Hostage to the public transport system

It has only been six months since we moved here in Melbourne but everytime I have to catch a train, it feels like it has been years. I already have numerous anecdotes to share about the unreliability of the public transport that it’s no longer funny.

One particularly frustrating experience happened last week. We woke up earlier than usual and thought we’d better report for work early so we could come home earlier (Our company allows flexi-time as long as you work 8 hours and stay in the office for the core hours of 10am-4pm). Anyway, we quickly dressed and ate breakfast and headed to the station to catch the 8:40 train to the city.

Upon arriving at the platform, there was a hand-written sign informing us that the 8:40 train would not run because of the train was defective. We went to the platform to wait for the next train, which was supposed to arrive 10 minutes later. Eight minutes into waiting, a recorded voice boomed in the loudspeaker, “The 8:50 train has been delayed and is expected to arrive in 5 minutes!” Okay, what’s five more minutes, right? Two minutes after that annoucement, another one came, “The 8:50 train has been delayed and is now expected to arrive in 10 minutes!” What?!?! That train has been so delayed, it’s now running at the same time as the 9:00 one!

9:00 came and went and still no train. Meanwhile, the platform’s becoming crowded as more and more people arrived. At 9:02, the train finally arrived. However, as there has been no trains since 8:30, this one is packed like a can of sardines and we had to squeeze in to get on. Who knows when the next train would arrive? We’d rather not risk waiting for it.

Now, that’s just one instance. Over the past months, I’ve experienced the following as well:

  • Delayed or cancelled trains.
  • Trains that don’t have enough carriages so passengers are packed in tightly (bags, bikes, dogs and all).
  • Defective trains. There was this one instance when I had to change trains thrice in one trip. The first two trains I had would run for a couple of stations until the drivers announce that the train is defective and that we have to get off at the next station to wait for the next one.
  • Platform assignments changing at the last minute. For example, our train usually stops at platform 8 so most times we just check the board to confirm this before heading to the platform. However, depending on how early or late you got to the platform, you may or may not hear the announcement that the train would now be taking passengers on platform 13. If you heard the announcement with time to spare, you’d be lucky to catch the train waiting at platform 13 after rushing up a flight of stairs, running to the opening of the right platform, going down several steps and squeezing yourself in through the closing doors. If not, tough luck, you may just see the train pulling out of the station after all the rush and now have to go back to platform 8 to wait for the next one.
  • Wrong recordings being played inside the train. The voice recordings announcing the next stop may be more trouble than it’s worth when it is announcing stops that the train has already passed or worse, give you an instant panic attack when it start to announce unfamiliar stops that are in a different line altogether.

Despite the poor service, fares have been increased at the beginning of the year, adding to the woes of the ordinary commuter. In MX’s (free daily newspaper) Vent your spleen section, readers usually express their frustration on the lack of good train service. Guess who sent MX a SMS message to let out her frustration?

Page 14 of yesterday’s MX. See if you could read the second to the last entry in the Vent your spleen section.

Guess who vented her spleen?

Anyway, all this may lead you to think, what alternatives are there? Well, you could take the tram (which is just as bad with its delays and no-shows), bus (limited routes) or perhaps, drive your car to the city (too expensive parking rates at $8 per hour or $35 maximum per day). Until Connex improves its service, hapless commuters like me just have to grin and bear it and hope that next time Connex gets it right and finally delivers the service they’ve promised to give.

Published in: on February 11, 2005 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment