Thursday, 20 March 2008

Answer from Connex (excuses, excuses)

Case no: lm/08142

20 March 2008

Mr Ross Hughes

Dear Mr Hughes

We refer to your email received in this office on 5 March 2008.

Your correspondence raises a number of issues, namely:

The operation of three carriage services during peak periods on the Upfield line.
Metcard pricing.
Proposed upgrades to increase service frequency.

We welcome the opportunity to provide the following information.

Three Carriage Services – Peak Hour

By way of background, train services provided on the Melbourne metropolitan network are provided by either six or three carriage trains.

When train faults reduce the number of trains available to run services, we run out of spare trains and we have to make a decision between running three carriage trains, or cancelling services completely.

We also have instances of vandalism which can affect the availability of trains, and in many cases cancellations or the short running of services are inevitable, as significant time is required to have a carriage window refitted or graffiti removed from the driver’s window (for example).

Our records indicate that the 8:21am Anstey station departure on 3 and 5 March operated as a three carriage service due to multiple train faults reducing the number of trains available to run services.

We respectfully advise that running a three carriage service is an option we only turn to as a last resort. Cancelling a service completely would subsequently necessitate that the following service carries two services worth of passengers. In reality what usually occurs is that more passengers are unable to board their intended services. Operating a three carriage service in lieu of an outright cancellation can alleviate the demand for the following service.

We would also like to advise that when we are forced to run a three carriage train, it is more practical to operate these on the shorter train lines, such as the Alamein, Upfield or Williamstown lines.

This decision is also related to the historically lower patronage levels on these lines and the need to utilise resources, in this case carriages, in the most efficient manner possible. In effect, we are tailoring the service to the patronage demand.

With that said, however, we are aware of a continual increase in patronage levels across the network.

The unprecedented increase in patronage levels across the entire network (20% in the past two years), has contributed to overcrowding on our services. This in turn represents one factor which can cause delays due to the additional time needed for passengers to board and disembark.

Recently the State Government announced the purchase of 18 new trains, expected to be in operation by 2009, as a means to help alleviate current capacity issues affecting our ability to adequately supply services for the growing number of passengers utilising the train network.

We respectfully reiterate that the running of a three carriage train is favoured over cancelling the train all together, as a means of ensuring that passengers can still reach their destination.

Metcard Pricing

As you may be aware, a Metcard allows for travel on all forms of public transport throughout metropolitan Melbourne, as opposed to simply being just a ‘train ticket’.

The price of a Metcard ticket is regulated by the State Government. The Government raises the price every year and the average fare increase aligns with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The CPI is the measure of change over a period of time for consumer goods and services. The categories it covers include food and drink, clothing, medical care, education, recreation and transport. For further information, please refer to the Department of Infrastructure website:

Franchise Agreement – Proposed Upgrades

Your comments regarding “selling the network to someone who can operate it with some sort of competency” are noted.

Contrary to popular opinion, the metropolitan rail network is not privatised. It is a public/private partnership between Connex and the State Government, managed through the Department of Infrastructure (DoI).

Under the terms of the franchise agreement, we are required to manage the day-to-day operation of the network. All infrastructure remains an asset of the State, including trains, tracks, stations and signals, etc.

Connex is also required to maintain the infrastructure which was ‘in place’ at the time when the franchise agreement began (April 2004). We are continually working at devising strategies to utilise the infrastructure we have available, including plans to revise maintenance programs and signalling systems to increase the number of trains the frequency at which they can operate.

Any upgrade or improvement to infrastructure, service levels, staffing levels and/or hours of operation need to be approved and funded by the State.

We can further advise that in addition to projects instigated by the DoI, Connex regularly forwards submissions to the State Government for approval for funding, to upgrade the network’s infrastructure. The State Government assesses these requests based on passenger needs, urgency, congested high patronage areas and allocates in order of priority accordingly.

Full details of the franchise agreements for public transport operators are available on the Department of Infrastructure website, located at

We fully acknowledge the inconvenience experienced as a result of three carriage services operating during peak periods.
Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Yours sincerely

Luke Morrison
Customer Resolution Co-ordinator

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Let's all move into the inner suburbs and shut down the live music venues

It seems to be a recurring theme in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. And by the inner suburbs, I'm talking about the inner sanctum, those suburbs that circle the city and Albert Park Lake.

People want to move into these suburbs because they're perceived as "cool" and "funky". Nice restaurants. Lovely cafes. The odd trendy bar or three. And live music.

The next thing that happens is that they find themselves next door to a live music venue such as a pub. After realising that yes, live music venues do play music late at night, the aforementioned new inner-suburban resident is immediately on the phone to the local council demanding that the venue either beome a speakeasy, or close down outright.

These people are called "wankers".

