Monday, August 28, 2006

Comedy Gold!

Seriously, the last week is proving that I don't have to go out of my way to think of petty whinges to write this blog, V/Line manages to provide enough material that it almost writes itself.

I'm pretty tired tonight, after having worked all weekend again, so I will keep it succinct as my bedtime beauty sleep is calling me (I need many hours ... I'm an ugly mofo).

I was planning to catch the 6.28pm tonight, however arrived early enough for the 6.08pm. Bad call, apparently V/Line has a problem with losing drivers now.

I'm serious.

The conductor blew her whistle, waved her hand for several minutes (to signal that we were departing) before realising it was all for naught. There was no driver as she embarrassingly advised us several times, assuring us that surely he couldn't be far away.

6.08pm .... 6.11pm, 6.18pm ..... 6.25pm before she announces again that on Platform 3 the 6.28pm is available for those passengers who want to catch that STOPPING ALL STATIONS train as opposed to the 6.08pm which is an express .... OOPS.

So I jump off and walk briskly to the 6.28pm. Thankfully it has a 1st class carriage (unlike the 6.08pm) so I'm not too fussed by the change of trains. Just glad she finally admitted she had no clue where the driver was and no advice as to a replacement.

Wonderful service V/Line, on top of last Friday's classic shenaningans. Comedy gold.

I can't wait until the much trumpeted new timetable with FAST trains starts next week. I've said it before and I will say it again ... CHAOS will reign! (where is Maxwell Smart when you need him!).

Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Almost a perfect week ...

Long story short, I have to thank V/Line for my unexpected day off today. I've been working some long hours and 7 days a week (and will be working this weekend too). So I've been lacking whinges due to being tired and fairly immune to anything that would normally provoke a vitrolic outpouring into this blog.

Having said that, this week has been a good week by V/Line standards for me. The 6.20am has been more or less like clockwork and even seemingly arriving earlier than normal, or perhaps I've been walking more quickly to work? I varied from the 6.28pm in the evenings, the 4.55pm one day (oh happy days they were when that was my regular train) to the 5.29pm.

This morning I managed to drag myself on time for the 6.20am as per usual. I have this routine timed to perfection so that as I'm walking up the back stairs of Geelong train station as the 6.20am pulls into Platform 1. It is kind of like synchronised swimming without the pool or swimmers or if I'm running late & running up the platform, the elegance.

I'm not sure if that analogy makes any sense at all, but it made me laugh.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had a bad feeling when the 6.20am was late arriving and crawled into the station. We got on, but it wasn't long before the conductor told us to get off as the locomotive was defective and they would replace it.

I wondered if there was any link to two days of rain and the breakdown. Maybe the locomotives don't like the wet, after all it has been one of the driest winters on record.

I thought to myself that this would probably take them a long time, so I went to get on the 6.44am which was just sitting at platform 3, idling away. Wrong move! They took the locomotive from this train and ... it sat in the yards for at least another 30 minutes before finally it docked & the train left 40 minutes or so late.

In the meantime the 6.44am & following trains from Marshall and South Geelong were also held up.

I didn't actually stick around for the outcome, I stalked off in digust around 6.50am. Heard later on radio and the website of the Age what had happened.

So no doubt there were several hundred rather peeved Geelong commuters. Hopefully none of those were caught up in the Connex and city loop drama this morning either (where the excellent security at Melbourne Central couldn't prevent a man jumping on the tracks and running through to Flagstaff). Be alert not alarmed! Where is my fridge magnet that Little Johnnie sent me ... that will keep the bad terrorists away!

I had intended to drive to work, but I thought better of that idea and came home. Around 8.30am I considered driving as most of the morning traffic would have dispersed by then, but seeing as I'm working this weekend again, I figured I'd take the karmic offering of the universe and chill out for the day.

No thanks to V/line. And allegedly the new timetable starts up next week. I predict one thing .... CHAOS WILL REIGN! .

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fast Trains sometime soon? Yeah Right!

I'm back on the trains this week, after staying up in Melbourne for most of last week.

It was a nice break from V/Line, but unless I make the move permanently to Melbourne, they will still be my main option to commute.

The introduction of the new FAST trains may be further delayed if this article is on the money:,21985,20194535-661,00.html

Being in IT (and specifically Testing) as my profession. One of the imperatives is to examine everything in the project and see how it will be affected by changes. Something as basic as whether existing locomotives are compatible would be right up there as a requirement. So how was this missed?

To be honest, I think this project was pie-in-sky stuff, they should have just stuck with the track & signals upgrade and adding new carriages and locomotives to the existing fleet.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pathetic as usual

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, this contract job has kept me darned busy - just crashed through the working 7 days barrier and it wasn't pretty.

Haven't had much cause for a really whinge since being back on the train. Of course there is the regular annoyances like having to travel on a one-class train in peak hour. I reckon they should make at least one half of one carriage exclusively for 1st class ticket holders. Am I being elitist? No, but I do pay a premium compared to the economy ticket holder and I am being cheated out of that value.

