Ever noticed how crowded the trains are on the weekend on the busy lines since the footy finished? I don’t mean on race days, I mean on “normal” weekends. People are not just having to stand, but sometimes it’s a struggle to fit aboard, because they’re running short 3-carriage trains.
And it’s been getting worse, as petrol prices have got more people travelling by train (up 11% in the past year). In one recent extreme case, short trains were left to cope with a crowd of 33,000 people attending a weekend soccer game.
Of course it’s almost understandable that peak hour trains are packed, when (just about) every train is six carriages, and all of the serviceable fleet is in action. But on weekends, when most of the fleet is sitting doing nothing, it’s inexcusable. The government and Connex both claim to want to get new customers onto the train… but anybody trying it out and experiencing these kinds of conditions will go back to their car and never come back.
Connex is just trying to cut costs (mostly maintenance) — they’ve admitted so themselves. Apparently the lure of 40% of any additional revenue earned isn’t enough for them. If the privatised system worked, the government would take one look at the problem and order them to put on more carriages. But no.
The problem has been largely unnoticed, out of the public eye. The weekend before we went to Sydney, on Sunday morning, I got some video footage organised. A few days later I gave the footage to a contact at Channel 7. That night:
Once again, the pictures make the story. After years of being fobbed off, Connex now say they are reviewing the situation. I’ve told them I’ll organise a followup story if they don’t fix it. Anybody want to put money on what happens next?
(Ran into the reporter last weekend. He gave me some useful filming tips for next time…)