Monday, November 10, 2008

The new train timetable: (week)Day 1

Today was the first weekday test of the November 9 suburban train timetable. The main changes include (i) Single direction loop running on Epping/Hurstbridge line, (ii) Extra peak services, particularly on the Epping line, (iii) 15 minute service until after 10pm to Ringwood and (iv) Peak Werribee trains running direct instead of via the loop.

The Werribee changes, though necessary to permit increased services, was always going to create the most controversy, with some extended travel times or transfers needed.

The handling of this was exemplary so is described here.

Passengers alighting at Southern Cross (the recommended morning peak transfer point) firstly saw notices about the change on Platform 13/14. Frequent PA announcements were made. Platform staffing was provided; everyone departing the train was offered a brochure explaining the changes (below).

Loop trains were on Platform 9, so it wasn't a direct cross-platform tranfer. However signposting was provided, including arrows on the ground (below).

All up a good effort and an example for other service changes.

Passengers travelling today may have noticed the extra automated announcements on peak trains. As well as announcing next station, these contain messages to move down the aisle and to keep doors clear. Well meaning though these are, they aren't always relevant and are sometimes better not made.

An example was a peak Frankston line train this morning. At Bentleigh the train carried a fully seated load with few standees. However an automated announcement was still made when loading was comparatively light. The next announcement was made at Malvern, by which time the train was close to crush-loaded and there was little if any room to do as the announcement recommended. The optimum time to have made an announcement would have been somewhere between those two stations, but there is no way a programmed system can gauge this.

Much like trying to sell service improvements by advertising the weekly network number of trains added (instead of daily line-specific figures), unnecessary automated announcements do not exactly endear passenger confidence. The railways would do well to borrow a radio broadcasting maxim (especially relevant in this age of iPods) ie keep it live and keep it local.

This brings us to the human element. As with any job, how employees see and perform their role varies. Some train drivers make announcements above and beyond, while others say very little. Although automated announcements provide a 'tech fix' and a 'minimum standard' (if working), they are less personal (at best) and erroneous or irrelevant (at worst). Overall they are a 'second best' option. As seen with the Werribee loop change previously, keeping passenger communication live, local and human wins every time.

1 comment:

Calembeena said...

I have the equivalent Epping/Hurstbridge pamphlet - I will put it on as soon as I have access to a scanner.
The general gist is alternative routes to the CBD - walk through Trasury gardens, catch 48 or 75 from Jolimont or 109 from North Richmond.