Friday, 4 January 2008

Say what you mean, mean what you say, Cityrail, or go jump!

Here is another rant on a topic I love whinging about: Trains. Or more specifically, CityRail. Which means NSW trains. I don't know how you are going in the other states, but if you're worse off, you have my full sympathy.

Train fares went up again recently; of course people got upset because it's another hike in recent times and the trains have got worse. Naturally, this is how things work in public transport, which allows people to jump to the most obvious conclusion: We feed the public transport system more and more money and they throw it away carelessly on nothing useful and demand more. And we hire these jerks.

In any other employer-employee situation these people would have been long gone for gross rorting and incompetence but unfortuately the public sector has had it too comfy. You can still be an incompetent time waster and be Minister for Transport; in fact it seems to be some kind of prerequisite nowadays.

Now, I was wandering around CityRail recently and I saw some signs up that I hadn't seen before. They were signs warning passengers that they should pay for their ticket OR ELSE! CityRail was getting tough on fare evasion!

There were buses instead of trains, so I went to catch a bus. There were signs there saying you had to buy a valid ticket or you would not be able to ride the buses replacing the trains, so I dutifully bought the ticket from the train station and then walked back to the bus stand. When the bus driver came round I showed him my ticket.

"I'm not interested," he said, as I tried to flash my ticket. "Couldn't care less whether you bought one or not. I don't want to look."

A couple boarded after me, and inquired how much the ride cost, and whether they could buy a ticket on the bus. "Don't buy a ticket. I couldn't care whether you had a ticket or not. I can't sell one to you here. Get on." They looked surprised but pleased.

As the bus driver continued this policy, I began to feel rather ripped off that I'd actually bought a ticket when everyone else was being let on for free!

A week later, I roamed the train station, and the signs were there, alerting me to the "Get Tough On Fare Evaders" policy. I dutifully bought my ticket and went to the electronic turnstiles. You can't get past the turnstiles without an electronic ticket ... or can you?

You can. A man came in the opposite direction, and jumped over the turnstiles and kept walking, right past me. There were two CityRail officers standing right near me at the time, watching the man, and neither raised a voice in protest.


Pardon me for being a little sceptical of the get tough on fare evasion policy. But what's the point of having threatening signs about when you've got officers who don't follow through? I'm rather peeved my money to CityRail has been wasted on a whole lot of useless posters, myself.

Contradictory and slack behaviour by CityRail? Not a way to encourage respect for authority, guys. Try again. And perhaps you could try NOT to screw it up this time.


TimT said...

I think replacement bus drivers ignoring tickets is fairly common, they do it here in Melbourne too. I guess they get told their job is to do the job quickly and not worry about tickets, since buses are slower than trains (and, in some cases in Melbourne, slower than trams, though that's hard to believe).

A few months ago in Melbourne, the Premier - John Brumby - announced a 'one week trial of free early morning transport on the Broadmeadows line'. A good thing? Not really. Like thousands of others, I bought a monthly ticket that would have covered the line, before the announcement was made.

Also, the trial was being made as a way of 'easing congestion' on 'peak hour transport' - a problem partly caused by the fact that the government hadn't bought enough trains to deal with peak hours.


Maria said...

Well, I'm with you, TimT, that it's not a bad thing for free tickets on replacement bus services, considering the fact we aren't even riding the service we're supposedly paying for. In fact, since we're supposedly paying for a working, on-time train system, I don't know that we're ever riding the system we're supposed to be paying for, but that's another story.

I just wish they'd tell you that BEFORE you boarded the bus rather than going on about how you have to buy a valid tacket, you buying one, then them ignoring you completely and even being quite rude about the fact you bought one, making you feel stupid for buying one. And ripped off.

Makes you feel like never buying one til you're forced by the scruff of your collar to buy one.

As for the buying a monthly ticket with the free trial thing going on at the same time, again, it's annoying. I wish they'd make up their bloomin' minds. To be free or not to be free? That is the question. Another good question would be if they're actually going to get their act together and have a good rail system, ever.

I remember there being a "fare free day" in NSW once and me feeling utterly ripped off because it was one day when I didn't have to make the long trip into my study course and back. It was my stay-at-home day! I had some idea I would bum around and ride round the whole day, getting off and on at every stop and walking through every turnstile just for the hell of it, but I didn't. I should have, and made a DVD of it.

As you said - bums!

nailpolishblues said...

I buy weekly tickets and always get annoyed if anything goes wrong with the trains or if the bus drivers are having one of their many 'machine's broken, free ride' or 'fuck 'em all, free ride' days. I should find a way to ride more ferries, then I'd really feel like I was getting value for money.

Anyway, that was all a bit boring and irrelevant. What I was going to say was that I've worked out the key to this tough on fare evasion thing. At 10pm at Newtown station they are totally tough on fare evasion. I think it only counts if they're getting night penalties.
Wow. That came out lame.

TimT said...

That's it! They crack down on fare evasion at night in Melbourne, too - I used to think it was something to do with the big bad fare evaders coming out at night, but considering some of the weirdos I've sat next to during the day... it's got to be a night-time penalties thing.

nailpolishblues said...

Fewer people, easier targets, more money. What's not to like?

At least the bus guys are fair and out of a day.

Miss Eagle said...

Maria, there's a lot of whinging and whining in Melbourne but after four years in Sydney with City Rail I reckon there's no comparison. I once temped for a couple of weeks for the fellow who headed up Public Transport in Melbourne. I told him I had the solution to the Melbourne whingers. Give them an all expenses paid trip to Sydney on one condition - they must travel on City Rail every morning and evening in peak hour. That ought to do it! They would come back to Melbourne and never be heard from again - and would just be thankful to be here and travel on Connex! And have trams as well!

Maria said...

Ahh - yes! Count your blessings, Melburnians. Round this time last year I visited Melbourne just briefly and the trains were a greath of fresh air compared to CityRail. In fact, that was quite litreal - a lot CLEANER too!

Not that we couldn't do better - me cousin came back from Japan gushing about Japanese efficiency so I'm thinking that, sadly, we're counting our blessings for something others would look at ion disdain. A First World Country with Third World trains

Friendless said...

What you don't understand is that they have a policy, and what they do to enforce it is put up signs. That's all they need to do. It's like on the highway when the signs say WARNING POLICE RADAR USED IN THIS AREA. Of course nobody will speed once they've been warned, so there's no point putting radar there. So what the sign means is POLICE RADAR NOT USED IN THIS AREA.

Public transport sucks in Brisbane as well. Some trains don't run because there's nobody to drive them. They're all sick, apparently. And the buses come at random infrequent times, but not after 6pm.