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OBSERVERS have been dispatched to the Macarthur train line to see first-hand the effects of the new public transport timetable following a week of complaints on social media about packed carriages and station overcrowding, particularly at Glenfield.
And now the Sydney Trains boss is pledging to consider running longer trains on the T2 and T5 Leppington Lines, but says there can be no extra trains put on.
“I sent someone there (Glenfield) this morning,” the network’s chief executive, Howard Collins, told News Local on Thursday. He said feedback suggested the 7.50am service was overfull.
Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins said the average commuter taps on and taps off in 30 minutes. That included walking up stairs and waiting for trains, he said.“Our observers noted once they got in the cars everyone got a seat,” he said, adding “we think we can change that to an eight-car set”.
“We now are stretching the boundaries of how many trains we can run,” Mr Collins further noted.
Nonetheless he has promised to make “one or two tweaks” to stops on the passenger rail network, and modifications to TripView to “iron out” some of the problems customers reported having with the Sydney train/bus/ferry timetables app since November 26.
The pledge come as Labor commits to a timetable review within six months to make it fairer, particularly for those in western Sydney and the inner west — from where the bulk of the complaints to opposition transport spokeswoman and Strathfield MP Jodi McKay have come.
“While there may be more frequent trains, commuters are spending longer on the trains, with many having to interchange,” Ms McKay said.
The inner west customers are all delighted. They’re getting almost twice as many trains — Howard Collins
“The Blue Mountains train not stopping at Redfern is deeply unpopular. It is impacting on students and workers coming in to the city.”
Mr Collins said: “The inner west customers are all delighted.
“They’re getting almost twice as many trains. Parramatta now has 24 trains an hour to the city. We’ve got four trains an hour on the T2 line.”
Transport for NSW’s spokesman said in the am peak, Campbelltown customers benefited from access to a train every six minutes on average to Glenfield.
The Blue Mountains train not stopping at Redfern is deeply unpopular — Jodi McKay
“We’ve simplified the network so we can add 20 extra peak-hour services every week from Macarthur to the Sydney CBD on the T8 Airport and South Line ... (and) boosted the number of trains stopping at Glenfield by 20 per cent across the week,” TfNSW’s spokesman said.
But Macquarie federal Labor MP Susan Templeman says Richmond line commuters are telling her the timetable has “turned their lives upside down”.
The Richmond service — which cuts through Riverstone and Schofields Stations — is now served by the T5 Cumberland Line late night across the week and early morning on weekends.
Macquarie federal Labor MP Susan Templeman (centre, in purple) with train commuters at Richmond Park on Thursday night.TfNSW says the timetable doubles the services for customers between Richmond and Marayong on the T5 Line late at night, “with a train every 30 minutes instead of every hour”, and there are also more trains on the weekends for Blacktown — where Richmond customers swap for services to the city — with a service on average every 10 minutes.
“I’d love to provide an express train for everyone ... and, yes, now (certain) services are slower but the regularity is more frequent and the trains are less full,” Mr Collins said.
Southwest Sydney-bound commuters lose direct services from Blacktown.
They now have to swap trains at Glenfield Station.
The measures are designed to help spread capacity across the network and reduce crowding, TfNSW’s spokesman maintained.
A disgruntled Richmond line commuter.Mr Collins said Opal data supported their timetabling decisions.
“The Richmond line, compared to the Penrith line, we know only 15 per cent of people late at night are going to Richmond,” Mr Collins said, adding, “we’re trying to get the majority of people to their destination”.
‘IT’S BEEN A POSITIVE FIRST WEEK’TfNSW says it has received about 950 complaints in week one of the new timetable but insisted customers have been “happy” with the changes.
“It’s been a positive first week of the new rail timetable with on-time performance at 97 per cent,” a TfNSW spokesman said.
Mr Collins said: “We’ve only had two sick customers this week (we normally have two a week) and no people causing major disruption through trespass or vandalism. (It) has been one of our best operational weeks this calendar year.”
He said the overall data showed more people are sitting down and finding seats. He said the weight sensor technology on Sydney’s trains made collecting such data possible.
“A week of data shows us it’s a robust timetable and runs well from a reliability point of view,” Mr Collins said.
