13 May 2010

Melbourne public transport

I attended a meeting at Melbourne University today and rather than take my car I decided, as I usually do, to catch a train to Melbourne Central and a tram to the University.

At a little after 8.00 am the train pulled into the station, the doors opened, and I was confronted by a wall of bodies. How, I wondered, am I going to get in here? No doubt the woman standing alongside me was wondering the same thing.  Miraculously, while we were wondering, a couple of people managed to haul themselves through the crush and emerge from the train, so we were able to board.

At Armadale a couple got off and a couple got on. At Toorak, a couple got off and about six got on, don’t ask me how.  By this stage there was a large number of people standing on the train without any possibility of holding on to anything, so if the train stopped suddenly they would all be thrown to the floor.

When the train stopped at a very crowded Hawksburn station, there were about eight people standing where our double doors opened. They didn’t even attempt to board the train. Nor did they look surprised, they all wore a look of dull resignation. This is their daily lot, clearly.

At South Yarra there was a major one for one exchange of passengers. A lot of people get off at South Yarra, but a lot of people get on. Some of them didn’t make it.

The same story at Richmond.  The woman with the child in a stroller didn’t make it of course, how would she fit the stroller into that crush? 

The unlamented former Minister for Public Transport, Lynne Kosky, was wont to say cheerfully that this crowding was a sign that the Government’s public transport policies were working (“everybody wants to catch the train”, presumably). I would take it as yet another sign that the public transport system is a shambles.  And the Government has the hide to bash up the new operator, Metro, for poor performance with on-time running. The process of loading and unloading such crowded trains is so desperately slow that trains cannot hope to run on time.

Two more comments:

-  Either the level of crowding is dangerous or the signs that say “Do not lean on the doors” are not required. We regularly see people forced by the crush against the doors which are not supposed to be leant on, with a considerable weight of bodies behind them.

-  If we were really serious about the threat of terrorism we would not present such juicy soft targets as railway carriages packed with people.  In Berlin, where the U-Bahn runs every couple of minutes, the carriages are lightly loaded, with a consequent reduction of the risk of a major casualty incident.

No comments: