Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday of Woe

Been off sick last two days and last week I drove/tram 3 days, so today was my first day back on the V/line. Also bit the bullet and bought the $820 10 week 1st Class ticket.

As usual the 6.20am was fine, no probs there.

Not so the 17.29. They lost a V'locity train and in the end herded us all onto 4 V'locity carriages instead of the usual six, as well as being several minutes late to depart. People standing and a slow trip home meaning we are over 20 minutes late ... 45 minute "Flagship" service V/line style!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Conductors ... a coveted job!

This is more a story of an overheard conversation rather than a typical 'whinge' blog entry.

The last few days of last week I travelled via Yarra Trams from Port Melbourne to the CBD, as I stayed up in Melbourne due to work commitments.

Due to working a rather insane 17-hour work day on Thursday, and after a few hours of zombie state at work on Friday morning, my boss told me to go home. Whilst I was standing at the Swanston St/Collins St "super" tram-stop, I couldn't help but smile at the following exchange between two Yarra Trams employees (the ones who for some reason are at most of the super-stops now, they don't seem to be ticket-inspectors?)

1st Yarra tram guy: "How's it going "
2nd Yarra tram guy: "Yeah good, trying to get through the next few months without any more sickies, otherwise i get a warning"
1YTG: "oh yeah why's that? Didn't I hear something about V/Line hiring?"
2YTG: "Yeah yeah, that's where I want to apply to, want to keep a good record"
1YTG: "yeah that conducting business, have the whole train to yourself, that's the ticket"
2YTG: " yeah travel up country, get put up into hotels overnight, it's a prime job"

And so on the conversation went. To be honest, I never really thought about why people would be conductors or whether it had perks etc, but I guess to a tram employee it obviously does!

However I do have to wonder about the future of conductors on country-line trains, especially with the inability to traverse the carriages on the V'Locity trains on express services and with the impending introduction of the 'smart-card' ticketing service that will finally intergrate the country and metropolitan ticketing system.

Interesting times. I'm back on the trains this week (I think, depends on work).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Flagship 45 minutes .... well sort of ... almost.

Apologies for being a bit absent lately, work plus some family stuff have taken priority. However I have been diligently observing the performance of the 17.29 "Flagship" 45 minute service from Melbourne to Geelong the eight or so times I've managed to catch it in the previous few weeks.

Okay I will admit to being fairly anally retentive and timing a few journeys with selected waypoints to build up an average view of the journeys. It's been quite interesting to see where the bottlenecks and delays are on the nights when the "Flagship" service fails to deliver on it's promised six minute saving. So far its running on an average hit and miss of 60% late, but early days I guess.

On average, the trip from Werribee>Geelong (including one stop of approximately a minute and a bit at Nth Geelong) takes around 18 to 19 minutes. That's pretty good.

Unfortunately the bad bit is the fact it can take upwards of 35 minutes to get to Weribbee, which effectively negates any fast time.

So for the most part, the journey from Melbourne to Geelong on the "Flagship" service has been 51 minutes. To put this in perspective, both the "Sprinters" and Locomotive trains can do that time on an express run.

The cynical attitude could be that V/Line counts the 45 minutes from Nth Melbourne to Nth Geelong, however with each of the two "stops" only average 2 and a bit minutes, then I don't believe that rhetoric I've seen bandied about by V/Line. As for the official "5 minutes past arrival time is still on time" ... bollocks!

On the first night the 17.29 ran, we were 4 minutes late from departing, however the actual time it took from Melbourne (spencer st) to Werribee was only 21 minutes. So V/Line is capable of running in that time-frame, which if you add the 18 or 19 minutes from Werribee to Geelong, means that it is feasible to run a 40 minute service.

What I suspect prevents this is the fact that V/Line has to share with Connex for that whole first half of the journey plus worry about not catching up to the 17.13 Limited Express (which is a locomotive-drawn train that stops at Lara). However what happened to the "passing loops" that supposedly would allow a fast train to pass a slower train ahead of it??

I'll give it a few more weeks before passing final judgement on the success of the multi-million dollar upgrade that we've been waiting the past 4 years for.

Couple of other quickies: I'm starting to get tired of V/Line packing us all onto the last few carriages of the train just to "give room for Nth Melbourne passengers". They may as well start allocating seats if they are going to get that organised.

And once again tonight we had the absurdity of the conductor announcing "customers .blah blah blah" For the love of the english language, WE ARE NOT CUSTOMERS WE ARE PASSENGERS! Please tell me how by standing at the door pressing a button to get out I can be referred to as a CUSTOMER?? I am not buying anything! (except maybe a ticket to the mental asylum!)

Interestingly I've overheard fellow commuters and PASSENGERS complaining about the unreliability of the morning "Flagship" 45 minute service (the 7.17) which is often up to 20 minutes late. Ah well, thankfully the morning trains I catch (6.03, 6.20 or 6.44) are for the most part on time or a little earlier than usual, which one would expect given that they should be able to up the speed slightly on the new track/signals, at least until Werribee.

That's it for me for now, I'm not on the trains again until Friday I think, as the project I've been working on at work "goes live" (in software terms) Thursday night, so I'll be driving up and catching a tram in from a friend's place.

If I can work out how to do tables in this blog, I'll try and post some times up for the journeys I've recorded thus far.