The travails of Melbourne trains: Diary of a bad travel month


Melbourne’s train network appears to be slowly breaking down.

The timetable appears to be nothing more than a ‘rough guide’ as to when the train ‘might arrive’.

It is more common for the 7.35 train to come at 7.39 or 7.41 or not at all then to arrive at 7.35.

Announcements are often made without apology and often without explanation through the public address system by someone in a voice so full of boredom and apathy one wonders why they bother at all.

Something like:

“Attention customers on the Craigieburn Line (my line). Attention customers on the Craigiburn Line. The 7.35 train has been cancelled. Your next train will be at 7.41. This train is running five minutes late.”

Combined with the poor service, customers are constantly reminded that if they fare-evade they will  be caught and face a hefty fine.

Try explaining to the authorised officers (train police) that you aren’t paying your fare out of protest at train delays and the non-running of trains and see how far that gets you.

Growing increasingly exasperated at the almost daily delays, late arrival of trains and cancelled services, I kept a diary for a month documenting my travels or as I like to refer to them, ‘my travails’ of travelling the Craigieburn line from Oak Park to Southern Cross station and back every week day:

Thursday, 10 January: Train arrives on time. But then stuck betweeen Moonee Ponds and Newmarket for long periods. Driver silent as a church mouse. Passengers grumble. We eventually arrive at Southern Cross 10 minutes late.

Tuesday, 15 January: Train stuck outside North Melbourne due to V-Line train. I curse the V-Line train and our “country cousins”. Arrive at Southern Cross 10 minutes late.

Wednesday, 16 January: Crawl along from Strathmore to Oak Park due to signal failure. Driver must be a deaf mute. No word. We arrive 10 minutes late.

Thursday, 17 January: 5.39 train cancelled due to defective train. While I am cursing what ever is possibly wrong with the train, I am told in an irritated voice over the loudspeaker that the next train at 5.47 will be arriving late. It duly does.

Monday, 21 January: Train stuck outside North Melbourne due to congestion. Arrives 8 minutes late at Southern Cross station.

Wednesday, 23 January: Train delayed outside North Melbourne due to V-Line train taking our spot on the platform and “congestion”. Why do country bumpkins get preference over hard-working suburbanites?” I ask myself as we stand motionless on the tracks. Arrive at Southern Cross station 6 minutes late.

The 5.39 train homeward bound is 6 minutes late. The symmetry of the day’s commute does not impress me.

Thursday, 24 January: Train arrives late. Then we are stuck outside North Melbourne due to  another cursed V-Line train. Arrived 6 minutes late at Southern Cross Station.

Homeward bound train arrives 10 minutes late as we are stuck in the loop. Emergency stop required. No warning given of emergency stop. Everyone gasps as we lurch towards the edge of our seats. I curse.

Friday, 25 January: Chaos on the way home. Craigieburn line delayed indefinitely due to “bat on overhead line”. Metro trains thinks its all a big joke and merrily tweets about the so-called bat now no longer with us.

(Click to enlarge)


Take train to North Melbourne to chaotic scene. People crowded together waiting for replacement buses. Station announcer appears to taunt those waiting by telling them they are waiting at the wrong spot and won’t be catching any buses from there. I dispense with the queue forming at the correct bus stop and shove pensioners aside to get on the bus.

Bus driver, a middle-age lady, complains to passengers it is her day off. Then drops a bombshell. She doesn’t know the way to Essendon. “Tut-tutting” passengers direct bus driver to the freeway. Surprisingly we end up in Essendon instead of St Kilda.

Tuesday, 29 January: Train delayed outside North Melbourne. Stuck waiting due to sick person on train. Get off train when told delay could be indefinite. Walk across  to another platform. Train I just got off departs. I curse sick person.

Wednesday, 30 January: We are packed like sardines due to delayed train arriving when previous train was meant to arrive. I have a seat and read my book and decide not to curse.

Thursday, 31 January: Train delayed at North Melbourne. Arrive 6 minutes late.

Friday, 1 February: The 7.35 train does not arrive. Catch the next train which is packed as a result. Confusion for passengers as train is now the 7.41 train and going through the loop instead of direct to Southern Cross. Here lots of cursing.

Monday, 4 February: Train arrives 5 minutes late at Southern Cross due to delays en route. Train packed as a result of delays. Immersed in good book.

Tuesday, 5 February:  The 7.35 train does not arrive again. No annoucement. The next train is packed. Goes through the loop instead of direct to Southern Cross. Train driver tries to explain new route. More cursing and grumbling from fellow passengers. Lots of frowing and mutterings under breath too.

Wednesday, 6 February: 5.47 train homeward bound cancelled due to defective train. I wonder if they ever fix these trains.

Friday, 8 February: Fiasco! Craigieburn-bound train moved to platform 9 instead of usual platform 4 or 5. I race down ramp, through tunnel and up ramp. Jump on train and scramble for seat. Then told the train is not taking passengers due to there being “no qualified driver” available. We are told to go back to platform 4 or 5 to catch 5.53 train.

Arrive home late muttering about “how hard can it be to drive a friggin train?”.

Consider taking train driver course.

Change mind. Passenger rage too stressful.

2 thoughts on “The travails of Melbourne trains: Diary of a bad travel month

  1. Pretty appropriate account of metro train journeys across all lines in Melbourne. Pretty frustrated that the fares are expensive and the service is pretty shit.

    Train services in certain developing nations are far better, cheap and efficient than Melbourne. Shame on you Metro, Victorian Government and also the passengers to keep on taking this shit and do not bother to make a stand.


    1. Thanks for the comment and stopping by. You are right there are better transport systems in developing countries, One example that I can think of is Mexico city. An incredibly efficient and cheap subway system.


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