Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunday Age

The Sunday Age has had the spotlight on Connex in a series of articles recently. There's an article that mentions the CW blog here - thanks Clay.

I've also added an FAQ/Background page on the CW website http://www.connexwhinger.com/faq.html

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil,

Your photo in The Age and the article about you is number 5 on the "most popular" list on The Age website. Congratulations.
Hopefully more people will read this blog and comment here about how Connex stuffs them around on an almost daily basis.
Not to mention the inpetitude of the Bracks government to do anything meaningful to a key area of the state they govern - rail infrastructure. Late, massively overbudget projects to produce wavy roof icons and 6 minute faster trains do not impress us. Track duplication to allow more services, better integration of the different modes of public transport, level crossing reduction, competent running of the system - these are the things Victoria desperately needs.

Sam

19 March, 2006 10:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,
Great to see that someone is working to deal with this situation :-).

Wish you all the best.

--Sid

19 March, 2006 17:42  
Blogger Sharon Carpenter said...

Phil - Well done and congratulations :-)

*sniff* I'm so proud.

19 March, 2006 19:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Whinger,

1 / If you read the published data carefully you would see that on time running is defined as no later than 6 minutes ie 5 minutes 59 seconds is still on time.

( The former Railways Department On Time Standard was 3 minutes prior to the VR Board and Mr Gibb's day. )

2 / The data is taken over all services from 0400 to 0100 next day, it excludes empty cars and some additional services and all additional Special trains, eg Footy Specials.

3 / It includes all cancelled trains including short cancellations.

4 / There is nothing Connex can do about the weather, vandalism, or non rail accidents that effect the railway service, or Police or Emergency Services requirements that effect the running of trains.

( The seriously ill passenger cannot be moved, and therefore the train cannot move until cleared by the Ambulance Service. )

5 / running a rail system, like any complex system, relies on a lot of people and systems to all work faultlessly together to achieve the desired result.

In my experience the staff try to achieve on time running and when something occurs ( or not ) efforts are made to overcome that difficaulty.

EG a train in service becomes defective and has to be taken out of service. The effect is that following trains are both delayed and are carrying a larger number of passengers.

Additionally, the defective train may mean that some of the services that the defective train is scheduled to run either run late or are cancelled.

To fill the gap left by the defective train requires the schedule of other in service trains to be altered to fill the gap, hence late running.

Under these circumstances there are two possibilities, alter train running to accomodate the problem or cancel all the train services scheduled for the now defective train.

Currently Connex does the first, would you prefer the second ?

6 / Some of the great travelling public cause delays by such actions as

a / insisting on boarding a train whilst passengers are trying to get off. Common sense and good manners would suggest that allowing people to detrain first would ensure a shorter station stop ( 20 seconds is allowed per station ) and improve on time running.

b / the small number of persons who readily convert a clean train to a pig sty, in the worst cases this does cause train delays and cancellations.

c / Vandalism which damages train equipmemt causing the train to be taken out of service.

Jamming the doors to let your mate on not only delays the train but has caused broken door mechanisms and cancelled trains.

d / Graffitti that obscures the drivers vision, or is obscene, or fills the passenger compartment with toxic fumes will all lead to cancelled trains.

e / Then we have the idiot fringe that rock the train and damage the windows, this will also lead to a cancelled train.

( After all, would you like to sit next to a damaged window which is rocked again and disintigrates all over you ? Perhaps causing you serious injury ? )

f / And let us not forget the person who walks in front of the train or decided that waiting for the train at the boom barriers is a waste of their valuable time.

When the train strikes those people nothing will run on the affected section for at least one to two hours in which case a lot of trains will be cancelled or terminated short and the passengers are then reliant on an emergency bus service.

Perhaps if some people were just a tad more considerate some of these delays would not occur, to the benefit of all of us.

Regards,

a very regular train traveller whose overseas experience was neither better nor worse than here.

