I’m not against advertising on public transport. It brings in much-needed revenue and helps subsidise services.
But it shouldn’t be intruisive.
Bus and tram passengers have had to get used to ads on windows of vehicles over many years, but it’s only in the last couple of years that it’s become prominent on trains. It seems to be applied with a semi-transparent film.
Generally they seem to aim for some, but not all, of the windows along the side of a carriage… and not every carriage, so as with buses and trams, some windows are left clear.
But this still results in some visibility problems.
Looking in from the outside it’s very difficult to see inside, meaning staff (including PSOs) may be unlikely to spot issues inside the train. It also makes it more difficult for passengers boarding to identify and avoid the more crowded parts of the train. It might be a tad better at night, but during the day you basically can’t see in.
Looking out from the inside of the carriage is a mixed bag.
Viewing across from the other side of the carriage, it’s actually not bad, at least in daylight. Outside scenery, including important things like station signs, are quite visible.
But up close, it’s not as easy. It can be difficult to focus on things outside, at least if they’re some distance off, which may make some signage difficult to read.
To compare to a clear window, you can kind of see the effect of the film in this photo, though the way the camera has focussed doesn’t exactly reflect what the eye sees.
Objects very close to the window, such as the station signs in the underground loop, are still very clear — but at most stations they aren’t that close.
Those who have real problems seeing out or knowing where they are will want to aim for windows that are unobstructed.
But this may not be an option during peak hour, and really, government and operators should ensure that passenger visibility (both in and out) of trains (and trams and buses) is better than it is with these ads plastered over them.
Regular passengers using Flinders Street Station will have noticed that while the platforms are numbered from 1 to 14, there’s no platform 11.
It’s not a Harry Potter scenario with a hidden platform. There used to be a platform 11, the twin of 10, facing the river, and commonly used by St Kilda and Port Melbourne trains until 1987 when they were converted to tram lines. But its track was removed — I assume when the pedestrian subway was extended to the river to meet the pedestrian bridge to Southgate, which opened in 1992.
Today, trains to Newport (Werribee and Williamstown and Altona Loop/Laverton, to be precise) depart from platform 10 on weekdays.
Problem with this is that one platform isn’t enough during peak hours, and the trains depart from either 10, 12, 9 or 8, which are mostly quite some distance apart. Passengers tell stories of rushing from one to the other in chaos. If only there were another platform adjacent platform 10…
So could they re-instate 11? It would require some changes to the river-side subway entrance, part of which is where the track would be, but most of the rest of the old track alignment appears to be intact.
But don’t all trains to Newport come through from the east?
Mostly, but not all, at least not during peak hour — a quick skim through the Working Timetable found the the 17:11 and 17:55 Flinders Street to Werribee services both come from Werribee (each followed by a Laverton service a few minutes later from platform 12 or 8/9), and this might increase when Regional Rail Link starts to allow yet more Newport trains. Any trains terminating from the west could easily run into 11 and reverse.
Even so, some trains from the east heading west would be able to run via 13 through to 11, if an effort was made to put Sandringham trains on 12 (which indeed would have more capacity for them if not used by any Newport trains).
Imagine that, Newport train users — all your peak hour trains from adjacent platforms 10 and 11! That would make life a lot easier for peak-hour passengers.
Alas, it seems someone has decided to build a bar or a cafe or something on the site instead.
Other missing platforms
Flinders Street used to have platforms 15 and 16, part of the old Princes Bridge station for Clifton Hill trains, now replaced by Federation Square. But of course their didn’t cause a gap in the numbering.
Box Hill has no platform 1. There’s a placeholder that was used during works, then put aside for future use when the station was moved underground in the 1980s.
Any other stations that are missing platforms?
Edit 15/11/2013: Added pic of the river entrance.
The Metro app is quite handy for finding out what’s happening on the train network, and can send notifications/alerts to tell you when something’s affecting the line(s) you use regularly.
As previously noted, it’s not perfect — the SMS alerts that it replaced were customised to your specific station, so you didn’t have to try and work out if the 7:21 stops at your station — and at what time.