Incidentally, anyone who uses the word "funky" indiscriminately is also a wanker. Only the following contexts constitute acceptable usage of the word "funky":

  • When discussing music with an emphasis on "The One", porno basslines and jinkajing guitars. Horns optional but delicious - see James Brown and Funkadelic for more information; and
  • When you need to ask the question of those around you: "What is that funky smell?"

My good buddy DJ Mohair Slim (of the radio show, Blue Juice - 11am to 1pm AEST Sundays, 3PBS) has circulated this complaint, which I have full permission to reproduce:

Dear friends,

If you ever hear that I’ve been arrested for murder, you will already know who the victim is. Some inner-suburban Johnny-come-lately, simpering wowser who complained about music at an inner-city venue.

You know the ones, the ex-Camberwell/Toorak/Brighton monied empty-nester a$$holes and who move into Fitzroy/Collingwood/Northcote/City with the full knowledge that these are busy, noisy, music-filled, social hotspots and then, by gutless letter-writing and telephoning campaigns, seek to quell the dynamism, life and art of these rare joyful places.


Unfortunately, political correctness in the 1990s spawned “a culture of complaint” in this country that has spread like a cancer. “Dobbing” in your neighbour for water use, driving with a mobile phone or loud music gives too many people a sanctimonious hard on. In reaction to this trend, councils and government have established efficient mechanisms for complainers to be heard by “powers that be”. The result is that the voice of the joyless fun-police is the loudest heard and has started to effected policies regarding music venues.

I love music as you know and travel to the USA every year to the most musical places, Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans and Memphis. None of these places (except maybe New Orleans in Jazz Fest) compare to Melbourne musically. Have you ever seen the New York City live music guide? We have more gigs every week than they do.

A myriad random factors have combined to create a thriving garden of music art in this town. Like ecology, there is a delicate balance at play here. Why, for instance, with almost identical socio-cultural, institutional and financial background does Sydney have none of this vibrancy? To continue the (admittedly corny) garden metaphor we must tend this garden (going to gigs, starting bands, patronizing independent record stores, supporting independent radio) and deter pests (the inner-city serial noise complainers).

The complainers have already affected or threatened the operation of numerous venues: Empress of India, Rainbow Hotel, Open Studio, Transport and now even the Myer Music Bowl.

We need first occupancy legislation, so authorities dealing with noise complaints have to take into account who was there first. We need purchasers of new apartments to understand that is it their responsibility to ensure that there is adequate sound-proofing.

I have become aware of this new web-based group - I’m not normally a joiner, but I’ve joined this one and offered my services for fundraising and other activities. I don’t know the people behind or what they plan to do, but, fukk, it can’t hurt. It might even stop me pushing some silver-haired harpy off a ten storey building.

Mohair Slim Blue Juice Radio Show
station PBS 106.7


Connex. Again!!!

I thought I would begin and say thankyou Connex for providing an increasingly pathetic train service. Just when I thought it could not get any worse or less value for money you manage to sink yourselves to a new low. It bewilders me how your prices can rise yet your service get worse?
Connex, I am sick to death of being ripped off! How you get away with running your service the way you do is beyond me. Why is it so hard to run this service at an acceptable level? Or are all of you just simply incapable at doing your job?
Not once but twice this week Connex has made me late for work for exactly the same reason and it would seem that no matter how many times this is brought up, you either simply ignore it, make an excuse or just not care about it at all.
To explain my situation, I board or should I say, try to board the 8.21am train at Anstey station on the Upfield line. Twice this week the train has arrived with only three carraiges and bursting at the seams. Now I am no rocket scientist, but it would occur to me that this is not an adequate size train for this time of the morning considering that there are anywhere between 40 - 60 people waiting to board. Not to mention the other stations ahead of us where there are more people trying to get on.
Of course, as you would imagine, it was impossible to board these trains. However, being so close to Sydney Rd, we have the option of trams. Unfortunately, due to Connex being totally inept and causing this situation, everybody who cannot board the train heads straight to the tram trying not to be late for work. If going to work is not bad enough, we cannot board our train as there is no room and if you are lucky to get on a tram, you are squashed in like a sardine and in turn late for work. What a wonderful way to start the day!
Also, providing a train every 20 minutes on such a busy line is grossly inadequate. So my question is this: When oh when, are Connex going to fix this deplorable service? And please do not give me excuses like telling me that you are waiting to purchase more trains. If any one of you had the slightest piece of insight, you would have forseen this problem before it occured and prepared yourselves a lot better but I guess that would be too much to ask as you did not forsee the growth in use of your network over the past couple of years, which you actually stated in the news and papers. Was it too difficult to look at Melbourne's population growth and determine that the current system was going to be unable handle it? Or does your system have to be immensly overburdened for you to take notice and realise something needs to be done? It would seem at this stage, neither.
If you cannot deal with this situation or are simply unprepared to, please hand over or sell the network to someone who can operate it with some sort of competency because it is abundently clear that you unable to provide us at the very least, an average public train service.
Yours frustratingly,
Ross Hughes.