19 March, 2006 21:29  
Blogger Connex Whinger said...

Thanks Anon

1/ Yes, ludicrous isn't it?

2/ Yes, ludicrous isn't it?

3/ Yes, ludicrous isn't it?

4/ Apart from the things mentioned in second para of question 4 of my FAQ that is

5/ Neither, I'd rather they undertook more maintenance (see above)

6/ Again, see 4/ above

19 March, 2006 21:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,

I saw your article in the Age today and thought I'd drop by your blog to say congrats. Like Sandringham, the Glen Waverley line has had way too many cancellations and delayed trains recently. However, those who bought a half-yearly or a yearly ticket for February are now generously entitled to one free daily ticket as compensation! Hurrah!

19 March, 2006 23:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the long winded anon. - the simple fact is the system didn't always be this bad, yet bad weather, ill passengers and all the other excuses you mention HAVE been with us since rail travel was introduced. Therefore , someone is dropping the ball at commuters expense and the blame is being passed from past rail operators, the government and the current rail operator and nothing is actually getting fixed.

Thanks,

Another very regular train traveller who has also travelled overseas and thinks that this city's rail infrastructure and running of the rail system is pretty poor for a supposed "world class" city.

20 March, 2006 08:58  
Blogger (post)libertarian said...

Read the Sunday Age article and thought I would drop in to say what a wonderful idea and keep up the good work!

As a daily commuter on the Hurstbridge line, I am constantly frustrated by the lack of parking at the train station, lack of timeliness in services, and shoddy state of the carriages that then turn up to service us. And they want MORE people to use these services!

20 March, 2006 10:27  
Blogger The Met said...

Anonymous with the long list.

Very well commented.

You've practically summed the nitty-gritty of it.

20 March, 2006 10:54  
Anonymous James said...

Hey
I read your artical in the age and i too are frustrated with the sandringham line (i get on at elsternwick) i have started to catch the tram some times and even thow i have to change trams to get to my school in chappel street sometimes i get there before my train!!!!!!!

Thanks
James

20 March, 2006 12:25  
Anonymous cooper said...

To 'the met' I just had a look at your website and I cant believe you can take your hand off it long enough to post in your blog. Maybe if you didnt get a tingle everytime you travelled you would be able to open your eyes to how bad connex actually are.

20 March, 2006 13:36  
Anonymous CW4Minister said...

What if a major supermarket chain introduced a system where all checkout cashiers were removed from supermarkets and you paid for your groceries by scanning them yourself and inserting the appropriate amount of money into a machine. Let's add another twist. They ask you to scan a card every time you go into one of their stores to assist with their "capacity planning". Then they blame customers for crowded stores and an increase in shoplifting and an inability to stock the products that people want to buy and introduce thuggish "inspectors" to patrol the stores to ensure that people are doing the right thing. They'd be laughed out of business.

It's interesting how posters who are Connex employees are exasperated with CW for pointing out the public transport system's (obvious) flaws, and have a tendency to blame customers for many of the faults in the service, rather than accepting that the system itself has serious problems.

CW accepts that things go wrong in public transport systems - equipment fails, trains are damaged by vandals and passengers get sick and this causes disruption for everyone depending on that train service. When things go wrong, the most important thing that people want to know is when they will be able to get to their destination. After something goes wrong it's reasonable to expect that there are people within the organisation who take steps to reduce the likelihood of it happening again, so that problems are occasional, not regular.

CW's year of observations have shown that Connex fails at both keeping passengers informed and fixing systemic problems. He doesn't blame people like drivers whose jobs are made harder by poor equipment and poor attitudes from other parts of Connex and the government. Public transport services in Melbourne have been better in the past, and I've seen much better public transport systems overseas. It needs the people in charge to take responsibility for the system and run it competently and transparently and invest money in the needed infrastructure to make the system reliable.

Maybe CW should run against Peter Batchelor at the next election?

