Sunday, July 24, 2005

The calm of a Zen-Master.

Ok, so it is Sunday now and I will write about Friday night's journey home.

Generally I like to look on the positive side of life most of the time, this website is a "whinge" site I know, but I like to think most of my "blogs" are on the slightly humorous.

So, I headed for the 4.55pm train as per usual. I was alone tonight, as "Da Writer" (my normal travelling companion) had driven up as he was going to the other side of Melbourne for the weekend.

This past week, the 4.55pm Geelong train had been departing from platform 14, so the regular walk down Collins St had changed to a walk down Bourke St & entry via the Telstra Dome walkway end of the station.

As I came down onto the platform, I observed that there was quite a few more people on the platform than normal. I had to literally elbow my way through the crowd to get to the far end of the platform (as 1st Class carriage pulls up at the back).

4.55pm rolls around and no train (usually arrives before then), indeed the Connex Williamstown train hadn't even come through.

A rather harried announcement came over advising that the 4.55pm was going to be extended through to Sth Geelong ... which gave me the clue that the 4.40pm service must have been cancelled & this explained the crush of bodies on the platform.

5.00pm ... the platform announcer comes over the loudspeaker, his indian accent thick & sounding terribly stressed "The 4.55pm V/line service is now approaching" ... indeed it did seem that way, however the train approaching only had 3 carriages. People pushed forward attempting to board, a rather irate V/line conductor prevented some people from getting in the back carriage. I stepped back, as I had noticed people were already in the train as it arrived, which indicated to me that this was most likely *NOT* a service to Geelong but another country service.

This suspicion was confirmed when the loudspeaker crackled into life again and the indian accent sounded urgent instructions to stand away from the carriages as this was the NOT the 4.55pm service to Sth Geelong.

At this stage I saw an ex-workmate from a few years back and we retreated further down the platform & resigned ourselves to wait for the eventual arrival of our train.

It did arrive, around 5.15pm or so. My ex-colleague and I made sure we got on relatively quickly & secured a seat in 1st Class, as expected that carriage also filled up quickly, probably with alot of economy class people as in circumstances like this the conductors never check tickets.

We stopped at Nth Melb, but people who got on there pretty much got off the train again, there was just no seats & literally no standing room in between carriages.

Yet another V/Line debacle!

The arrival time at Geelong was around 6.20pm, only about 25 minutes late.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Vline: 1 vs Vlinewhinger: 0

After a month of no train travel, Vline gets the first laugh at my expense. This morning is my first morning back on the train and usually I would have been in first class. Except the first class carriage was closed due to a "technical fault".

Thankfully nobody sat next to me in cattle class, so at least that was a small mercy.

Goes without saying that the 6.05am service was late, although now it is a regular train and not a "sprinter", that is to be expected. Anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes past the old arrival time.

I have some serious thinking to do about whether I make the move to Melbourne & eliminate trains entirely.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Whinging by Proxy ....

Well, after several weeks of buses, the train service is back between Geelong and Melbourne. Yours truly is still travelling via Yarra Trams (and I have another 3 weeks!), however just two days and already V/Line has dropped the ball yet again & I'm receiving updates from workmates & a reader of this blog (yes I have one!) as to the shennanigans that have gone on thus far.

I'll repost this 'Anonymous' comment from blog: (it refers to Tuesday 5th of July)

Hi, love your blog.2nd day of trains being back and VLine's efficiency & customer service shines through. To let out some steam the 5.13pm train was cancelled. Don't know what the trouble was VLine never explained. Was advised to catch the 5.29 which was leaving from Platform 14 (so far away! - especially when you had to walk the Spencer Street Maze to get to Platform 6 in the first
place). I explained I needed to get to Sth Geelong and was told to wait for the 5.47. Since I catch the 6.20am waiting another 35+ minutes did not appeal. So many others and I crammed on the 5.29. (My sympathy goes out to those who got on at Nth Melbourne and had to stand up.) First the conductor said the 5.29 was keeping to the schedule & terminating at Geelong, but probably due to a lot of pressure 5 minutes later advised that we would stop at Sth Geelong. At least
that was something. Thanks for reading my whinge. Feel much better now.
Dear me, not exactly a ringing endorsement is it? So I'm not the only whinger out there! But wait, there's more. I spoke to a friend at work as he arrived earlier. Let's call him "Cooper" to protect his identity (why I don't know but it sounds good.) He catches the 6.05am service from Geelong in the mornings and generally aims for the 4.40pm home.

Yesterday he got a call before he left work from another workmate who catches the 4.07pm who told him that the 4.40pm was cancelled and replaced with a bus service. Given that the bus terminal is almost a whole city block further along Spencer St, as a commuter is it important to know where you need to head (also given the general chaos of the whole station being rebuilt currently).

So Cooper does the smart thing and lets his fingers do the walking & call V/Line's customer service line to ask if the 4.40pm service was indeed a bus or a train. "Oh it's definitely a train, the buses finished on the weekend" was the helpful response. "Are you sure about that, I have information that it has been replaced by a bus". Cooper was then informed that he'd best call Spencer St directly (and was given a number). Great customer service!

Cooper then calls Spencer St Station using the number given to him by V/Line customer service. In the midst of doing this, he receives a call from V/Line customer service (responding to an earlier complaint he had put in that morning about late service & the fact the 6.05am is no longer a sprinter train). So handily, he asks *this* customer service person who seems to have a clue & confirms with him that yes indeed the 4.40pm has been cancelled and replaced with a bus service.

Good grief, we live in the information age. How hard it is to have a dynamically updated website linked to the timetable system & an SMS alert system so commuters can be updated & not run around like headless chooks looking for their train/bus !!!

Cooper gave me a good analogy, if the private coach lines that replaced the trains consistently ran late, were never at the appointed stops on time, were run down etc, people would complain & the next time V/Line went to hand out tenders for a similar arrangement, most likely that private coach line would not get the gig ... so what's different about V/Line? Why aren't they accountable?

As commuters on a longer than hour journey, we shouldn't have to put with such shoddy service. As for the propaganda that gets spewed out that "things will be getting better", well try again, it has been nearly two years of disruptions to the service & things are getting worse not better.

Edit: I just got an update from "Da Writer" another Geelong>Melb commuter, who informed me that the 4.55pm service to Geelong last night apparently didn't stop at Corio (which it is scheduled to do) OOOPS! Seems a few of the drivers are a bit rusty! :)