown a light rail vehicle and given instructions on how to carry out certain tasks.

"It's not good enough," the officer said.

"[Practical training] should have all happened before these things started running up and down Northbourne."

The officer said only a small group of instructors, who would carry out drills with frontline firefighters later in March, had so far used the specialist technical rescue equipment purchased by ACT Fire and Rescue to deal with light rail incidents.

"[During the awareness training], they pointed out the lifting points, but the frontline firefighters haven't had [training with] the equipment yet to get someone out from underneath a tram," the officer said.

"Pretty soon, we're going to have to pull someone out from under one of these things and we'd just have to figure it out.

"When we get the call, we just have to go. We'll always go. We can't just say, 'Look, we'd like to be a little bit more familiar with this first'."

A paramedic, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the only light rail incident training they had received so far was a PowerPoint presentation, but they said they were unable to say whether that was true for all paramedics.

An Emergency Services Agency spokeswoman said ACT Ambulance Service personnel had been "provided with briefing and educational opportunities around the operational functions of the light rail".

She also said all firefighters were trained to deal with light rail incidents.

"ACT Fire and Rescue and ACT Ambulance Service are undertaking major light rail training activities and exercises, including simulating collations [sic] and carriage fires," the spokeswoman said.

But United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville said the wording of that statement was misleading because practical drills were not happening until March 26 and 29.

"The training that has been done is so skinny," he said.

"It is a concern that people are on scene dealing with a real-life incident and having to piece together a response."

Mr McConville, who was recently elected national president of the union, said while Canberra's trams were not taking passengers yet, last weekend's incidents showed there was already a risk to the public.

"The number of people hit by light rail vehicles already exceeds the number of people transported by light rail vehicles," he said.

Mr McConville's comments come as the union's ACT branch prepares to start industrial action as part of a dispute with the Emergency Services Agency over employment conditions.

Mr McConville said members had approved industrial action, with 94 per cent of ACT firefighters who voted in a ballot on the issue voting in favour of the measure. Of those eligible to vote, 73 per cent took part.

He said the union expected to provide the minimum three days' notice to commence industrial action after a members' meeting on Thursday night.