What happened to Metro’s station staff promise?

Back in November 2009, Metro Trains Melbourne took over the operation of Melbourne’s suburban rail network, and bringing with them a long list of promised improvements to the system. So how well has one of these promises fared?

Metro Trains Melbourne 'You'll be seeing more station staff' poster from early 2010 still in place

Improving staffing levels on the network was one promise Metro made, as found in this media release dated November 30, 2009:

Metro takes the reins
30 November

More staff, better customer information, an increased investment in infrastructure, stations brought to life and greater reliability and punctuality will start to roll out as Metro takes the reins of Melbourne’s train network today.

Metro CEO Andrew Lezala said “Our first priority is to get the basics right by improving network reliability and customer information.”

Metro is now recruiting for more than 200 new roles as it prepares to start work improving customer services and information as well as network infrastructure.

The first group of 13 Platform Assistants has been in training and will commence their role helping customers. Tasked with encouraging a smooth and safe flow of customers through crowded stations, the spread along platforms to ease areas of congestion, assisting the flow of customers boarding and exiting trains in the peaks and giving information on the timing of the next trains.

“This is a Melbourne solution for a Melbourne challenge,” Mr Lezala said.

“Some visual and audible changes will be experienced in the first couple of weeks but many of the initiatives will take some time to put in place,” Mr Lezala said. “We’ll be working really hard to make improvements to customers’ travelling experience.”

Metro did actually follow through on their improved customer service promise, when they published this media release on May 4, 2010:

Metro recruits more station staff and adds 22 new staffed stations
4 May

Metro’s recruitment drive for customer service staff and station staff is set to continue following the announcement of the 22 new stations to be staffed.

An initiative described when Metro was named as the successful franchisee, the list of 22 was today revealed with each station to be staffed for a four-hour period each weekday at a time when staffing is most needed. Manning of these stations will start from June and be complete by September due to works required at many stations.

Today’s announcements bring the number of staffed stations to 145 out of 211 across the network and the number of new roles created in the first half of 2010 to 211.

“In our first five months we have analysed the network and selected stations based on customer numbers as well as crowd movement and customer safety and assistance requirements. We have established a new category of station which will be staffed for 4 hours each weekday in the morning, shoulder-peak when large numbers of school students are using our services, or evenings. Whenever it is needed the most” Andrew Lezala, CEO said.

The 22 new staffed stations are Spotswood, West Footscray, Royal Park, Merlynston, Oak Park, Glenbervie, Strathmore, Pascoe Vale, Kensington, Tottenham, Canterbury, Burwood, Hawthorn, Gardiner, Dennis, Regent, Rosanna, Toorak, Hughesdale, Hawksburn, Sandown Park and McKinnon.

“As well as improving network reliability, we are focussed on providing our customers with a better experience of our services. We have been looking at ways of improving the perception of safety and working hard to improve customer information, announcements and signage and overall customer service” Mr Lezala added, “the changes we are making will become more and more noticeable in the coming months”.

“Following this announcement we will commence recruitment of 26 new employees who will work four-hour shifts at the 22 stations soon to be staffed. This is on top of 26 additional barrier staff starting this month at stations in Dandenong, Glenferrie, Caulfield, Ringwood, Camberwell, Glen Waverley and Footscray” Mr Lezala said.

Anyone interested in these customer service focussed station staff roles can enquire through the careers section of metrotrains.com.au

This additional recruitment is on top of:

  • 63 new platform assistants who started at city loop stations in December and January;
  • 31 new platform assistants, (half started last week, half start next week) located at Flinders Street, Parliament, Melbourne Central, Southern Cross, Flagstaff, Clifton Hill, Watsonia, Footscray, North Melbourne, Sunshine, Tooronga, Auburn, Box Hill, Frankston, Malvern, North Brighton and Richmond;

With additional staff in place at City Loop stations during afternoon peak, platform attendants kept the doors clear and indicated to drivers that it was safe for the train to depart.

Platform attendant at Flagstaff indicating to the driver the doors are clear with an illuminated paddle

Additional staff were also deployed to suburban stations in morning peak for the same reason.

Station host waves the despatch paddle at Ascot Vale

There they served double duty, welcoming the regular commuters, as well as updating them of delays and disruptions to normal services.

One train is 6 minutes late and the next one cancelled - at least they didn't write 'Have a nice day'!

Unfortunately all good things come to an end, and so did the renaissance in station staffing on Melbourne’s railways – in October 2012 Metro pulled station staff from the Craigieburn and Upfield lines as part of a six month long ‘trial’ of full time CCTV monitoring, with the removal of platform staff at City Loop platforms in afternoon peak ending soon after.

It is now five years since Metro took over in Melbourne with a blaze of promises around station staffing – now we are two years into a ‘six month’ long trial of CCTV replacing station staff, and have spent $212 million for two guys with guns to patrol every station after 6 PM each night.

Bank transfers and account name checking

I’ve been making electronic transfers from my bank account for years and never had any trouble with them – just plug in the account name, number and BSB code into the form, and a few days later, the money arrives in the destination account.

