Life is full of disappointments. For me, the most frequent source of my disappointment is Sydney’s public transport.
At least once a month, I hear: “The… next train… to Berowra… is delayed… by twenny minutes”. My heart sinks, and I ransack my bag to grab my mobile. I tell my boss that I will be around 30 minutes late and that it is the train’s fault – although because it’s happening too often now, he probably thinks that it’s an excuse that I use whenever I want few a more minutes sleeping in. Come on, I would never do that…
I live in a special suburb called Carlingford. It is the terminus of the Carlingford Line, the blue line, that you don’t usually see much on the network map – it’s such a short line. The line connects Carlingford to the rest of the world via Clyde, a station near Granville, which is a much bigger station than Clyde. In fact, the two stations are so close to each other that I can see people on the Granville platform from the spot I usually stand for my connecting train on Clyde. I constantly wonder why didn’t they connect Granville to Carlingford instead, wouldn’t that be much better?
Carlingford Line is the least-used line on the CityRail network, which means any upgrades to the line is hard to justify because there’s not enough people to pay for the cost. Which sucks, badly, because it’s an evil cycle, a chicken and egg thing: after one week of using the train, it’s obvious why not many people chooses it as their main method of transport to work. The line, is literally a line, one train line, rather than the usual two lines to accommodate trains going on different directions. As a result, the service provided is limited to a shuttle service from Carlingford to Clyde; And although theoretically they can fit two return trip within an hour (one Carlingford – Clyde journey takes 12 minutes), less patron dictates that there can only be one scheduled service within the hour, even in peak hours.
I suspect the difficulty of serving the line also add unnecessary burden to CityRail to operate more frequently. If you take the common eight carriages train and use it to service passengers on my beloved line, passengers won’t be able to get out from half of the train… Yep, the platform on the stations are mini platform, only suitable for four carriages train to service the line. Hence even though I pay exactly the same amount of fare to people who lives in Parramatta, I get the oldest train every time – the only train where they can chop the length to two and probably not worry about what to do with the other half.
This did not hold last week. I had a jaw-dropping moment. On one of the mornings, I ran to the station because I was a little late getting out of my apartment, and there it was: a shiny four carriages millennium train waiting for me to depart. The next 12 minutes was the best experience I’ve ever had with CityRail. The train was fully air-conned, clean, big window, very quiet, smells great, and even the door opening sound seemed to be so futuristic! My oh my what a treat, I thought. Then it struck me: the state election is coming up.
This must be one of the political toys that the state government has been playing on me. I bet you they never think about finishing the Chatswood – Parramatta line, because it appeared to be such an effective promise-land to ploy the voters. The later they finish the line, the longer the time they can use it as an election tool. Remember the last fed election? Gillard even joined in, by announcing $2.6 billion to be contributed to the completion Epping – Parramatta line through Carlingford. How they even think to do this to prop up her profile is beyond me, as it was the same Labour government who promised the original line, only to cut the length in half and double the budget blowup.
Enough about politics, I have only one humble request, as a loyal patron of Sydney’s public transport: to have a comparable transport system to other developed cities overseas. Why can’t we have trains that have the same coverage level to the tubes in London? Why can’t we have trains that come more frequently, when Singapore has trains every minute on peak hours? And if those two are too hard, then at least why can’t we have trains that do come on time, just like Japanese trains: on time to the minute, not one minute early, not late.
I hope Sydney will ever reach that level, for now, I’m anticipating that the Epping – Parramatta proposed line will be scrapped again.