Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dogs, trains and other bits

Dogs seem to be very troublesome animals for some people. They have caused massive headlines on the eastern seaboard of Australia, in Queensland, then New South Wales and now we are having our turn here in Victoria. C'mon the rest of our states. It must be your turn now.

American actor Johnny Depp's dogs Pistol and Boo were here illegally in Australia. Depp and his then wife Amber Heard had to face court. While it happened in Queensland, it was a Federal offence.

The NSW Premier announced a ban on greyhound racing in his state but then changed his mind after being got at by a forceful lobbying campaign by those with vested interests. Pretty well #1 of #101 ways to look like a weak leader and an inexperienced politician. I don't recall a huge amount of support for Premier Baird from the animal rights lobby, but then the tabloid media was hostile to the ban, so perhaps there was but we don't know about it.

Now in Victoria we look like laughing stock because a government minister , Steve Herbert, had his dogs riding around alone in his chauffeur driven ministerial car. The minister's electorate is a long way from Parliament so he is paid a substantial allowance for a house nearer to parliament. The dogs were being transported from his house nearer to parliament to his holiday house, 120 kilometres away. He has yet to reveal how often this has happened. A little digging by reporters then uncovered that his holiday home was not declared on the parliamentary register, as it should have been. There is a phrase or two coming into our Australian language, 'Does it pass the sniff test?' or 'Does it pass the pub/watercooler test?' By any measure it does not and someone, at the very least so incompetent, should not be a minister in government.

I'll get to trains shortly, but well done to the spin doctors who came up with the latest buzz phrase, growing pains. Melbourne is suffering extreme growing pains caused by our rapidly expanding population. This phrase growing pains is to make us think the problem is temporary, but it is not. Growing pains stop when growing stops. Melbourne will always now have massive traffic congestion and overcrowded public transport for as long as we keep growing. The wealth and lifestyle divide between the rich and the poor and the inner and outer residents will continue to grow.

Oh that construction workers on new outer building sites could be put to work restoring and renovating old buildings for residential use much closer to the city, which neatly brings me to the historic Carlton pub that was illegally knocked down, no doubt to be replaced by a very tall apartment. Nothing was done to remove the asbestos and it is mixed in the rubble, although some was removed and illegally dumped at another site owned by the same owners, right near residential housing. It seems the punishment to the developers will be severe. A tenet behind punishment for this outrageous behaviour must be 'You will never profit from this outrage'. In fact I will add to that. Sending the developers towards bankruptcy would be a just punishment. It must be time to insert a photo. Didn't the hotel look nice. Photo from Property Investor.


Now, what do you need if you built a new railway line or substantially extend another? You need enough trains and staff to run it, of course. Critical to a new line is train drivers as no trains will run without them. It seems there was no planning for an increase in the number of train drivers. The CEO of Queensland Rail, Helen Gluer, has stepped down, as has the Chairman, Michael Klug. On Friday 21st October, 100 train services were cancelled. There is now a temporary timetable in place to cope with the shortage with a huge reduction in train services, leaving passengers waiting for long periods for trains. The Transport Minister, Stirling Hinchcliffe must also resign his position. Did a conversation not happen between between the minister and the QR CEO happen?

'So Helen, are things all sorted for the opening of the new rail line? Enough staff? Enough trains? The Prime Minister and the Premier will be at the opening. What about the ongoing operation? Will that be ok?'

'Yes, Minister'.

At that point he should have panicked but it should never have gotten to that. The minister must lose his portfolio.

It is lucky that Melbourne's Metro Trains are more on top of things, having an adequate number of train drivers, or do they? Metro Trains rely on drivers working overtime to provide extra services for the Melbourne Spring Racing Season. Given overtime work is surely optional for train drivers, this could potentially go very wrong, especially if labour relations between Metro Trains and its workers are not good, and I don't think they are. It is alleged that excessive sick leave is being taken by drivers. Well, that is what happens when workers are unhappy and stressed. Good company management does not have unhappy workers.

Public transport is taken much more seriously in Britain however it is a long way from perfect. Similar to what happened in Queensland has happened with trains run by Southeastern and Southern, that is a barely adequate new timetables with services much reduced or altered to cope with driver shortages. How many private companies run trains in the UK? Around 22. Absurd and I can assure the quality of the service is very variable having used two companies in rural England. Chalk and cheese is the phrase that comes to mind.

Grand Central, Hull Trains, Merseyrail, Virgin Trains West Coast, C2C, East Coast, Chiltern Railways, Scotrail, East Midlands Trains, London Overground, Cross Country Trains, First TransPennine Express, London Midland, TfL Rail, South West Trains, First Great Western, Northern Rail, Arriva Trains Wales, Southern, Albellio Greater Anglia, Southeastern and Thameslink.

24 comments:

  1. Andrew public transport does not work properly in many European countries

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    1. Gosia, it is still superior to what we have here and mostly superior to the UK, I believe.

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  2. Sigh.
    So many politicians could only pass the sniff test if a peg was used. Chauffeur driven dogs is marginally better than Helicopter limousines. But only marginally.
    I suspect that if rather more of our elected leaders used public transport on a more regular (not photo opportunity) basis, then many of the problems would be resolved. Quickly.

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    1. EC, and think of the work politicians could do while travelling on public transport...um, if it is not too crowded.

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    2. And they need to travel without the fanfare of publicity that a photo op generates. When that happens, the bus train or tram is spruced up and runs to schedule. If more of the hoi-poloi travelled by public transport and did so incognito, the problems would be more apparent and probably fixed better and faster.

