Saturday, June 04, 2005

Summary 30 May - 3 June

Here's the full story since I started keeping records. You know the scoring system by now, but if you don't, green, orange and red should give you a fair clue!

A few delays at the start of the week but it settled down for the second half. After nine weeks of stats we have 62% pretty much on time, 17% more than two minutes late and 21% cancelled or severely delayed.

Mon 04/04Tue 05/04Wed 06/04Thu 07/04Fri 08/04
Mon 11/04Tue 12/04Wed 13/04Thu 14/04Fri 15/04
Mon 18/04Tue 19/04Wed 20/04Thu 21/04Fri 22/04
Mon 25/04Tue 26/04Wed 27/04Thu 28/04Fri 29/04
Mon 02/05Tue 03/05Wed 04/05Thu 05/05Fri 06/05
Mon 09/05Tue 10/05Wed 11/05Thu 12/05Fri 13/05
Mon 16/05Tue 17/05Wed 18/05Thu 19/05Fri 20/05
Mon 23/05Tue 24/05Wed 25/05Thu 26/05Fri 27/05
Mon 30/05Tue 31/05Wed 01/06Thu 02/06Fri 03/06

Friday, June 03, 2005

Fri 3 June - Nice 'n' early...

05:40 today - just got to get everything done before I go on leave. Not many on the train this early, so the three-door advantage is probably not all that great! For anyone who missed it, a sidepiece on The Age article on Monday (below) listed the first two reasons for delays cited by Connex were having two doors on the new trains, rather than the standard three on the older trains, and the increased number of passengers in wheelchairs. Sure Bruce!

Thanks to The Age for use of this graphic - copyright is theirs, of course.

What's the story on the legendary 6:10?

Frequently, as this evening, the board at the entrance says the next two trains are the 6:10 and the 6:12. Get to platform 12 and it confirms the next train is the 6:10, while platform 13's monitor advises the next one there is the 6:12. Everybody obediently stands on platform 12 awaiting a non-existent train while 13 is empty.

Sure enough the 6:12 comes in on 13 and the sheep obligingly wander across to get aboard. But what is the reason for this ghost train? There's never been a 6:10 on the timetable since I've been using the Sandy line. I've never seen one run. So why do both the main information board and the monitors keep telling us there is one? And why do the passengers believe in it? Is this another of those quirky little things the controllers do to have fun at our expense?

Anyway, no idea what happened to the 6:10, but the 6:12 gets away within a minute or so of its scheduled time.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Thu 2 June - Back to normal...?

That was certainly an interesting 24 hours - thanks to everybody for your support. To those who sent me emails with a return address, I will try to get to them all - I'm fairly full on at work and have a big exam Monday too, so the spare time is very limited at present. But I do appreciate all the positive comments and I think we are right to hassle Connex, after all it is the public face of the suburban rail network.

I might be over-simplifying, but it seems the main criticism being levelled at me is that I don't understand the complexities of running a rail network. In a comment on yesterday's blog, somebody helpfully pointed to the Railpage forum to prove that I don't know what I'm talking about. Well thanks anonymous poster, but I already made it clear in my very first post that this blog was primarily about recording my experiences to see if they matched my perceptions (so far they do). I've added an extract to the profile section on the right, thanks for the idea D-word.

I don't think I ever claimed to have any expertise in any facet of running a railway network. However, I do have a pretty fair understanding of technology and I don't have to be Einstein to recognise that Connex is somewhat behind in its use of currently available technology and that the lack of same has to be a limiting factor in many areas of their operations. Their core computer systems are around 25-30 years old. Think about that - they pretty much predate the entire personal computing revolution! Your average PDA has more grunt than a 25-30yo PDP-11.

Any debates that I was involved in at Railpage were along the lines of me whingeing, somebody challenging me to suggest improvements, me suggesting improvements, then a whole load of people bagging me because I don't have a clue how to run a rail network! Well duh...

