- Published on Monday, 05 June 2006 13:58
Fix the TRAINS
Sydenham line passengers have ‘had enough’.
Most over-crowded train service - Shortest zone one – worst timetables – too many cancellations
The State Government's transport strategy fails the West.
On Wednesday 17 May 2006, the State Government released their long-awaited transport strategy: Meeting our Transport Challenges. The big loser in all of this is the Sydenham train line. Once again, the State Government has shown that it doesn’t pay to live in a safe Labor seat.
Despite the abysmal train services that Sydenham line commuters have to put up with every day – the most over crowded trains in all of Victoria - what has the government promised? Just two additional train services per day, that’s all. One in the morning, and one in the evening. That's it for the next 10 years! Two additional services will hardly make a difference to our problems. What’s more, the new service won’t take effect until October.
The cynical amongst us will ask, has the government picked October to get maximum impact at the November election? We need the services now! Why do we have to put up with over-crowding? Two additional services are not enough. Trains should come every ten minutes during peak periods, rather than every twenty minutes as they do now.
Most of the money set aside for rail improvements is going to the Dandenong line, which winds its way through at least one marginal seat. Despite a number of deaths on Sydenham line level crossings, an upgrade of these crossings is not a priority in the Government strategy.
Worst trains in Melbourne
There's a common story out here in the West. It's a story of ongoing neglect and the failure of our elected officials to truly represent the interests of our community. Why is it that everywhere you look, there’s another chapter to this sorry story. Take public transport, for example. The Age newspaper, which is doing a marvelous job highlighting the inequities we experience in the West, had a feature story on public transport on 9 October 2005. The story was titled: The train strain: network fit to bust. It was based on a Department of Infrastructure report, obtained by the Age through Freedom of Information. This report highlights that the Western suburbs are neglected when it comes to public transport. While train services are regarded as bad right through Melbourne, the really sad part is that if you live in the West, you are forced to live with the worst train services in Melbourne.
The story in the Age indicates that four out of the five worst train services (including the most over-crowded in peak hour) are in the West. The Sydenham, Melton, Williamstown, and Werribee lines are all in bad need of additional services. Broadmeadows was the other line that made up the 5 worst. It’s interesting that the worst train services in all of Melbourne fall within areas that represent the safest Labor seats in all of Victoria. And a Labor government has been in power for two terms.
The Sydenham Line
Many in our community use the Sydenham line to go to work, school, and basically just to get around. If you regularly catch trains on this line, unfortunately you are part of the unlucky group of people who experience the worst train services in all of Melbourne.
If you catch trains during peak hour, chances are you never get a seat on the way in to the city. If you board at Sunshine, you have no hope of getting a seat, despite being more than 10 kilometres, and 7 stops from the city. If you board at the previous station, Albion, you’ll have to compete for a seat – only the most quick and resourceful get a seat at Albion.
These everyday experiences were highlighted in another story by the Age on 5 November 2005. A reporter wrote about her experience in getting from Caroline Springs to Flinders Street. This included taking a bus to Albion station, and then a train to Flinders Street. When the reporter boarded at Albion (on an early morning service), the train was very crowded and there were hardly any seats available (don’t forget Albion is still a long way from the city, at least 8 stations).
Coming back from the city in peak hour is just as bad. If you board at Flinders Street, before the train goes through the loop, you should be able to fight your way to a seat. If you are pushy enough, you might even get a seat at Parliament, but forget it after that. People boarding at Melbourne Central or Flagstaff have resigned themselves to going without a seat long ago. In fact, their bigger concern is getting on the train at all. By this stage of the trip the train is like a cattle train, and some people can't get on at all. They’re the ones left on the platform, some speaking into mobile phones trying to organise alternatives, some crying with frustration.
Zone 1 on the Sydenham Line
To add insult to injury, as well as putting up with the most abysmal train services on the Sydenham line, Zone 1 fares only apply up to Albion station. In comparison to other lines this is particularly short. Another example of paying more for less.
Passenger Limits Breached
In a front page story on 4 January 2006, the Age newspaper reported that overcrowding on Melbourne’s trains had dramatically worsened, resulting in breaches of passenger limits. “According to the franchise agreement under which Connex runs the system, a six carriage train should carry a maximum of 798 passengers.” The story goes on to report “on four lines - Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Pakenham and Sydenham, the average number of passengers per train during the peak hour is above the limit.”