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  3. In Sydney the Government redirected and/or truncated dozens of bus services across the city in preparation for the construction of the Eastern Suburbs light rail. We lost the direct bus routes 324, 325, 326 and 327 to Circular Quay (and the Opera House) services that existed for over 50 years. Some of these routes now go to the far less travelled Millers Point. Passengers for Circular Quay/Opera House now have to change buses or use a bus and train or a bus and walk.

    Very quietly and without the same publicity the Government also reduced the number of the redirected and truncated services. Whereas I used to expect a bus to depart from Circular Quay/Opera House every five minutes or so, now the frequency, especially late at night after performances, is more like 20/25 minutes.

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    1. Victor, that sounds very inconvenient and I imagine there are many who want to go to the Quay, certainly tourists. Our trams run on a twenty minute service at night but I would expect your buses would run more frequently on higher patronised routes. Inner suburban residents should not need timetables. There should always be a bus a few minutes away. I will have a look at some Sydney bus details when I have some time.

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  4. I hope the developers who knocked down that old pub pay a hefty price and get jail term. I think a very clear message needs to be sent out to all developers that they just can't get away with ignoring planning laws and destroying historic buildings.

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    1. CM, apparently after a suspicious fire, the owners were worried that the building might collapse and injure someone, hence the demolition. I think the government has done quite well on this, by applying to VCAT for the site to never have anything else on the site higher than the demolished hotel, or something like that.

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  5. And why are there driver shortages? Budget cuts of course. It's similar to supermarket checkout workers. The budget for checkout workers is small and when the store doesn't turn over enough $$$, that is one of the first areas to see a budget cut. This is why you see shops with a long line of checkouts but only two or three are operating.
    Back to trains (and buses) if they could only see that more drivers means less stress and happier drivers, which in turn means more people might switch to public transport which would then generate more revenue for the company. Focusing on and fixing the bottom line is the way to go, instead of focusing on the top end people and their bank balances.

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    1. River, re supermarkets, longer queues will annoy customers and they will go elsewhere. Own goal. You are right about trains and buses. Most of our transport system is run by companies to make a profit, not offer the best service.

      Tell me this. If you are on a checkout, maybe just one person say at the rear exit of a supermarket and you can see the queue growing. You make a call for someone to staff another checkout, but if there isn't the staff for another checkout to open, is that the stressful for the sole checkout person when they see a growing queue and there is nothing they can do about it?

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    2. I remember at Coles when queues were growing a call would go out and staff would come from other areas that were less busy, usually those who were restocking shelves, and they'd work until the queues were down. When we had four or six express lanes, one or two of those would close down and open at a big checkout. Then we got the self serve machines and there was general chaos for a while. Checkout staff themselves aren't allowedto call for someone to open another checkout, a customer can go to the service desk and request that, or the supervisor is supposed to be keeping an eye on things and open another checkout as needed.

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  6. Heard about the Minister and his dog!! Idiot.
    That looks a great building, pity is was knocked down...
    We are home now, came down Toorak Rd, for a bit then through Toorak to get to my marked route which was very easy :) to where you suggested we park, great place there :)

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    1. Margaret, how very brave of you to travel along Toorak Road. While it is interesting enough, oh the traffic. I thought the parking place would be a bit nicer than Willie Road. I'd be interested to see what route you did take.

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  7. Re dogs. I have seen many courtcases on tv where a pitbull has apallingly savaged a human or another dog. Now I adore dogs but I hope we avoid the pitbull tragedy by banning them from the entire country!

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    1. Totally agree with you Hels and it is not the fault of the dogs, just their breeding.

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  8. Loved this post Andrew, you were on top form.. two ministers sacked, developers sent into bankruptcy, excellent :) A similar thing happened with the old Guildford Hotel, a mysterious fire, the owners wanting to sell to developers etc but people power came into play and eventually it was as you know restored.

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    1. Grace, I must have been drunk. It was a pretty good result at the end of the day for Guildford Hotel.

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  9. You have some corrupt and/or stupid and weak politicians there also then. Good its not just here. Currently we have a plethora, herds of them, mobs, flocks. Portland, Oregon and most of Oregon is experiencing "growing pains" that were never planned for, so we still have one major north south freeway and in many area, two lanes only each direction. Affordable housing for the worker bees, who actually run society, do all the necessary little jobs, is in low to nonexistent supply and there will be consequences of course, when the rich can't get their lattes because there are no workers for the coffee shop or they must sleep in their cars.

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    1. Strayer, I can only solve the world's problems one step at a time. The freeway needs four lanes, of course, but then they fill up too quite quickly. Public transport is the real answer, a fast train line on the freeway alignment. Then, you who really needs to drive, can have a better drive.

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  10. They won't go 'bankrupt'. They just knocked down two huge properties in Brighton, both purchased under the wife's name. No doubt they will build some monstrosity on it. I only realised today I used to walk past that pub at least once or twice a week. It's sad :(

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    1. Fen, I wasn't aware of that. Always a dangerous thing to put things in wives names unless the relationship is rock solid. Malvern and Glen Iris are seeing huge numbers of older housing and commercial buildings knocked down for apartments.

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  11. Oh, and don't get me started on trying to get anywhere during peak hour/school times/weekends in my area. Impossible. It's only going to get worse too. I deliberately start at 9.30am now as it takes me half the time to get to work than if I was starting pre 9am.

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    1. Fen, you are almost trapped by congested traffic, north, south and west.

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