Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Metro Apologises

I suppose it happens in other Australian cities, train lines disrupted. It seems to happen very often in Melbourne. Often there is a statement from the appropriate public transport company that buses are replacing trains on whatever train line that has failed.

Invariably there are complaints from passengers that the replacement bus service does not not turn up, or the number of buses that turn up to replace a train is inadequate. Passengers are justifiably very annoyed, but should they really be annoyed about an insufficient bus replacement?

Off peak maybe it is not so bad, but what are the logistics of getting buses to replace trains at short notice at peak times? I don't know but here are some thoughts.

There must be spare buses. No, I shouldn't think so. Not in peak time. Why would a private bus company have buses sitting around depreciating and not being used? There are also standing costs of having buses, such as registration and maintenance whether they are used or not. It would be irresponsible to the bus company shareholders to be so profligate. Perhaps there are buses scheduled for maintenance that could be deferred, or I would imagine each bus company would have a couple of spare buses of their own to cover their own emergencies that could be used. But how many buses are needed to replace a train that might have 800 people on it and then do this again ten minutes later and then ten minutes later again? The answer can only be many.

What about drivers to drive the possible spare buses? They are sitting around in the bus depot in peak times and getting paid for doing nothing? Most unlikely. I expect drivers who are not at work are called at home and offered overtime. Some may say yes, some may so no and I hardly think they can be ordered to work overtime, let alone at such short notice.

I can only draw one conclusion. If a train line goes wrong and you hear that there is a bus replacement service, make alternative arrangements, as there is no way a replacement bus service can offer anywhere near a satisfactory replacement service unless the problem lasts more than a day, and even then it could not really offer anything like a normal train service.

As Daniel Bowen has suggested in the past, if you have a local bus service, work out your alternatives before something goes wrong with your train service.

So if a replacement bus service can never be satisfactory, what should be of the highest priority is to ensure train lines don't go wrong. It may be that the media is faster and more comprehensive, not necessarily more accurate, with reports of train problems, but to me it feels like the train service is deteriorating, so far as disruptions go.

17 comments:

  1. It does seem like it, doesn't it? I mean, what major extensions have occurred in the past couple of decades to make folk who bought or rent in the outer outer suburbs use public transport?

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    1. Thank you for the set up Kath. One extension of one station. Epping is now South Morang. Disgraceful.

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  2. Another alternative is to take active buses and drivers away from their services to provide the substitute train service; both train and bus service are weakened.

    I've always wondered about the logistics of cranking up an alternative service with no notice and assumed it can never be a satisfactory alternative.

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    1. Victor, I wonder if they do steal from normal operations? I have heard that school buses must run.

      If they can' do better, then the train company needs to have its own spare buses and drivers ready to go.

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  3. And there is another problem. Many people don't like buses because they are smelly, block the roads and waste petrol. That is exactly why we prefer trams and trains.

    So if the train service is deteriorating as far as preventable disruptions go, we should be putting some effort into solving the train problem. Then work on bus back ups for unpreventable disruptions.

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    1. Indeed we do prefer vehicles on steel rails, Hels. Everywhere where they are building new train and tram tracks sees a large growth in public transport use.

      Seriously, I think bus back up is really something they need to address.

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  4. It's happening in Adelaide right now and has been since before Christmas. Extra buses have been called in to help transport the masses, but they are older ones that were probably scheduled for the scrap heaps, with little or no air conditioning, noisy motors, uncomfortable seats, most of which are too high to be comfortable on anyway. Complaining is of little use, we have to get to and from wherever, so we put up with it.

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    1. River, a letter to the newspaper is called for. Governments know there will always be complaints about public transport, but they hate to be reminded of its failings.

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  5. Your reasoning is perfectly sound, Andrew.

    There are two things about the standard response that are objectionable: Firstly that they have the gall to lie about alternative services [do anything you like so long as you tell me I don't mind] and

    Secondly that in the rush for the one or two buses found, no metro staff look after the interests of the elderly, disabled or otherwise frail who have to walk to the "bus stop", then have nowhere to sit and no shelter in inclement weather while the pig ignorant stampede and push them aside.

    TY for letting me get that off my chest.

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    1. FC, there are some train replacement bus stops with good signage. I suppose that is a start. In many countries there would be outrage at so such a failed train system. Good point about the elderly and disabled, though in the past they did not travel on peak hour trains unless they paid a full fare.

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  6. I wasn't aware train cancellations are frequent in Melbourne. These are some ills that frequent Indian railways.

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    1. RP, at least Indian railways are still government owned, and the budget for the railways is brought down before the country's budget. Last I heard, Indian trains aren't doing too badly.

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    2. That's true. It's owned by the government. The latest rail budget was present yesterday.

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  7. See this is exactly why I prefer to drive Andrew!

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    1. But Grace, what do you have to complain about then? Ah, roads and drivers.

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    2. ... and cyclists...

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    3. FC, Swanston Street is interesting. There are a massive number of cyclists using it now. They have become a force to be reckoned with.

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