Seems the stuff in today’s Age to do with moving train driver changeovers out of Flinders Street is a bit controversial.
I don’t particularly want to discuss it in the myriad of places I’ve seen people (mostly train drivers, I suspect) leave me comments about it, so I’ll do so here instead.
From the article:
Central to the plan is a proposal to ”decentralise drivers” by removing them from their current city hub and basing them at five separate suburban locations. The new hubs would serve as the network’s changeover points.
Drivers have warned the Baillieu government that the plan mimics the failed break-up of the network into two operators – Connex and Bayside – when Melbourne rail was privatised in 1999.
”The initial privatisation of the system which saw it split into two separate operating companies was an absolute disaster, with drivers unqualified to run trains on both sides of the system,” one driver wrote to Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder.
”Metro now intends to go even further down this ridiculous path by dividing the system into five separate divisions. Drivers will be locked into one group … This will lead to constraints on available qualified staff to run the system.”
But Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen backed the proposal to decentralise drivers, saying it would help keep trains moving.
”Removing changeovers from Flinders Street would be an improvement, given the delays there,” Mr Bowen said.
As always with journalism, you need to be wary of paraphrasing. Note the quote. I did not say I agree with splitting the drivers into five groups, and only training them on individual lines/groups of lines. What I did say is that I (and the PTUA) supports moving changeovers out of Flinders Street.
What’s the situation now?
Train drivers may drive on any line on any day, and generally on a mix of lines. In fact there are rules that restrict the number of trips they can take on a single line on one day.
Changeovers occur at Flinders Street, as well as outer-suburban stations.
It’s the driver changeovers at Flinders Street which, as any regular passenger will tell you, are far from unknown.
Apart from the simple act of handing a train over to another driver taking an extra few seconds, drivers coming off other services can be delayed. If one line is suspended, drivers who had been driving inbound trains into the city may get caught up in it, causing delays on other lines on the other side of town.
Metro and the government want to move driver changeovers from Flinders Street. I think this makes sense, to maximise throughput of the busiest station in Melbourne. It’s not just about cutting delays to current operations, it’s also about allowing more trains to run on the current infrastructure, by pushing them straight through, keeping them moving, as per a stop at somewhere like Southern Cross or Melbourne Central.
Other cities around the world already do this. For example, Sydney, London and Paris all have networks designed so that most or all trains from the suburbs, straight through the central city, then out again. This change, combined with the City Loop, would effectively do the same for most lines.
Splitting up the system
This is a related, but separate, issue.
Metro also, it seems, want to completely sectorise the rail system, and have drivers dedicated to specific groups of lines.
There seem to be a number of very good arguments against confining drivers like this (even though this is what many other systems, including London Underground, do). The primary reasons against this include:
- It reduces flexibility. You can no longer move drivers around the network as needed if they aren’t qualified to drive on all lines. Which is not to say that every single driver would be restricted in this way; it would be logical to have at least some who could drive anywhere.
- Safety issues. It’s said that drivers who get too “bored” of a line may get less attentive, creating more issues such as Signals Passed At Danger.
On the pro side, it would cut the training required, meaning the recruitment process for new drivers would be quicker.
But I think it’s a really hard issue, with genuine drawbacks.
One way of doing it which would avoid many problems would be to move driver changeovers to the burbs, and have drivers confined to a single line group on a single day, but move them around between groups on different days.
(Gentle hint: if you want your comment to be approved, then unlike some commenting elsewhere online, address the issues, rather than claiming I don’t know what I’m talking about.)