The Age has reported on the worsening rail crisis as passengers are stuck in severely overcrowded trains or left behind on rail platforms.
PTUA vice-president, Alex Makin, said peak-hour train passengers had been treated like cattle since Connex sidelined 31 of its 72 Siemens trains because of safety concerns following revelations of brake problems.
While students have returned to school added to the number of rail passengers, Connex has officially withdrawn a total of 37 peak-hour services, on top of other ongoing cancellations and delays.
Mr Makin said crowding was so bad that many passengers were simply being left behind on platforms.
“Drivers (are) telling people to cram in as much as possible,” Mr Makin said. “It’s like we’re being treated as cattle rather than simply having a reliable, frequent train service.”
With no end in sight to the current braking issues, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on Connex to take steps to improve the efficiency of its current fleet and hence allow the rail operator to provide faster journey times and maximise its fleet utilisation:
The PTUA’s Mr Makin said Melbourne trains ran approximately 25 per cent slower than Perth trains and called upon Connex to immediately increase the service frequency of the 75 per cent of trains still running.
Improving Melbourne’s rail speeds to a standard comparable to Perth would allow Connex to provide a higher standard of service amid a time of worsening rail problems.
“It’s about getting the maximum utilisation possible out of the existing trains on the system,” he said.
He claimed the journey time from Dandenong to the city could be 10 minutes faster, allowing more services to be scheduled.
“That’s a proposal that could be implemented in the short term to take advantage of the modern fleet (of trains),” he said.
Unfortunately Connex has shown its contempt for Melbourne’s rail passengers by refusing to undertake any suggestions that would help improve effiency and provide a better service:
Connex’s Ms De Clercq called Mr Makin’s claims “ludicrous”, and said increasing train services would require a complete revamp of the Connex timetable.
“That would be a massive job.” Ms De Clercq said.
Unfortunately the task of attempting to mitigate the ongoing rail debacle seems to be beyond the capabilities of Connex. The only ludicrous notion is Connex’s rejection of best practice examples, such as Perth, which achieve a much higher utilisation of rollingstock due to faster journey times.
Likewise it would be ludicrous for the State Government to renew Connex’s contract given the contempt and incompetence it has shown Melbourne’s public transport users.