“One thing we’re working on in the medium term is re-signalling of the whole network.
“That would give you 24 trains an hour (up from 20) — that’s 3800 seats or 8000 more people an hour you could shift than you do today.”
‘IT’S THE LAST SUMMER’ OF DISCOMFORT
Mr Collins vowed we would not have to endure the infamous silver tin rattlers much longer either.
“The reality is running one type of stock on one line is an efficient thing to do — that’s why people have seen more of those on the T2 and the T3 (Leppington Lines) — but I can assure people it’s the last summer,” he said.
“Twenty-four fantastic Warratah trains are being made as we speak. We should see the first one arrive in March. Then, after that, three a month.
“I assure people that after every new train comes in, an appropriate old asset that people love to hate will be almost ceremonially crushed at Chullora.”
Southwest Sydney commuters are used to sweating it out on non-air conditioned trains. The temperature on this 5.57pm train in January from Glenfield to Campbelltown reached 42.9 degrees. Picture: Jonathan NgCOMMUTER PAINAS THE State Government rolls out its $1.5 billion plan to overhaul the network, by delivering the biggest capacity uplift ever introduced on the Sydney train network at one time, News Local went into the commuter trenches to find out how people were coping a week into the new timetable.
Ross Symonds is the face of the Macarthur region’s commuter pain.
“I now have to change at Glenfield (railway station) to get to Liverpool; I didn’t have to before,” Mr Symonds, of Ingleburn, said.
Ross Symonds waits for a T2 Leppington train at Glenfield Station en route to Liverpool Hospital, where he works. Picture: Justin SansonA shift worker, his commuting day started just before 9am on Thursday when he walked about 15 minutes from home to Ingleburn Station before boarding the T8 Airport and South Line.
News Local caught up with him at Glenfield Station when he was swapping on to the T5 Cumberland Line to continue his journey to Liverpool where he works as hospital assistant.
“It’s a 15-minute journey, if it’s straight there,” Mr Symonds lamented. All things going to plan, he would arrive at work at 9.45am. “It’s frustrating” he said.
Mr Symonds said he felt for the passengers who had to change more often.
“It’s not really a turn-up and go service,” — John Wanna
Like Mr Symonds, John Wanna is also accustomed to packing onto an oppressively hot four-carriage silver rattler on a sweltering summer’s day.
Now, there’s even fewer of them and if trains and buses don’t run like clockwork he has buckley’s chance of getting to work on time.
“It’s not really a turn-up and go service,” bemoaned the 24-year-old communications officer who catches the 7am 423 bus service from an Earlwood bus stop within four minutes’ walk of his home to Marrickville Station.
John Wanna’s packed carriage when he boarded at Marrickville Station in the peak on Friday morning.“(T3) trains roughly come about 15 minutes now; before they were coming roughly every eight,” Mr Wanna said.
“I had three options — 7.30am, 7.41am or 7.49am — and they would all get me to Wynyard Station on time.
“If I catch the 7.54am T3 from Marrickville to Wynyard now I arrive at 8.04am to catch an 8.10am bus to Mosman. That bus comes every hour. It needs to all run on time.”
“The new train changes have significantly impacted my commute and I really wish something could be done about it.” — Leah Stewart
Other customers on the line similarly described the timetable as crushingly slow.
Redfern commuter Leah Stewart caned the State Government after being “greatly inconvenienced” in the train timetable changes.
The primary school teacher, who commutes to Auburn each day, gave the government a lesson by the numbers after her return commute doubled in the revamp.
“An extra 12 minutes has been added to my train trip each way, which equals 24 extra minutes a day, 121 minutes a week and 4840 minutes over the school working year,” the 26-year-old said.
“I catch the 7.49am train from Redfern to Auburn. Before it was a 20-minute ride and now it’s 32 minutes.
“The new train changes have significantly impacted my commute and I really wish something could be done about it.”
Leah Stewart at Redfern train station. Picture: Joel CarrettMs Stewart says she now has safety concerns in her longer commute.
“Sometimes I leave work pretty late so now I have to get off the train at certain stations and change trains,” she said.
“I’m a single young woman and it’s actually pretty frightening getting off at some unfamiliar stops and waiting 10-15 minutes for the next train.