The other theme that our detractors are running with is that this is not all down to Connex - and I agree that is a valid point. But Connex is running the front end. If their back end is failing them then surely they have sufficient knowledge to understand the specifics and sufficient clout to change things that are impacting their service delivery? In which case they are certainly the right people to target with our complaints.

This blog was never intended to become a debating ground, I'll be going back to Railpage for that when I get some free time back into my life. So I'll be refraining from further comments on the various feedback received after this. But I would like to close this side of things with a correction. Never have I berated Connex staff, nor have I ever advocated anybody else doing so. Question them, challenge their apathy, don't accept the ridiculous bureaucracy, such as not allowing any superfluous comments on their complaint forms, but don't lose your temper and don't berate the staff, it's not their fault that Bruce Hughes is not competent to run a rail network!

On the 06:59 again today... by choice. It's just about on time too, obviously the lack of a third door in each carriage is no impediment to progress this morning.

Home on the 18:24. That third door ensures that we get home on time.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Wed 1 June - The Age again...

The Connex Whinger story finally made it to the mainstream media. There was a chance that they were going to take my photo, but I think the one they used is certainly more apt. Here's the article.

And can I just say this to all you "get a life" people... I have a pretty full life, thanks. I spend a few minutes writing my blog on the way in every morning and probably five minutes at night. Creating the weekend stats takes me all of ten minutes. That's it!

Go to show the story to the blokes on the platform and it's not there! The story must've missed the print deadline. Oh well.

The 07:14 gets in to Ripponlea on time but we wait for several minutes in the yards at Flinders Street. For once there's an announcement from the driver - we're waiting for a platform to clear. Interestingly a Lilydale train is the only one to come out, how did that go from 12 or 13? And since it could only be occupying one platform, why couldn't we use the other? Perhaps the PDP-11s took that long to calculate the best alternative strategy.

Well, a big day for the Connex Whinger blog - quite a few comments here, as well as a few on the website, not to mention in the office. Seems at least one person disagrees with our right to complain, your choice mate.

I don't really understand this sort of reaction though. Why are people trying so hard to invalidate others' perceptions and experiences? Beats me. My comments, as well as most of those here, are simply reflecting a level of dissatisfaction with a service that we pay for. I've no doubt there's 101 perfectly reasonable explanations for all these delays, including Connex' top two of insufficient doors and their rather disingenuous attempt at blaming it on wheelchair-bound passengers. Whatever the reasons, and no matter how truthful they are, it doesn't change the fact that we've had a gutful and we want the suburban rail network fixed - especially the Sandy line.

All that said, the 18:12 is on time!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Tue 31 May - Rail infrastructure...

"The ticket validator is working again now."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, they've just been out and fixed it."
"Well it just gave me a 'retry', while the other one worked fine."

That scene is probably being played many other times around Melbourne and it is a good illustration of one of the major problems faced by Connex and the state government - the infrastructure is getting old and they seem unwilling to spend the money required to upgrade it.

Flimsy cards with magnetic stripes on them were not a great option in the first place, now they seem dated and unreliable. Maybe they're hooked up to the PDP-11s too? Anyway, I'm sure Batchelor has a plan to fix this problem along with all his other upgrade plans for the ailing rail network. Or is all that not his responsibility either?

Oh and the 07:14 is a few minutes late.

We seem to be in slightly behind mode this week. Again the 17:49 is not there at 17:49 but arrives shortly thereafter and again it leaves a few minutes late.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Mon 30 May - In The Age today...

Finalising some budget work and a few other things this morning means no chance of getting the 07:14. I have ended up on the 08:39, which is a couple of minutes late.

The Connex problems, especially with the Sandringham line, made it into The Age today (click here and here for the articles). Interesting to see the independent confirmation that the Sandy line is the worst and that it has significantly deteriorated since Connex took over a year ago. And all the excuses why they can't solve these problems are a real worry. The comment was made that the system is pretty much at capacity, so I'd like to see their plans for Melbourne 2030. Wonder if the PDP-11s will still be running in another 25 years, they've already gone that long!

Going for the 17:49... as is often the case, we're here and it's not. It shows up shortly after its scheduled departure time and we depart a few minutes late.