20 March, 2006 15:56  
Blogger Connex Whinger said...

Thanks again for all the comments everybody. But especially thanks to cw4minister! I think that must be the most eloquent summary of what I have been trying to get across for the last (almost) year that I've ever read.

Absolutely spot on. I am blaming Bruce Hughes and the Victorian Government for failing miserably to provide us with a basic reliable service. The Connex employees who feel I'm attacking them could not be more wrong. They need to recognise they are being shafted by their own employer and many others are making them the brunt of their frustrations. If you're a Connex employee, don't just blindly follow the company line - ask questions, take the blinkers off and see if I'm right!

Phil

20 March, 2006 21:56  
Anonymous Adam said...

Anonymous,

Some of "the great travelling public" are actually great (said with no sarcasm). The people you refer to are an insignificant minority. If you think otherwise, get a new job (maybe not for your current employer - Connex or the Minister's office?).
I travel Connex and V/Line regularly. The issues raised on this website - late running, no explanation for delays/cancellations etc are endemic on regional V/Line services too. Only difference is I haven't, in all my extensive travelling, ever seen or heard of service disruptions being caused by any of the things you mentioned. Here are some blue ribbon examples:
-Train is at Southern Cross waiting to depart - service is delayed because the driver doesn't show up... (was he vandalised on the way to the platform?) This has happened a number of times.
-Driver shows up but there is no train (even the driver is at a loss to explain) Also a number of times
-Train is signalled into the path of oncoming train (this true - I was on it and heard the colorful language from the driver and got the explanation from the pale-faced conductor)
-train departs late because
another train arrives on the platform that is too big to allow any others to fit (darn that forward thinking)
-last week alone my morning service ran so late (5 out of 6 days) that it missed connecting bus services making me very late and forcing me to walk long distances (I'M AS MAD AS HELL etc )
I have many more like these.
Maybe one day, if you want, I'll tell you about the slo-mo-loco peformance art routine that was performed by bored looking Sunbury station staff one Friday afternoon...
An absolute classic.

21 March, 2006 00:04  
Anonymous Whinging Connex (Chris/The Met) said...

"To 'the met' I just had a look at your website and I cant believe you can take your hand off it long enough to post in your blog. Maybe if you didnt get a tingle everytime you travelled you would be able to open your eyes to how bad connex actually are. "

Hmm, yes, well, new blog

www.whingingconnex.blogspot.com

Centrino technology, it's amazing, but then again, im here to witness delays, i already know the problems, some people don't know why and jump to conclusions.


"It's interesting how posters who are Connex employees are exasperated with CW for pointing out the public transport system's (obvious) flaws, and have a tendency to blame customers for many of the faults in the service, rather than accepting that the system itself has serious problems."

Perhaps it is the customers fault, or generally SOME of the public (as ive mentioned elsewhere in this blog)

Perhaps you may look at my site, although newly started, i will set my priorities there.

I can admit the network has 'serious' problems. If you can, why can't people like you ACCEPT it also. "These serious problems" you speak of, then you can't possibly blame delay and cancellation purely on COnnex.


"After something goes wrong it's reasonable to expect that there are people within the organisation who take steps to reduce the likelihood of it happening again, so that problems are occasional, not regular

Well, sometimes it's not possible. I Have stated, and am not entirely concerned of re-typing it. I can't help the fact that some occurences are outside the reach of COnnex.

If someone chooses to neglect boom barrier or pedestrian gates, if some fatality happens, common sense doesn't prevail. It's strong disregard for 'the bigger picture' - IN THIS INSTANCE.

But in other cases, within the 'Connex' organisation, everyone AS AN INDUVIDUAL has to make the organisation AS A GROUP - WORK! Conne may be a large company/operator, but individual make it a company, and usually the acts of an induvidual can certainly effect 100's of people.