Window washers descend the NAB Building

I recently switched banks and unfortunately for me, a bank transfer failed – the money left my account but didn’t arrive at the destination account – but thankfully it bounced back a few days later! I verified the account number and BSB code I used with the destination bank, who said that it was all correct, but they flagged one possible issue – the account name.

Normally the account name isn’t something I worry about – I don’t always use my middle name, so my account names are all different, yet the bank usually manages to get my money to where it should go. However, it looks like my new bank is a bit more pedantic than my old one, as this thread on the Whirlpool forums suggests:

In a previous thread it was mentioned that ‘big banks’ do not cross reference account names and account numbers, and thus only a BSB and account number will suffice for transfers to go through. It was said credit unions/smaller institutions do manually cross reference account names / account numbers and therefore account names are required.

On further investigation I realised that I entered a dummy name for the bank transfer which failed – problem solved!

The Financial Ombudsman Service has more to say on account names matching when processing electronic transfers, in this document dated September 2003 (my emphasis):

Internet banking screens for online payments commonly require the name, and account number (including the
BSB) of the intended recipient’s account to be keyed in. Traditionally, the account name has been treated as part of the payment instructions on, for example, a deposit slip and the account name has always been an important part of the instructions for payment of a cheque. Payers often assume that the name and account number for a deposit will be checked against each other before the funds are credited to the payee’s account. In practice we know that an electronic transfer is processed solely on the basis of the account number.

This has the effect that, if the payer keys in the wrong account number the payment will be made but to the holder of the account number that has been keyed in. The mistake may only come to light when the intended recipient tells the payer that the payment has not been received. When the payer tries to find out where the payment has actually gone, he or she may be told that the recipient’s name cannot be released for reasons of confidentiality. Their bank may claim that it acted on the basis of the instructions it was given, that is, the account number.

The Ombudsman Service goes on to detail how the Bulk Electronic Clearing System (BECS) rules apply to online transfers, and account name matches – it gets complicated very quickly in regards to which bank is responsible for bank transfers misrouted due to account number / name mismatches.

So the moral of the story seems to be don’t fat finger the account numbers of transfers to big banks, as they might send the money to the wrong person – and pay attention to the account names for transfers to small banks, as they actually pay attention to the small details!

When the sun sets over Carlton

To steal a line from the Skyhooks, there is a lot to see when the sun sets over Carlton.

1960s concrete Housing Commission towers.

Housing Commission of Victoria apartment towers

Jeff Kennett’s legacy in the Melbourne Museum ‘blade’.

Central 'blade' at the Melbourne Museum

The dome of the Royal Exhibition Building.

Royal Exhibition Building towers over Carlton

ICI House and St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Orica House and St Patrick's Cathedral

The east end of the CBD.

East end of the Melbourne CBD

And finally, the west end.

Sunset on the north end of the Melbourne CBD

Footnote

All of the above photos were taken from atop the former Royal Women’s Hospital car park at the corner of Grattan and Cardigan Streets.

‘I recognise that’ in a TV advertisement

I was watching television the other night when one of the insipid ‘I bought a Jeep’ advertisements came on. If anything, the commercials make me think of Jeep owners as wankers, but I did notice one interesting thing…

And that thing was the filming location at the 21 second mark, where there is a tail view of the car driving along the coast.

Yep – by the water in Geelong, with the car driving along Hearne Parade with Corio Bay in the background.

Hearne Parade, Geelong, Victoria - via Google Streetview

Skip forward to another day, and another ‘I bought a Jeep’ commercial, with another familar looking location.

This time it is a car driving over a bridge at the 24 second mark, followed by a parting shot of the same bridge.

Again the footage is from Geelong, but in a much more remote location –
Blackgate Road in Connewarre, with the bridge crossing over Thompson Creek.

Blackgate Road, Connewarre, Victoria - via Google Streetview

You can take the boy out of Geelong, but you can’t take Geelong out of the boy!

‘Something, Say Something’ at Flagstaff station

A week or two ago, Flagstaff station was blanketed in yellow posters reading “If You See Something, Say Something”.

'If you see something, say something' scaremongering blankets Flagstaff station

It is part of a Victorian Government scaremongering campaign, which was launched after the national terrorism alert level was raised to “high” last month.

'If you see something, say something' scaremongering along the escalators at Flagstaff station

As a regular reader of my blog, you should know that that seeing ‘something’ is what I do best.

'If you see something, say something' scaremongering blankets Flagstaff station

In this case, the thing I saw was a low bluestone platform on the edge of Flagstaff Gardens, next door to Flagstaff station.

Upper level of the Flagstaff Gardens draft relief shaft

So what can I say about it? It is actually a ventilation structure for the City Loop, with a vertical shaft ending about 13 metres below the surface, where another tunnel heads sideways towards the underground draught relief structure.

Fine welded mesh covers the top of the draft relief shaft

Foonote

The access hatch into the ventilation structure is both locked and fitted with an alarm – you didn’t think something like this would be just laying around unsecured, would you?

As for the cost of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign:

Final costs for the campaign are not expected to be available until next year’s annual department report.