Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Melbourne has big train problems!

The Melbourne Age has an interesting front page story today about the problems in that city.

OVERCROWDING on Melbourne's trains has worsened dramatically, resulting in contraventions of load limits and raising questions about how the State Government can achieve its goal of increasing public transport use. High petrol prices and population growth along rail corridors have led to booming train patronage in the past year — and regular breaches of passenger limits on major suburban lines, Government figures have confirmed.
Public transport advocates have accused the Government of having no immediate plan to alleviate the crisis, and have called for urgent action to expand the suburban fleet.
According to the franchise agreement under which Connex runs the system, a six-carriage train should carry a maximum of 798 passengers. Department of Infrastructure figures reveal that between 7.30 and 8.30am, average passenger loads on most train lines are near or above that limit — indicating that some services during that period are exceeding the load standard. On four lines — Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Pakenham and Sydenham, the average number of passengers per train during the peak hour is above the limit. On the Sydenham line it is 950.
The news comes as city commuters are being hit for the first time by increased parking fees, the result of a new tax designed to encourage a shift towards public transport. The cost of all-day car parking in the city rose yesterday by as much as $4, while rises of about $2 were seen across the city.
The breached train load standards are evidence of what many commuters have long suspected: that carriages are becoming more crowded. They also raise questions about whether the train system is ready to cope with a new influx of passengers if the parking tax succeeds in prising commuters from their cars.
The Government says the car park tax could cut congestion by 10 per cent and that this would remove 5000 cars from the road. Louise Perry, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Peter Batchelor, said she was confident that the train network — which carries 150,000 commuters each morning peak — could absorb such an influx.
"In the longer term, however, the increasing trend towards public transport will require substantial investment in rail infrastructure, and this Government is determined to meet the challenge," she said.
Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said extra services were already badly needed to reduce peak-hour overcrowding.


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