The story singles out only one line as particularly bad. And which line do you think that is? Yes, the Sydenham line of course! Threading its way through some of the safest Labor seats in all of Victoria, the Sydenham line is a real cattle line. Between 7.30am and 8.30am when the agreed limits are set at 798 passengers for a six carriage train, an extra 150 people, on average, are cramming in on their very uncomfortable, daily journey to work.
Some opinions on the State Government's Transport Plan
Most opinions on the Government's Transport Plan have not been kind:
“Offering excuses for doing nothing”, “nobody is in charge”. Paul Mees, Melbourne University
“...has failed hard-working Victorians” Terry Mulder Shadow Transport Minister
“fairy floss wrapped around the decision to funnel more traffic onto CityLink” Kenneth Davidson, journalist
“This statement has missed a golden opportunity” Environment Victoria
“[the Transport Minister] has botched his portfolio and must now resign.” Public Transport Users Association
What can you do?
There is a lot you can do to help solve this problem. If everybody does their little bit we can fix things together. Firstly, you should contact your local Member of Parliament. They have been elected to represent you and by allowing his problem to continue, they are not properly representing your interests. So they need to know that you are not happy with them and that you expect something to be done about it. Details for contacting your local MP are contained in the highlighted box. You can also join in the discussion about the Sydenham line on this website.
Tell us about your experiences on the Sydenham line. Let the rest of the community know about the train services that you use. It will also help us to lobby government for better services. (You can even text us every time the train is late so we have a record: text messages to 0421 085 546.)
Why not vote for someone else?
What else can you do? Why not vote for someone else? Consider putting your State Government MP last at the next election, so they know you are not happy with the services that you pay for, but have not been getting for a long time.
Why does branch stacking deliver poor public transport?
Most people dislike politics, but they do know that politicians are there to make important decisions about their lives. Decisions like how they travel to work, for example. That's why we need politicians who know what they are doing, and who can work in our best interests.
We expect the political parties like Labor and Liberal to bring us their best candidates for election. But with branch stacking, this never happens. Branch stacking means we always get the worst people for the job. Unfortunately, as reported in the papers recently, branch stacking is rife in the suburbs along the Sydenham line, as most people already know. This is why nothing ever gets done around here. That's also why the Sydenham line has:
the most dangerous crossings – with six deaths in six years;
the most overcrowded trains;
the shortest Zone 1; and
railway stations in poorest condition.
Branch stacking only works when most voters “automatically” vote the same way at every election. Here in the West for example, most people vote for Labor. So the Labor Party can bring us their worst, laziest, untalented candidates and know that we will still elect them. Because they expect people to automatically vote the same way each time, whoever is there.
It is time to put an end to the cycle of neglect. Marginal seats get all the funding. Why not change your vote at the next election and send a message that you won't be taken for granted any longer? It might be the only way you'll ever get a seat on the train.
Make Your Voice Heard
Contact your local member and demand the services that you deserve and have already paid for. If everyone does their little bit we can solve this problem together.
So who is your local member? If you live in Sunshine North, Sunshine West, Albion, St Albans or Ardeer, then your local member is Telmo Languiller. He can be contacted at:
Tel: 9311 7886
Fax: 9364 9126
Marsha ThomsonElectorate Office Address: 206 Nicholson St, Footscray 3011
Tel: 9689 4283
Fax: 9689 5979
Make no mistake these two people have the most influence over you getting a seat on the train during peak periods. They’ve been elected to represent your interests and by not fighting for a better service, Telmo Languiller and Marsha Thomson are letting you down.
You can also contact the Transport Minister, Lynne Kosky. Her contact details are as follows
Ministerial Office Address:
Level 26, 80 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000
Tel: 9655 3300
Fax: 9655 3313
Electorate Office Address:
Shop 3, Central Square Shopping Centre, Cnr Central Ave and Merton St, Altona Meadows 3028
(PO Box 1047, Altona Meadows 3028)
Tel: 9360 7500
Fax: 9360 7654
If that’s not enough, you can also contact the Shadow Minister for Transport, Terry Mulder. He can be contacted at:
Colac Vic 3250
Tel: (03) 5231 5046
Fax: (03) 5231 5209
You do deserve a seat, even if you live in the West.
SunRRA is also working with other groups to improve public transport outcomes for our community. One of the groups we are in contact with, and hope to work more closely with in the future, is the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA). The PTUA has been campaigning for better train services throughout Melbourne for 30 years. You can find out more about the PTUA at: www.ptua.org.au