CityRail has updated their website with the delays on it, their cancelled and delayed trains page has a new look too. Therefore my script needed an update....
Last night when travelling home on the train, we got a message over the intercom saying that the train wouldn't go further than Kogarah because of a sick passenger. Eight carriages, two floors each, 50+ passengers per floor (nine rows of five passengers each, plus standing), that makes 800+ people who had to get out and being distributed over other trains.
When a car brakes down on the Sydney Harbour bridge, or in one of the many tunnels, you are supposed to stay in the car until somebody comes with a pickup truck which will get your car and you away from the bridge or tunnel so that the traffic can keep flowing and that it causes the least delay.
Of the 800 people, about 600 of them had to walk past the sick man, who was laying on the platform and surrounded by at small yellow fence (good idea) and four people with yellow and orange vests, which makes me believe that they were people who understood what was going on. On the way to the other platform I saw two ambulance medics with a stretcher coming down via a lift to the platform, so all went smooth from that side too.
The next two trains going in the direction I wanted to go to were already packed when they arrived at the station (remember this is peak hour) and even more packed when they left the station. When I finally got on the third train, about half an hour after we were told to leave the train, the abandonned train was still standing on the platform.
That really makes me wonder why the policy of Cityrail with regarding to injured passengers is to abandon the train and get everybody to change to, during peak hours, already packed trains. Getting the injured person of the train, in the capable hands of the station personel (oh oh, but Kogarah is a big station) so that the delay for the 800 other people is minimized. Also, he will be spared from the 800 people walking past him who, while he is laying inmobilized on the floor, silently blame him for the delay.
Customer Relations Unit
PO Box K349
Haymarket NSW 1238
159 Caringbah road
Caringbah NSW 2229
26 November 2008
Dear CityRail representative,
My name is Edwin Groothuis and since I've moved to Sydney in early 2002, I have always used the train as matter of transport for my travel to work. Over the years I must have spend some sixteen thousand dollars on weekly passes alone between Cronulla, Woolloware or Cronulla and the city or North Sydney, plus hundreds of dollars for travels in the weekends with the family.
I am an advocate of the train, I have defended the system against unfair attacks of colleagues or people on stations when a train has been delayed, I have signed petitions for the duplication of the Cronulla track, for the improvement of Woolloware station, against the closure of the CountryLink office at Cronulla station and for the planned cyclist-track between Sutherland station and Cronulla station. And for my daughter I got a CityRail bib (they were for free, but that didn't make it less special for me).
You won't hear me complain in the public about the quality and cleanliness of the trains (which is pretty good), about the time-table (which is pretty good too) or about the lack of space for people in the rush hours after Sutherland station (I just have started my day an hour earlier and escaped the rush). All with all I am pretty happy about this.
Yesterday in the train on my way home to Cronulla, just before Central station, I got a call from my wife panicing about an accident with her car and about my daughter of 14 months who had fallen over at the Strathfield bus exchange. Not really knowing what the real damage was, but knowing that letting her drive home would alone could be a very dangerous thing, I decided to change my destination to Strathfield to see what needing to be done.
Having only a weekly ticket between Cronulla and Leonards Point (for some reason there are no weekly tickets for between Caringbah and North Sydney), I decided to do what I normally do: Go to the gate, talk to the CityRail man or lady in blue about the unexpected detour I had to make and buy a single ticket for the distance which needed to be covered. I don't make a fuzz about the fact that the ticket I had could have, monetary-wise, gotten me all the way from the other side of Parramatta to my work, I normally just buy the ticket and be over with it. After all, I like the system and want to be fair with regarding to the services offered. And in the last seven years this was never a problem: "You are willing to pay? There is the counter!".
Yesterday however, I found a brown shirted transit officer on my path. After seeing me having talked to the CityRail lady at the gate and on my way to the counter, he asked me for my ticket. I showed him my weekly ticket, explained to him about the unexpected detour, that I talked to the CityRail lady and that the counter was my next stop. He didn't believe me, or didn't want to believe me, didn't want to talk to the CityRail lady and insisted that I should have left the station at Redfern, should have bought a new ticket and should have entered the station again. He wouldn't change his mind and didn't want to talk to the CityRail lady.
I could have lied to the CityRail lady that I just wanted to cross the station or I could have just pushed the gate open and let myself go through. These things happen in Strathfield station, and I hope that the people who do that get what they deserve. But I choose to be open and honest about what has happened and the CityRail representative at the gate had understanding about it, but the brown shirted transit officer clearly didn't. And so I ended up with a 200 dollar fine for being honest and for wanting to do the right thing.
I wasn't the drunk on the train who was aggressive towards other travelers, I wasn't the cigarette smoking girl, I wasn't in the loud group of teens drinking, I didn't damage the chairs, I didn't paint on the walls, I didn't have my feet on the seats and I didn't throw rubbish on the floor... I was on my way to pay for the ticket.
A false positive. A failure to make the railroad system safer. A bad stain on the shirt of the CityRail men and women. A miss out on the real issues the CityRail system has to deal with. And, worst of all, a slap in the face of one of your customers.
Two hundred dollars, that is five weekly tickets from my home to my work. That is sixty tickets to the beach for my daughter and me. That is sixteen trips to the city for my family. That is two hundred dollars of money I am not going to spend on CityRail services.
And that is why this behaviour of the brown shirted transit officer is so sad: It is CityRail which is going to miss out on it, it is the CityRail image damaged here. And for somebody who advocates the train system, that is a very sad thing. The fine is not going to change my behaviour towards being a better train-citizen, because I already have been doing that for the last seven years.
I hope that the brown shirted transit officers go back to the job they are supposed to do: Overseeing the train, helping the travelers, taking care of the people. Their current roles of standing at the gates of stations where they harass travelers who want to do the right thing is not what the CityRail needs.
Fine number 3014794045
Update: On the 15th of December I got a letter from CityRail / RailCorp saying that:
after a full review of all the circumstances of this matter, RailCorp has decided to withdraw the penalty notice and issue a caution on this occasion.Yay! I take Hanorah and Dirkie to the beach this weekend. By train!
The train is late, the train is cancelled, the train has been late, the train has been cancelled. Nobody looks it, and knowing it in advance is a major pro.
CityRail does provide this information at http://www.cityrail.info/latest_news/content.jsp, but it doesn't have a historical overview so you don't know if it is getting worse or that it is slowing down.
At http://www.mavetju.org/cityrail/delays/rss.php you can find an RSS feed with all issues, still active and finished, updated once every five minutes.
Note: Sometimes you see what might look like double entries in the overview. Most likely in this case is that the Posted date has been changed at the CityRail website.