Monday, February 14, 2011

Metro's Overcrowding Claim, a Poor Alibi

Melbourne's long suffering rail commuters, those squashed into jammed trains in the morning and afternoon peaks found themselves the subject of remarks by senior Metro trains management today. I refer to Metro boss Andrew Lezala, whose comments appear in this mornings Herald Sun and have sparked a fairly unequivocal response from some quarters.

Metro's chief executive has admitted the packed carriages are putting a strain on the company's engines and playing havoc with schedules. "They just can't do it," Andrew Lezala said. "Physically, they don't have enough grunt in accelerating or braking." "With the amount of heavy loading we've got now on Comeng trains, they can't keep the timetable on Frankston and Pakenham." He said the company had been forced to stretch train journey times to allow for the hold-ups
Little wonder the likes of the RMIT's Paul Mees came out shouting on afternoon talk back.
Metro's claim that overcrowding on Melbourne's trains is slowing down journey times is a poor excuse to defend itself against dismal performance figures, according to a public transport academic. Paul Mees said trains in Tokyo carried as many passengers in one week as Melbourne's carried in a year, yet trains in Japan's capital were not forced to slow down to cope with the numbers. "Anyone would think that Melbourne's the only city in the world where they have to carry a lot of train passengers," Dr Mees, an RMIT transport academic, told radio 3AW today.
Personally, I believe Andrew Lezala has been given the wrong advice. That train braking and accelerating is compromised by passenger loading is nonsense. Sure there would be some effect, even of a quantifiable nature, but hardly decipherable and, in any event, its impact would be insignificant as drivers compensate for the additional loading in there driving techniques. The real impact of the extra load is the time it takes to board and alight trains at the busier stations. That said, Metro is doing a commendable job in controlling passenger flows in the CBD stations. As someone who sits at the controls for Metro, I could add plenty of fodder to Metro's critics, but it would be both foolhardy and stupid for me to delve further.
If you want to know what's really wrong with our train system in Melbourne, I suggest you read  Royce Millar and Clay Lucas's excellent piece, Taken for a ride: how Metro 'inherited a dog' as it appeared in The Age on January 22, 2011.

UPDATE: April 23

For those that asked: How do I know? ..... I drive trains for Metro !

UPDATE: April 27

Shock horror, Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala has confirmed investigations are under way into allegations that train drivers are driving slower and deliberately sabotaging the timetable.

Metro wants to probe every unexplained late running service as Andrew Lezala feels that customers deserved to know why the service has been poor of late.
… we are investigating the services that run late for no apparent reason to get to the bottom of it ...
That Mr Lezala is seeking an explanation is warranted, but are Metro train drivers deliberately driving slower? All I wish to add is that, upon my returning to duty next week (have been on annual leave) I will drive according to operational requirements and, in a manner and way that protects my interests first and this ladies and gentlemen means, below track speed. Incidentally, I am betting that I will also report, at the very least, one train fault on my first day back. Now before anyone makes a judgement about my train driving you might want to reflect upon what I have intentionally omitted.

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