Five years ago today: A day on the trains

Five years ago today I posted this video: A Day on the Trains.

The footage for it was gathered over the space of a month or two in the dying days of the Connex Melbourne Empire in late 2009, and it was designed to capture a few scenes I thought might be changing in the coming years.

Obviously some things have changed, others remain the same.

  • Liveries: Connex (Metlink) became Metro (Metlink), and then became Metro/PTV
  • Metcard is gone, replaced by Myki
  • Many of the old CRT screens at stations have been replaced by newer flat screen displays

What else can you spot?

The system has become more busy, with more services on some lines. Punctuality has improved (thanks in part to padded timetables and station skipping), but cancellations haven’t. And transport is just as big an election issue as ever.

PS. I’ve since learnt that the skewing effect of large objects moving rapidly past the camera is called rolling shutter.

The government loves talking about train punctuality. Cancellations? Not so much.

For some reason, while the government have been crowing about train punctuality this week…

…they haven’t been talking much about Service Delivery, aka Cancellations.

I wonder why not?

Oh, could that be because it’s barely changed in 5 years?

Connex/Metro: Service delivery (eg cancellations), last 5 years

There’s certainly been a lot of work on the train network, including more concrete sleepers and track relaying to prevent buckling, better air-conditioning in the Comeng fleet, and additional maintenance capacity.

But cancellations still hit the trains regularly due to other causes — including many this week.

And with more than 50,000 services running every month, even 1% of the timetable not delivered is a lot of cancelled trains, which of course happens most often in peak hours when the system is under stress, generally affecting a disproportionate number of passengers, and causing severe overcrowding.

Overall it’s about the same as it has been for years.

So yes, perhaps it’s not a surprise that they’re not talking about it.

  • I deliberately left off a trend line, because one-off events such as the pre-Black Saturday heatwave skewed the result. If the data for Jan/Feb 2009 is removed, the Service Delivery trend is slightly down, but I don’t think this is a good representation of how things are tracking long-term.
  • Other lowlights for Metro include February 2011 (major storms), and summer 2012-13 when there were a lot of stolen copper wire incidents, culminating in the February 2013 incident involving the bat.
  • The upgrades to deal with heat can’t be over-stated. Lots of track has been re-laid, and air-con faults are now much rarer. I’d expect the resilience of the network in hot weather to be much better than it was pre-2010, though not perfect of course.

The C word still lingers

They haven’t changed the seat design with the hidden word “Connex” in it — it’s not very obvious and probably a hassle to do. But even some of the electronic signs stubbornly revert to the former train operator’s name occasionally. These two were snapped in the last month or two, both on X’Trapolis trains.

Sign says Connex, August 2010

sign says Connex, October 2010

Perhaps deep in the heart of the machine, the words of the company that originally commissioned them is destined never to be totally removed.

Until quite recently, some of the screens at CBD station would display a Connex logo when not displaying any information, and reverting to their “Listen for announcements” state.

Moving forward

Julia Gillard apparently mentioned “Moving forward” some 22 times during her press conference today announcing the election.

“Moving forward.”

It sounds vaguely familiar. Ah yes:

Connex: Moving forward

Well, it worked for them.

Update: Had a text message from an ex-Connex management person saying they are “very proud” their slogan has been recycled!

Also: Renowned author and former Keating speechwriter Don Watson doesn’t like the phrase: People think the only way you can make a political point or persuade people of an argument is to treat them like imbeciles.