But anyway, I was puzzling over how to make the notifications stop. Unless your phone is silent, they cause a beep (which apparently can’t be turned off) and fill up your status bar thingy if you don’t keep attending to it.
If you try and add the same line again, it ignores the option to turn notifications off. I asked around on Twitter, and other people were having this problem too.
After some experimentation, it appears there are two solutions:
Not so good: Take the IT Crowd’s catchcry of “turning it off and on again” to the next level: Uninstall the app, then add it again. You’ll have a clean slate, and you can add your line(s) again.
Better: go to My Alerts, press and hold on the line you want to change. After a second or two you’ll see an option to delete it. Do so. Then go back and add it again with your preferred options.
There’s been some suggestion from one user that a network-wide alert might sneak through with a notification even if you have all individual lines turned off. Not sure about that.
While the app does provide welcome information of problems (I’d rather know than not), they probably need to do some work on it, particularly around options for specific station times and alert tones (or not).
Meanwhile, tram users have Tram Tracker of course, and bus users… well, they’re still waiting.
Long term PTV should probably be taking the lead and being the conduit for all service information, regardless of operator, perhaps organised by area instead. For instance it would be useful to know if that power fault affecting train signals and boom gates has also affected the local buses you might use as an alternative way home.
Today Metro shuts down its SMS Alerts service. It has been running since September 2001, when it was introduced (the day before 9/11), initially for Connex Connector Plus (Connex-only yearly ticketholders) — and back when Connex only covered half the rail network, of course. It spread to all customers and all lines later, along with timetable enquiries via SMS as well.
Metro later inherited the service, but by that point the alerts were costing them tens of thousands of dollars a month in fees.
When I surveyed the timeliness of SMS alerts in 2011, I found most were received early or on time.
But with the cost, it was hardly surprising Metro would be looking for alternatives. This year they’ve brought in the app for iOS and Android, and stepped-up on their Twitter and web updates as well. These avenues now all provide very high quality information. The only thing they lack compared to SMS alerts is that (apart from the app) they don’t push the information to you (the app does, though there are some issues with it), and the times aren’t personalised to your station, as the SMSs were.
Eventually it’s hoped there will be train and bus equivalents to Tram Tracker… this has been promised some time ago. No ETA yet. (Perhaps we need a Train/Bus Tracker Tracker?)
SEPTEMBER 6th 2001: CONNEX SENDS A MESSAGE TO ITS CUSTOMERS
Recognising the value of customers’ time was the driving force behind the introduction of a unique and exciting new service announced today by Connex Melbourne.
A first for rail transport in Australia, the tailored SMS messaging service to be introduced on September 10, harnesses the latest in communications technology to bring new convenience to Connex ‘Connector Plus’ customers.
The Connector Plus program was introduced by Connex late last year to recognise and reward customers who make long-term commitment to use regular Connex services.
Connex General Manager Marketing, Felicia Mariani, said the introduction of the new SMS service and its innovative technology follows extensive consumer research over the past year.
“Findings show customers realise with a passenger services of our size, things can happen that affect schedules – that’s part of the nature of our business. What customers do expect, however, is to be made aware of these situations in time to adjust their own schedules,” Ms Mariani said.
“We wanted to develop a product that could bridge the current communications gap with customers. The new messaging service will communicate directly with our Connector Plus customers, notifying them if their regular train services in the morning and evening peak are delayed by longer than 15 minutes or cancelled for any reason. The messages are customised to the station and times of travel nominated by the customers. In this way they only receive information relevant to their own personal travel patterns.
“One of the unique features of the messaging service, which further add to customer convenience, is the independence from any particular telecommunications company, giving access to customers regardless of their mobile phone carrier.
“This initiative has been a collaborative effort between Connex and a number of key partners. Connex appointed e-move australia to facilitate development of a unique program that would be tailored to the specific requirements of the rail industry. e-move then worked with our interactive partner, Leo Burnett Digital, which developed the strategic solution and along with its wireless partner, Platypus, designed the web-based application and database to drive the program.