“I’m not fully comfortable now and it’s posed a safety issue for me.
“Trains are not as regular now coming back from Auburn and it has added 12-15 minutes to my ride on the way home. I have to change at Lidcombe to catch a connecting train to get home.
“I like using public transport, because I like to reduce my carbon footprint, but now I’m considering driving for the greater convenience,”— Leah Stewart
“The government has said it’s supposed to help save travel times, but the reality for me is that I’ve now got an increased travel time.”
Transport for NSW says is it “adjusting the way these lines operate so we can get more out of the existing network and create additional capacity for customers”.
“While we recognise some customers will experience change, we know the majority are better off with more services, more often,” a Transport for NSW spokesman said.
Ms Stewart said she was now looking at other ways of getting to work.
“I like using public transport, because I like to reduce my carbon footprint, but now I’m considering driving for the greater convenience,” she said.
Some passengers welcomed the extra time they gained from new later trains.
“Before I would arrive at Cabramatta at 8.16am, now it’s 8.20am — that four minutes makes a difference,” a smiling Zhanna Batyrkulova, who we found journeying from Strathfield to work on the T2 Line, said.
She leaves home at 7.35am and walks the short distance to Strathfield Station before boarding her train, arriving at her desk at 8.30am.
Zhanna Batyrkulova journeying to work on the T2 Line. Picture: Picture: Justin Sanson“After work I usually go to the city and there’s a new stop at Newtown,” the 29-year-old trainer commented brightly.
Blacktown recruiter/consultant Ray Askarzai said he felt well-served by the T1 Western Line from Blacktown, even before the timetable changes kicked in.
“I’m always catching the one (train) that comes next,” said Mr Askarzai, who we caught up with on the new 7.30am Blue Mountains express from Blacktown Station — one of around 250 extra express trains every week to the CBD.
Ray Askarzai says Blacktown Station was already well-served. Picture: Justin SansonTransport for NSW’s spokesman said changing trains was “commonplace in an expanding train system and is similar to the way other major rail networks around the world operate, like in London, Hong Kong, Paris and New York”.
The worry is how long we commute. Experts say long commutes have huge detrimental impacts on our health and wellbeing.
New Census data shows 70.4 per cent of Wollondilly shire’s residents drove to work in 2016. It was little better in isolated Camden (70.3pc) and gridlocked Campbelltown (61.4pc). That’s 87,339 locals potentially losing their cool on our roads or, much worse, having an accident.
“(They) eat into family life where people are not seeing kids off to school or tucking them into bed at night,” Prof Ann Williamson, a world-renowned authority on transport safety from the University of NSW, said.
Transport safety expert Professor Ann Williamson.“People get used to it, but over time it affects the state of mind. People just function on autopilot.”
Prof Williamson and her team of researchers at the Transport and Road Safety Research Centre have just completed a study on commuter fatigue which showed drivers were most at risk of crashing on their way to work.
“We tested 60 people over several months in a simulator and found people performed worst on mornings during a 30-minute commute behind the wheel due to the negative effects of long commuting,” she said.
“Truck drivers, nurses and doctors — those who have worked through the night — are very vulnerable to this.”
COMMUTER PAIN RELIEFSnapshot of extra public transport services:
■ Over 1500 extra weekly services, including more than 750 on weekends, across the Sydney Trains network
■ 160 new services a week on the T5 Cumberland Line, including new late night and weekend services
■ The T2 now makes more stops to pick up customers between Harris Park and Lidcombe and through the inner west, including direct access to Parramatta for inner west customers (removing the need to change trains at Strathfield)
■ Southwest Sydney gains 92 per cent more services stopping at Leppington and Edmondson Park, and 20 per cent more services stopping at Glenfield Station
■ More than 250 express trains every week between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, including 20 express trains during peak hours
■ More services on the T8 Airport & South Line service (on average every 15 minutes) including 10 peak-hour express trains an hour between Campbelltown and the City
■ Four services in the morning peak on the T2 Inner West and Leppington Line and T8 Airport & South Line, and four more trains to Liverpool and Parramatta (change at Glenfield)
This article first appeared on www.dailytelegraph.com.au
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