The travails of Melbourne travel (part 2): Q&A with Melbourne Metro on Craigieburn delays

Melbourne's famous Metro Trains.Earlier this week I blogged about my month of “travails” on the Craigieburn Line from Oak Park to the CBD and back again.

I documenting the delays, cancellations, the great ‘bat’ fiasco and other frustrations that have become part of my daily train commute.

I also put some questions to Melbourne Metro, who kindly responded via senior media liason officer Larisa Tait.

It appears that much of the delays have to do with the “Regional rail link” a major new project aimed at adding 90 kilometres of tracks to the existing rail network (plus new stations, rail bridges etc) and “alleviating major bottlenecks in Victoria’s rail network”.

Sadly, it’s not due for completion until 2016 and whilst under construction, it appears to be creating a bottleneck of its own for the ‘Northern group’ of Metro train lines, which include Craigieburn.

These are my questions and respones from Metro:

Why does the 7.35 train get stuck outside outside North Melbourne so frequently?

Metro: This train is the first of three Craigieburn line trains each day that run direct to Flinders Street Station and not through the City Loop.  These three services were altered as a result of a timetable change in November 2012 which saw more services introduced on the Northern Group (Upfield, Craigieburn and Sunbury) following the opening of the Sunbury line. The reason for the change is due to the fact that only 20 trains can run through the Loop per hour and currently the Loop is at maximum capacity.

These three direct Flinders St trains run over a section of track known as the Broadmeadows Flyover, which is just outside North Melbourne Station. It is this specific section of track where Werribee, Williamstown and Geelong services all merge onto platform 5 at North Melbourne Station.

The timetable is designed to allow this to occur each peak while still running to schedule. However, if there are any delays on any service going through this merge point, it will be these three services that are held outside North Melbourne, awaiting a clear path to the platform and then into Southern Cross and Flinders St.

This is the reason for regular delays at the same section of the line each day.

What causes a train to be defective?

Metro: There are many things that can cause a train to be defective and there are hundreds of types of train faults: vandalism, faulty air-conditioning, graffiti in or near the driver’s cabin, sticking brakes and faulty doors, to name a few. We do however have more trains in service than ever before and only defective trains with a categorised critical fault are removed from service immediately. The remainder of trains with faults continue running and are maintained at the next available opportunity.

Is Metro satisfied with the current performance levels?

No, we are not satisfied with our current performance levels and are working every day to improve it. We will not be satisfied until our performance is near perfect.

 Can you tell me what the performance rating would be for on-time service if a train was considered on time if it arrived within two minutes of its scheduled arrival? (Currently overall on-time performance on the Craigieburn line is around 92% – but on-time is deemed to be a train less than 5 minutes late).

Metro: I can’t give you what our performance would be if we only had a two minute allowance for on time.

However, below is the Craigieburn line on time running for last 28 days: February 6 to March 6 2013:

0 min – 58.9% (ie. up to 59 secs late)

1 min – 69.8% (ie. up to 1:59 secs late…etc)

2 min – 78.1%

3 min – 84.8%

4 min – 89.5%

Will train fares being go up this year?

Fares are not determined by Metro. Direct this question to Public Transport Victoria.

Train surfing: the latest (deadly) teen craze?

train surfingHave you ever heard of train surfing in Australia?

I was on the Craigieburn train from the city this week and three kids got on. They were probably around 15 or 16 years old.

As we approached Essendon station, one of the kids, the skinniest one, made his way to the door and then popped out onto the platfom.

“Are you going to surf this train Paco?” his two mates asked as he disappeared from view.

In between remarking on how crazy their mate Paco was, the two mates stuck their heads out the train at each station to check if he was presumably still hanging on to the roof of the train or had fallen off.

This was done with a mixture of admonishment and admiration as if they wished they were as crazy as Paco, but glad they weren’t nearly as brave.

This apparently is “train surfing” – climbing onto the roof of the train and “surfing” it while it moves.

As we headed towards Oak Park, a train coming in the opposite direction whizzed past at what felt like 200 km per hour.

Was Paco still hanging on or was he a bloody, mangled corpse lying on the tracks betwen Glenbervie and Strathmore?

His friends didn’t seem too bothered.

At Pascoe Vale station, one stop before I got off, Paco’s mates got off and wandered off down the platform, without Paco.

I got off the train at Oak Park and as the train left the station I waited for it to pass to see if Paco was still hanging on, no doubt grinning.

Put there was no Paco. Who knows where he was? Had he gotten off earlier? Was he ever surfin the train? Had he fallen off?

In May last year The Age newspaper reported the story of a teen who fell off a train on the Sandringham line, critically injuring himself, while train surfing with his mates.

In January, a teen died after being electrocuted after train-surfing. He was sitting on the roof of the train.

In 2004, a 14 year-old boy had both his legs amputated after falling off a train while train surfing in the UK.

There are a three basic requirements to be a train surfer:

Firstly, you have to be a complete idiot.

Secondly, you have to have friends who are also hopeless idiots as well.

Thirdly, you have to believe you’re invincible.