I can remember what everyone at The Met, at the time
thought about the upcoming 'privatisation'.
"Who in their right mind would want to run this decrepid system ?"
Vandalism and fare evasion was at an all time high.
The mid 90s saw window replacement due to vandalism
at 6000 panes per month, that equals an average of
200 windows kicked out a day !
Maintenance slackened off greatly.....wheelchair traffic
which at first was merely a novelty, boomed in that
on some jobs you may have had to deal with 12 wheelchairs
throughout your 8 hour shift.
I can remember when Connex first took over, I was running
an evening peak Belgrave, when some senior managers and a senior
French boss from the home company took a cabride from Flinders St
thru the Loop to Richmond.
Having a brief chat before departure, and with about 15 seconds
before departure time, a wheelchair rolled up to the cab.
Excusing myself from the french gentleman, I duly did my cab procedure
of apply and isolate the brake, put the parkbrake on, grabbed the wheelchair
ramp, put the wheelchair on, back into the cab, put ramp back in holder
recharged the brake pipe, took off the parkbrake, and we departed....
now 2 minutes late.
On arrival at Spencer St, the poor french gentleman bent over and asked me
how I knew the wheelchair was coming ?
I said, I just saw him.
Do they not have to prebook so you know they are coming , he asked.
No, they just roll up, I said
But how do you know where they are going ? he asked with a puzzled face.
You ask them, then I write the reminder sticker, then I get him off
at his requested stop, as I show him the hi-tech post-it note with "Flagstaff"
written on it !
Minutes later we stop at Flagstaff and I do the same procedure to get
the wheelchair off....another 2 minutes worth, I'm now running 4 minutes late
and I haven't even reached Richmond yet.
He was flabbagasted by the whole procdure....the train runs late whilst
the driver leaves his cab to put wheelchairs on/off.
No other railway does this (?) only us.
The Frenchies had a lot to learn.
As the article said, the M Trains were always dirtier than Connex, they had less
"Driver Defect Kings" so their trains seemed to break down more, and because they
did the high speed runs like Werribee and Pakenhams, the fleet was more clapped out.
M Train also had bizarre uniforms for the drivers, with little frills on the cuffs
and shirts....a lot of drivers cut these off.
The M trains DDU (drivers display unit) wasn't as good as the Connex one, and their CCTV
camera quality and placement was woeful.
Word had it that both M train's and Connex's parent company found out how bad the joint was
the hard way.....they could have easily asked a driver or passenger, before taking over, how
bad the place was....but they found out as trains broke down, rails buckled, 200 windows a day
were kicked out, fare evasion was skyhigh.....
Mealroom rumour was actually that Connex were going to be the first ones to jump ship.
So, surprisingly, I well remember the night it was announched..I was in the Flinders St mealroom about 2030
when a Principal Driver walked in and said...
"Listen you Bayside drivers, as from 2000 tonight, M Trains is no more as National Express have
let the Government know, they are walking away from their contract, so temporarily Connex
will deal with both systems until further notice."
We all joked that Connex, the favourites to leave, were just pipped at the post....maybe they too were
planning to leave at the end of that week and they just missed out.