I was going to post a photo showing the ugly truth of working at home with no aircon when it’s 43.2 degrees outside and nobody else is home. But I think the world can be spared that.
Were they always this bad and nobody noticed before?
Firstly, note Connex’s explanation, with the main points being: tracks buckling (like happened yesterday), failing airconditioning on the Comeng fleet, power supply problems (which I would guess are made worse by the aircon taking more juice).
Taking that at face value, why is it so bad this summer?
I think there’s a combination of things here:
- This summer (and last summer) they’ve run a full timetable right through the holidays, which means there are less spare trains when some break down, and quite possibly less flexibility to do maintenance on the fleet.
- The timetable (since November 2008) now uses a higher proportion of the fleet than has previously been the case, meaning there are less spare trains if something goes wrong.
- Patronage growth in recent years means the effect of each cancellation is much more pronounced, and is subject to a lot more scrutiny.
- Obviously this week is a long hot spell, said to be the longest in 100 years, which has meant added pressure to fix problems.
- Tuesday 13th January was not only bad for heat and cancellations, but coincided with at least three line suspensions due to various other incidents — which probably helped get the media’s attention.
Not that any of this is excusable, of course. And it’s all fixable, and is the sort of thing that the government should have flagged they’d rectify in the Victorian Transport Plan, but didn’t. $38 billion may be spent, but we’ll still have these problems.
On the 13th there were at least 86 train cancellations. Yesterday, that record was beaten, with at least 115. Many of these were at peak hour, and to put it into perspective: a peak hour train carries about the same number of people as a single freeway lane does in half-an-hour. Cancelling just 8 trains is therefore the equivalent of fully closing the Westgate Bridge (in one direction) for an hour.
So the next time you see Premier Brumby on the TV, saying he understands your frustration at cancelled trains, and how they’ve got a Plan, you’ll know what a crock that is.
PS. 12:45pm. A problem at McKinnon made my trip into the city this morning a little more challenging than usual. The sight of a fire engine blocking the line at the next station is never good news. Reports are conflicting, but apparently a car driven by someone who doesn’t know how to deal with boom gates was involved. Further update to this here.