Train timetables 'too complicated' - CLAY LUCAS.
January 16, 2010
MELBOURNE'S timetables are far too complicated and need to be drastically simplified as part of a major two-year regeneration of the rail network, the new head of the city's rail system says.
A ''run-to-failure philosophy'' that had endured under previous train operators was no longer good enough, Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala said yesterday in an interview with The Age.
''It is time for the railways to step up now and play our part in keeping Melbourne moving, because with another 1 million people coming in the next 15 years, the roads simply won't cope,'' he said.
Mr Lezala does not own a car in Melbourne, does not yet have a myki card and rides the tram to work from his inner-city home.
Yesterday, at the end of another torrid week for Melbourne train travellers - with 43-degree heat on Monday resulting in 247 of 2050 scheduled services being cancelled - Mr Lezala said the city deserved better.
Melbourne needed a public transport system as good as that of Hong Kong or Singapore, he said, and the existing system needed upgrading to run reliably in temperatures as hot as 45 degrees.
Mr Lezala said Metro had embarked upon several projects to improve Melbourne's rail system. These would ultimately take two years to work their way through the system. ''But that is too long to wait for an improvement in reliability,'' he said, stressing that Metro was working on a range of immediate fixes to make the system noticeably better.
A simplified timetable was needed so customers could remember it, and so train controllers could recover the system when things went wrong, he said.
''We have some fantastic train controllers and they keep in their heads a timetable that is more complex than many I have seen,'' he said.
Mr Lezala said he deliberately did not own a car in Melbourne. ''I am an advocate of public transport. I like the tram network because the frequency is such that you do not need to understand the timetable.''
The train network needed that frequency, he said. The Public Transport Users Association campaigned in 2008 to get trains, trams and buses running every 10 minutes. He said this was the correct approach.
Mr Lezala said Melbourne's trains, tracks, signalling and overhead power all needed much work. He said the way the last train contracts were structured ''created a bit of tribalism'' that led to a blame game.
The complex contracts that Connex operated under were set up in 2004 by consultants and senior bureaucrats who included the now Secretary of the Department of Transport, Jim Betts.
The contracts established Connex as train operator, another company, Mainco, as track maintainer and a third firm, United - now part of Metro Trains - as train repairer.
The new contracts bring responsibility for all of this into one company, Metro. Mr Lezala - who repeatedly apologised to the public this week for Monday's problems - said people should expect excellent service from Metro. ''If it is not going right, we should apologise and let people know what we are doing about it.''
Overhead power lines on the city's train network are now his biggest concern after wires sagged in this week's heat, causing cancellations.
Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky had been ''very successful at getting finances for this railway'', said Mr Lezala, 54, who has worked on railways in Asia, Europe and Australia.
''I've worked with a lot of politicians … and the sincerity with which they [the State Government] want to make this system better is fantastic compared to a lot of other places.''
Please note, the Secretary of the Department of Transport, Jim Betts as far as I'm aware still doesn't own a car and always travels to work by PT. Minister Kosky generally travels by car for reasons that have been discussed elsewhere in these pages.