The driver I got during last Monday week’s afternoon mess on the Dandenong and Frankston lines was jovial, frank, and informative. I’m paraphrasing here:

“There’s another train broken down at Southern Cross, so we’re being changed to run directly to Richmond… as soon as I can get to the other end of the train.”

(After an automated announcement) “Our robotic friend is a little lost. We’re actually approaching Richmond.”

“Your attention please. This train is running late. … (impeccably-timed comic pause for inevitable passenger laughter) … We’re express to Caulfield, and then express to Cheltenham and then all stations to Frankston. If you want other stations you’ll need to change at Caulfield.”

Good stuff. This is what people want.

Not so informative

The 6:12 train to Frankston is undefined

Hmm. Right.

(Mind you, that’s only happened once. Overall the SMS updates are pretty good, and I don’t understand why all regular passengers don’t use the service.)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “Informative”

I stopped using the service this week. Regardless of how I set it up, it never managed to tell me the status of the trains I catch, usually giving me information about earlier trains in the evening and later trains in the morning, even when my trains were cancelled. And it appears to be deliberately designed not to inform the user when a train is late. Every train on a line could be running 20 minutes late and no SMS messages would be sent. And I received no messages on the hot days when the train system failed completely. It’s largely useless and that, I expect, is why so many people ignore it.

I have found the SMS alerts on the Frankston line pretty good with the added bonus of getting SMS’s about trains that express through my stop. But I can live with that (complained to Connex and got a lovely written explanation).

A few weeks ago I was on a stopping all sitting at Caulfield Platform 3 and we’d been there a few minutes. Another Franskton train was on Platform 2. There was a station announcement that the train on Plat 2 was a stopping all and the train on Plat 3 was an express. So a whole bunch of people grabbed all their stuff and switched, but in the meantime, the driver of our train is informing us that we are indeed a stopping all. A few mins later, the same announcement over the platform, some more people swap and the driver again insists we will stop all stations. Another minute later, the station announcer finally concedes his mistake, announces that Plat 2 is the express and Plat 3 is the stopping all. People start running to swap back but the doors beep and we take off with a heap of people left between the trains on the platform. Classic.

My experiences with the SMS suggest it is unreliable. I rarely receive notifications despite my train or prior trains being cancelled. Alternatively I get a SMS a minute or two before the train is due, usually while I’m on the platform waiting for it.

Philip/Tim, that’s interesting. I did have to very carefully check my settings to ensure it knew the right trains to alert me about. It’s also annoying that it only works (the last time I looked) in 45 minute blocks. But since setting it up it’s been pretty good for me.

It does have a problem with trains leaving the city; often they don’t officially cancel a train until the last minute, by which point even if you get the text straight away, you may well be already waiting at the platform.

Liz, getting alerts about express trains not running can actually be useful, as at peak times it probably means the following stopper (which you might catch) will be packed.

Daniel, that would be true for morning peak, but I only get the extra SMS’s in the evening peak. And cos I get on at Southern Cross, it is never an issue.

reminds me of the on-train display I saw the other day:

“Change here for Undefined StationID [1], Undefined StationID [2] etc. trains” :-)

It was my first morning peak train in a couple of months – only had to watch one full train go past my station….

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