“The coming together of these partners provided Connex with a one-off tailored solution that responded to specific needs of our customers more thoroughly than existing ‘off-the-shelf’ products.
“Connex will continue to explore innovation and technology to improve the reliability and convenience of our services,” concluded Ms Mariani.
Mr Lezala also took a swipe at the State Government for failing to invest properly in signalling.
“We have new signalling systems here … with no redundancy in them so when we get a thunderstorm it fails – brand new systems – because we didn’t have enough money to build redundancy in,” he told a Metro breakfast.
“I think Treasury need to take that one, actually, because you get what you pay for.”
This might help explain why the trend for cancellations (or to be precise, percentage of the timetable not delivered) is up, not down.
For all the noise the government has made about investing in upgraded rail infrastructure, it’s still common to see disruptions due to signal, track, points failures. If Lezala is right, we’re getting a lot of new equipment which isn’t being installed with the required redundancy to ensure it’s really reliable.
Parkiteer is a good programme… from my observations, more and more people are using it for secure bike parking at stations.
But how many errors can you spot in this bike cage map that has been appearing in MX for the past few weeks?
“Glen Waverly” spelt wrong
“Glen Waverly” in the wrong spot — it’s actually north of the Dandenong line
Cranbourne/Pakenham lines have been strung together
Ditto Belgrave/Lilydale lines
Leaving out the Williamstown, Upfield and Alamein lines presumably isn’t a mistake, but reflects that they have no bike cages
Two Caulfield stations! — however this is a problem that even Metlink/PTV has had for some time; if you use their station/stop search, you’ll find two Caulfields:
Any other errors?
Below the map the logos of the organisations running Parkiteer are shown. Bicycle Network Victoria runs the show, but the Metro logo is also listed… I’m surprised they didn’t check the map of their train network was accurate.
The Siemens train seats are notorious for showing the dirt.
At one stage a multi-coloured design similar to the Comeng fleet seats was tried, but now Metro have introduced a new design which is supposedly more vandalproof (and uses their corporate design, not Connex’s).
It’s on one 3-car Siemens set so far (for the gunzels, it’s 831M-2566T-832M).
Intriguingly, as some on Facebook noted, stations that don’t get electric trains such as Rockbank and Somerville have been included in the station names shown in the design. (Somerville at least gets the Stony Point trains, which is strictly speaking a Metro service, even though it’s run using V/Line sprinters. Rockbank only gets V/Line Ballarat line trains.)
But anyway, hopefully this new design will do a better job of staying clean and hiding the dirt.
This is the kind of thing PTV and/or Metro really should promote a bit more, to let people know they’re actually acknowledging the problem, and to gather feedback.
Metro was already having a bad Monday morning peak with the inner part of the Sandringham line suspended due to a maintenance train derailing overnight. Things didn’t improve when at about 7:15 the outer section of the Cranbourne line also went down, and it just got worse when at 8:10 a train caused an overhead power fault at Caulfield. By 8:40, they were evacuating that train and others, as these snaps I grabbed from a passing Frankston line train show:
They weren’t the best pictures, but thanks to Twitter, what they did do was alert journalists that there was a major disruption emerging at Caulfield. The second pic got picked up by The Age, though far better was a pic and video shot by Gavin Tan on Twitter:
Now, the maintenance train derailing on the Sandringham line could be just bad luck. Metro are pointing at vandalism for the Caulfield problem. And the Cranbourne issue (which seemed to recur on Monday afternoon)? We don’t know.
But it all underscores just how fragile and troubleprone the rail network continues to be.
The political fallout
While Metro might be the operator, it’s the level of investment, and the level of scrutiny of the operator that must ensure a good outcome. And that’s the government’s job.
The last state election was won and lost on public transport — both sides said so.
Not everybody uses the trains, but everybody knows somebody that uses the trains. In the 2010 election campaign, they were a powerful symbol of a government failing to deliver.
Will history repeat in 2014?
- Update Wednesday: Pic also published by Leader