Which brings me to my next point; Bruce Hughes and Peter Batchelor. THEY themselves can't be blamed purely. they are as with Connex an induviduals, but in some ways induviduals who can make or brake a system (ill leave that for you to decide).

As for previous poster 'adam' there are a few.
- drivers speak to signallers not conductors, to direct trains to correct places.[Nor do you understand, perhaps it may appear you were directed infront of another train, it's not generally going to impact you, Trains can turn too!]
- no train departing train should be blocked. THERE IS AMPLE SPACE!, have you walked end to end of Southern Cross, i'm complaining that it's too long!

more detail?

Interestingly several trains I were on, were delayed, by some PASSENGERS who were in desperate need to board the train. This delayed the train by 10 minutes on average.

Would you prefer they get on board, causing inconvenience to you, or if you were them, and have missed the on-time train?

21 March, 2006 21:00  
Anonymous CW4Minister said...

Let's look at a specific problem cited in this blog - people who hold doors open. This is a simple problem compared to replacing signalling systems, training drivers or replacing Metrol's computers, but if the bigger problem of late trains is to be solved, this problem has to be solved.

First you have to question why people hold train doors open. Chances are, most of these people are *not* morons. They might be selfish, but they've probably weighed up the perceived risks of holding the door open against the benefits. They benefit because their mate gets to board the train. The next time they travel the favour might be returned. Not boarding means that they take longer to get to their destination possibly being late for some event, especially if next train is late, cancelled or so full that they can't get on it. Experience has taught them that the their immediate need will be satisfied, the risk of detection and punishment by Connex is negligible, other passengers wont intervene and the risk of injury is low.

So how do you solve the problem? It's important to recognise that all passengers, including door-holders are actually a part of the system, not separate to it and need to be treated as such. You need to change the system, not just look at the problem in isolation. I'd suggest that the problem is one of risk and reward; you need to change the system so that the risk outweighs the reward.

So what ideas can I come up with?

Public education: Batbygobstopl anyone? Public education doesn't change the risk/reward equation.

Rely on the travelling public: Responsible passengers also look at this in terms of risk and reward. There is a real risk of abuse and assault if they try to stop door-holders. Last week another passenger hit a woman in her 50’s after they were asked to take their feet off the seat so that she could sit down.

Make the driver responsible: Drivers already have enough responsibility. Increasing their stress levels by confronting unruly passengers is a distraction that risks the safety of all passengers.

Better transport security/policing: This not only stops people holding doors open, it stops people drinking alcohol, behaving offensively, acting violently, vandalising the train and travelling without a ticket. But it only works if there is a real risk that you will get caught. In the past there were station staff and guards who could detect and apprehend troublemakers. After privatisation these people have gone. Where policing exists the emphasis is on fare evasion. I'm not suggesting a return to fully staffed stations and a single guard on every train, but to me a lack of policing seems to be the root cause of the problem.

The current environment makes this solution seem too hard. It seems to me that there are fundamental cultural and logistical problems within the system that stop the reasonably simple problem of people holding doors open. Peter Batchelor and Dennis Hughes are ultimately responsible for the logistics and culture at Connex. If the culture of the organisation (as opposed to the individuals within it) isn't predisposed to fix these problems or the resources aren't provided, these two are the ones who must make change happen, or move on. Without that sort of change, our public transport system will not be as good as commuters need it to be.

Maybe CW is right. For the minister to really understand that there a big problems a Sydney-style no fare day is needed.

22 March, 2006 10:57  
Blogger The Met said...

I think it should be consumer/customer education. Not necassarily, but 'suggested' guidelines.

Driver's instead of having to deal with situations can perhaps place an occasional announcement over the PA about keeping doors clear, anmd passenger moving in.

BUT even if they request that doors kept clear, passengers can infringe on the request, as ive witnessed often.

Many things withion COnnex are stupid, i know, and minor changes can make the biggerst difference. Unfortunately, some people are stubborn.

22 March, 2006 18:54  

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