When All Else Fails, Complain About The Trains
I'll tell you a secret. When bloggers can't think of anything to post about, we have a classified list of fall-back topics which can always be discussed and elicit a response. I can't tell you what they are though, because I'd be taken off the email list.
Well, not really. But Cityrail, honestly, I'm obliged to whinge.
The latest controversy is over on-time running, with claims that on-time running figures are only maintained through station skipping - trains deliberately not stopping at stations they were meant to, in order to keep to the timetable. The response of Cityrail chief executive Vince Graham? That skipping stops is "for the greater good of the rail network".
So, if you're a commuter who's train has missed it's station, forcing you to travel several stops further up the line, then wait thirty minutes for another train back again, you shouldn't feel frustrated and furious. You should feel a smug sense of moral satisfaction, that you've contributed to the greater good of the network!
Fortunately I haven't had much trouble with this, but I've had other problems. According to the SMH, which I heard with no surprise at all - in fact, an absurd local pride - that the 3:15 from Sydney to Newcastle is Cityrail's single most complained about service, the Central Coast/Newcastle the most complained about line overall. The last time I returned from Sydney, the train picked up so many passengers that by the time we reached Hornsby, people were forced to stand all the way to Woy Woy, a distance of over 40km. Peak hour? No, it was 2pm on Sunday. I've heard even worse stories of peak-hour weekday trains with four cars, people having to stand nearly all the way to Newcastle. That's over two hours. That's too damn far.
But I'm not going to go down the road of blaming the Carr/Iemma government. It's the general culture of smugness, slackness and neglect that's endemic to all public utilities in Australia. Would things really change if the Liberals won the 2007 state election? It would be a bit of a worry if they did. Look who was the last politician praised for making the trains run efficiently.