Metro Moans

Over the long Easter weekend we were at a dinner party where the pre-dinner small talk was on commuting.

There were 2 who drove to work, one retired person who relayed his pleasure at taking the train into the city and yours truly, whose famously impatient traits are being tested on a daily basis.

Of the 2 who drove, one had never taken the train. Metro might as well be the Millennium Falcon to him.

The other bloke used to take the train years ago but after a number of delays, hold ups and break downs, decided to drive and hasn’t looked back since.

The retiree travelled off peak so is spared of the travails of public transport.

Yours truly was the lone sufferer. It is an ongoing persecution. It is a Pauline pain in you-know-where. The Apostle asked the Lord three times, to remove the source of his pain. I tried it and the Lord answered partially. He removed Connex. Redemption however was no where insight as Metro is no Messiah.

In fact it is positively Machiavellian to usher in Metro and raised the hopes of sojourners that we would henceforth journey to the Promised Land of reliability and punctuality. Metro as it turned out, is a massively false messiah.

My ride is via what is called a “City Loop”. As you enter the city via whichever railway line from the suburbs, you enter the city via one of several spots. The most common ones by far, are the Flinders Street and Parliament stations. They are on the opposite end of the CBD circle , with the former on the south side of the city and the latter on the north. Trains coming into the city are either “Flinders Street” or “City Loop”. If you come in via the former, Flinders Street station is the first stop, then you go through the circle and the train leaves the city after going past Parliament.

The City Loop train is the reverse. There are only 3 stations (Spencer, Flagstaff and Melbourne Central) in between so it is no biggie but the loop takes about 10 minutes to cover, and you’d be surprised how 10 minutes over 3 stops fill up the cars very quickly. We haven’t quite reached the stage where conductors need to shove passengers in but we have reached a stage where passenger proximity is such that if this was an Islamic country, we’d be looking at separate cars for men and women.

I’m almost always on the City Loop trains because my office is only a block and a half from Parliament Station. It is also the nearest to our station – Blackburn – so the ride is only about say, 25 minutes. It is the perfect leg for me, time wise.

Whatever advantage there is however, depends on punctuality and reliability. If the train arrives late the short 25 minute journey is extended. Likewise, if they muck around by switching the route, one wastes precious minutes too. So if you’re on a City Loop and the Metro decide to turn it into a Flinders Street train, you either ride the extra 10-15 minutes or you jump off at Richmond – a major exchange just outside the CBD – and wait for a City Loop. One usually arrives within a few minutes but the whole saga usually sets you back 10 minutes easy. Not much in the scheme of things, but add that to the array of other irritating non-compliance and one wonders why the State Government sacked Connex in the first place. Frequently for example, the City Loop in the evening would be cancelled and one has to take a ride to Richmond for a connecting train or wait for the next one. Either way you are again set back 15-20 minutes. Not much for sure, but again, the cumulative effect is there. It has happened so often that Metro has long turned into a joke for Melbourne commuters. To add insult to injury, Metro has just increased fare and just this morning Tress was saying the monthly has gone up to over $175 now (from about $160).

Yet, when I am frustrated I only have to remind myself of “KTM Komuter”. I remember several occasions where I waited on a platform, only for a train to arrive on the one opposite. Many would jump onto the tracks to run across to the other side, because if you don’t or don’t do a sprint of Carl Lewis proportion to run through the overhead to the other side, you run the risk of waiting for … God knows how long for the next one. Actually at the rate it is going, who knows – Metro may descend to that level… now where’s the car keys?