Then there is the neat trick that V/Line pulls almost everytime I catch the 5.13pm service. Usually it is a minute or two late leaving. Then sits in the yards near the Lonsdale St Overpass for several minutes before finally getting a signal to move onto Nth Melb.

No wonder they are going to measure the forty-five minute "Flagship" service from Nth Melb to Nth Geelong.

Some nights it takes almost 10 minutes to get from Spencer St (aka Brack's Southern Cross Folly) to Nth Melb. Whilst I understand it is peak time, you'd think with those many tracks, switches and platforms that a service wouldn't have to wait so long between two stations so close together.

These are just general complaints, but par for the course and the long suffering commuter usually just cops them on the chin as part of the 'service' we get.

The other thing I'd bring up is from a feedback comment on the previous blog entry. Yes I have noticed that we are being referred to as "customers" rather than "passengers". I suspect V/Line is attempting to make us feel warm and fuzzy by such terminology.

Unfortunately as far as I'm concerned it is incorrect english. A customer is someone who can purchase a good or service. Whilst a person on a moving vehicle is a "passenger". We are only "customers" when we actually are in the process of purchasing the ticket.

And as the feedback pointed out, 'customer' denotes we actually have a choice, when clearly our 'custom' is quite captive!

On to last night's events. Of which I can whole heartedly point out are totally my own fault, but would have occurred to the poor souls on the 5.13pm anyway, if I hadn't gotten on the cursed train in the first place.

It was raining, and I jogged into Spencer Street Station (aka Brack's & Bachelor's White Elephant Southern Cross). I immediately saw the 5.13pm was still at the platform (I had intended to catch the 5.29pm) and it was 5.20pm.... needless to say when I heard a whistle I jogged faster and jumped on the train, as the door was still open and there was a gaggle of conductors, customer service officers and train crew, so didn't look like it was pushing off too soon.

I sat down ... pleased that I'd gotten the earlier train.

Then cognitive reasoning returned and comprehension dawned on me that perhaps this wasn't such a wise move after all. As the minutes crept by and the conductor announced a delay, my inner voice urged and begged me to flee the doomed train and make haste to platform 14 for the 5.29. It was like a prophetic vision.

Alas, I sat like a rabbit in a spotlight waiting for the fatal .222 bullet. At 5.33pm we finally departed. And then sat in the yards for another 3 minutes (I timed it). No chance of getting home this side of 6.30pm now.

Worse still, there was a gaggle of teenage girls carrying on like pork chops nearby and all of us had to endure their ignorant and disregard for their fellow passsengers (customers?).

Finally the horror ride was over and I was first to alight the back carriage (on the correct side, when the train had come to a complete stop) and into the car park via the rear stairs at Geelong.

Unfortunately it was to the remaining cars trying to get out of the carpark from the 5.29pm which had obviously arrived just a few minutes before us. About 8 minutes later I managed to get out of the car park and home at about 7pm after a quick stop at the supermarket for some comfort food and a strong drink.

Pathetic V/line. I wonder how we are going to be treated when the new timetables come into effect in a few weeks. I predict mass chaos and I will make a wager that the "45 minute Flagship service" will very rarely reach that target. Call me a cynic.

I actually think that those V'locity trains can do that express Nth Melb to Nth Geelong in 40 minutes or less, if given a clear run through from Newport to Werribbee. Unfortunately we have the suburban lines to compete with.

So, for the rest of this week I am boycotting V/line, even though I have paid for my ticket through until the end of September. At least I can get some value from the ticket by catching the trams as I am staying at a friend's apartment whilst he is away interstate for work.

Let me know of your travel woes!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Classic V/Line

I've been letting a few things slide in my first few weeks back, warming up to a really good whinge. The three months of cartharsis takes a really good stuff-up to break through and get the fingers tingling to write up a blog entry.

However the effort this morning for the 6.44am from Geelong was abysmal. The alleged reason was 'technical difficulties with the locomotive' however I suspect perhaps someone was late for work to drive a train! (pure speculation, but the loco was quite happily driven up to and attached to the carriages wasn't it??)

Anyway, so the 6.44am was actually the 7.06am or thereabouts .... sometimes these things cannot be helped I know, particularly when V/Line has all these NEW extra trains, that could perhaps alleviate the obvious stress and lack of time to properly maintain the existing fleet. Call me a cynic!

Luckily my training was at 9.00am rather than 8.30am, so it didn't matter that I was over 30 minutes late thanks to V/line by the time I actually walked in the door.

I didn't bother to rush for the 5.13pm tonight, as the record for that Very Fast Train hasn't been good when I have been catching it. Nor really for the 5.29pm, which is stuck over all the way on Platform 14 these days. I have heard that the 4.40pm has been running fairly smoothly these days, but unfortunately my care-free 7.5 hour work days that allowed me to catch that service are no more, so I have to persevere with the later services.

The only other thing to note is some of the older carriages are now sporting automatic doors rather than being manual handle openers. I suppose this is to prevent the really stupid people who obviously open doors and fall out on the wrong side of platforms that we hear about on all the announcements about exiting the train!

Too bad they couldn't spend a bit more money and fix up the heating/air-con at the same time.