By Pascal Grosvenor
February 20, 2013

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cityrail indicator board 13 feb

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redfern train station 13 feb

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central platform 18-19  13 feb

I know a thing or two about catching trains.

I’ve been a Sydney train commuter for 18 years. In that time I’ve completed two university degrees and had several different jobs. From 1995 to 1998 I trained to Macquarie University via Epping station, and since then I’ve trained to and from City Circle train stations.

Cityrail and its customers had a terrible time last week. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a slipped fan belt caused rail chaos on Wednesday evening. Then a train broke down at St Leonards on Thursday evening, aka Valentine’s Day, causing a second night of major delays. These two incidents affected me and the 300,000 other Sydneysiders catching trains at evening peak times. One Tweet in particular really stuck with me.

A few other tweets among the many in the #cityrail or #cityfail hash tags:

I was stuck on a train near Lidcombe that didn’t move for half an hour on Wednesday evening. On Thursday I waited at Central Station for 25 minutes for a train going down the Penrith line. When it arrived its airconditioning was barely working, so I had a crowded, hot and unpleasant ride home. (Just two weeks ago a train became entangled in overhead wires on Sydney’s North shore causing long delays and overcrowding for northern line commuters) Anyway, last week ignited something in me. Enough was enough – I needed to make my voice heard and agitate for positive change. So I tweeted, filled out two online complaint forms and emailed s my State MP, the Minister for Transport and the Premier. I also looked for MSM coverage in the SMH, ABC news online, and the Daily Telegraph and found nothing except the single SMH article. There does not appear to be any statements from Cityrail, the Minister for Transport or the Premier. So, no reports of the train breakdown on Thursday, or the fact that it impacted many peoples’ plans for loved ones on Valentine’s Day.

So I called Margo, and she suggested I do the reporting job myself.

A friend on Facebook mentioned a website called railpage where train enthusiasts and cityrail staff chat . I found this:

Black1050 Chief Train Controller Location: Sectors, 3, 1 & 2

Blackadder wrote:

Can confirm it was a S set having issues (129 Run), eventually got the the train to St Leonards where pax de-trained, then empty to Chatswood turn back sidings. Information I have is not 1, not 2 but 3 motors lost power… Yep, it sure was. Saw it two way between Wollstonecraft and St Leonards at about 16:55, and again about 2 and bit hours later when it finally arrived at HMC… Sounds like it was a very unwell train… Multiple electrical issues, with multiple things not working ‘as advertised’…

That crew certainly earned their pay today…

Posted: Feb 15, 2013 2:20 am Highrise Chief Train Controller

Having spoke to the driver of the run after the event, the train pulled the power twice, Lit the thing up like a Christmas tree and lost Brake pipe pressure all in a single moment. As for what it was and having not asked, it wasn’t an A set. Dare I say it’ll be sitting in the back of Hornsby sheds feeling sorry for itself. One has to wonder, what did they do to the overhead down there during the last shutdown?

Posted: Feb 15, 2013 11:33 pm

To me, this seems indicative of major maintenance issues with the trains and/ or overhead wiring….

My opinion thus far is that Cityrail needs fixing but politicians are not doing enough and Cityrail top management is too timid. I feel the State Government should re-assess the level of funding for rail.

I also feel that Cityrail is not doing a good job of keeping commuters informed what’s happening. The service interruptions page on cityrail’s website only shows service interruptions in the last four hours. I suspect that if they showed the history of the last month or last year it would look pretty bad. Twitter comes in handy, because people tweet about service interruptions and by scrolling back you can piece together a sad history of service interruptions. (check out @cityrailupdates or @angrycityrail to name just two)

I could find no statement or apology from Cityrail regarding the events of last Wednesday and Thursday. And the MSM seems to be understaffed or not uninterested .

Anyway, this is my first go at being a citizen journalist, and I want to keep digging. Please correct me if I’ve made factual errors. I welcome discussion and debate via comments, email or tweets, and I’d appreciate information because I will write more articles on this topic. At the moment I tend to agree with Brendan:

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