The trouble with Connex

When I posted a blog last Wednesday regarding Connex’s troubles with cable thieves, we didn’t expect any trouble in the Werribee line as we’re getting home. Connex was, after all, promising passengers affected by the thievery that services would be back to normal. What could possibly go wrong with the other lines which didn’t experience any disruptions that morning?

We got to Flinders Street station about 10 minutes before the next train to Werribee was scheduled to arrive. Then, about 3 minutes before it was to arrive, an announcement was made through the public speaker system. There would be no trains to Werribee and passengers were advised to take the Sydenham train instead and get off at Footscray station where people could take connecting buses.

The first sign of trouble was when the 6.14 train to Sydenham arrived, it was immediately packed and one passenger commented later that it was idiotic to have that train go around the city loop when nobody else could get on anyway. Our sardine can of a train arrived at Footscray at 6.28 and the number of people who got off were quite overwhelming. An announcement greeted us and directed us to platform 4 where the buses were supposed to be waiting.

When we got to the bus stop, there were two Connex staff waiting with a group of passengers. One Connex personnel addressed the crowd, saying that there was an “overhead” problem in Yarraville and that there would be connecting buses to pick up the waiting passengers shortly. He also mentioned that there were 13 buses servicing the temporary route.

Fifteen minutes into the wait, a bus rolled down the street and everyone rushed to the doors. The Connex guy yelled that the bus would be going to Williamstown and that the next one would be heading for Laverton. Williamstown?!? All this while we thought that the people stuck there with us were all users of the Werribee line as well, that was the first we’ve heard that the buses were also meant to service people going to Williamstown. Those 13 buses supposedly servicing our route have now been halved and there’s no mention of when the next Laverton bus would be arriving.

Half an hour into waiting, a Laverton bus finally arrived. Although I got on this time, hubby didn’t because a Connex man was preventing him from boarding the bus even though was clearly still room for one more passenger. By this time, we were contemplating taking a cab home even if it’ll probably cost us an arm and a leg. No such luck as people around us were discussing the lack of taxis around the area and people had to resort to calling the taxi company to send some. The taxis weren’t coming fast enough though (2 cars in a span of 15 minutes) and when they do, people were only too glad to share if they’re heading in the same direction. Unfortunately, nobody with a taxi was headed for Werribee. We had to wait for the next bus.

By this time, another train was coming in and was offloading another batch of passengers. People who came in with us in the earlier train were now getting angry, saying that 13 buses aren’t enough and what were they thinking, not providing more? A channel Seven cameraman captured all the complaints and the sheepish looks of the Connex staff nearby.

After an hour of waiting, another bus bound for Laverton finally came. This time, we elbowed our way in, just like everybody else was doing. We were now getting hungry, tired and desperate. We got on and even got seats. The bus deposited us to the Laverton station where we were again told to wait 10 minutes for the next train to Werribee. The train arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule. Thinking our luck was finally turning, we breathed a sigh of relief.

That turned out to be a bit premature as our slowly moving train ground to a halt and let an empty train overtake it. Exasperated, one of the passengers commented that maybe because we’re already late anyway, what’s a few minutes more of waiting? Weary laughter greeted the observation, everyone just wanted to get home at this point.

After a couple more minutes, the train we were on finally moved and arrived at Werribee station without further incident at a little past eight. Since the last bus left at half past seven, we had no choice but to walk home. We got home at 8.35, way later than usual. No thanks to Connex.

Melbourne’s public transport system is good if and when it works. The trouble is, the system has no backup whatsoever. Unlike in the inner city where people could take trams or buses to get to their destination when the train system breaks, there is no such alternative to us living in the outer suburbs. As an experiment, we tried searching the Connex website for an alternate way to get home from work without using the train. The recommended route could only take us as far as Laverton station, assuming we wanted to get home on the same day (as opposed to waiting for the public transport to start again the next day). Once in Laverton, we could presumably take a taxi home.

There had been a lot of complaints lately with Connex not being able to stick to their timetables, cancelling trips and giving public transport users no other alternative than to use their cars to get to and from their destinations. With the rising petrol prices and increasing awareness of greenhouse gas emissions, Connex certainly could do with an upgrade and better service. And don’t tell me they don’t have the money either, they should just scrap those silly ads about passengers holding the trains back and put those advertising dollars to better use.

Published in: on November 27, 2006 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment