Easy like a Sunday morning train timetable

There are two reasons why catching the train on a weekend is often a pain – railway operators use it as an opportunity to replace and upgrade infrastructure while minimising the disruption to passengers, and when the trains do run, you have to wait longer at the station because fewer services are timetabled.

OSCAR set H40 arrives into the underground platform 5 at Epping

Last month our northern neighbours at the Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece about maintenance work delaying attendees of a weekend fun run:

City2Surf weekend trackwork: Gladys Berejiklian defends decision
Leesha McKenny
August 2, 2013

Buses will replace trains on parts of the Bankstown, Inner West and South lines next weekend, when about 85,000 registered participants are expected to travel into central Sydney for the world’s biggest fun run on Sunday.

Passengers on the affected lines have been urged to plan ahead and allow for more travel time, but Ms Berejiklian played down the likely disruption.

“Around 3 per cent of customers heading to the City2Surf by public transport may be impacted by track work and can catch replacement buses to the event.”

Sydney Trains’ director operations Tony Eid said next week’s work would upgrade the power supply systems in preparation for the increased number of Waratah trains on the network.

“For those impacted by trackwork, buses will depart every 10 minutes from 4.30am on the Bankstown Line and then every five mins from Punchbowl to Marrickville from 5.30am. Buses will operate every 10-15 minutes after 3.30am on the South Line. On the Inner West Line, extra frequent buses will operate between Lidcombe and Liverpool via Regents Park.”

Meanwhile back home in Melbourne, anyone trying to catch a Sunday morning train into the CBD will be greeted with the following:

Don’t you love it – Melbourne’s railway infrastructure is in much poorer condition than Sydney due to the lack of regular upgrade work, yet we still can’t go anywhere by train on a Sunday before 8am because the timetable says so!

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11 Responses to “Easy like a Sunday morning train timetable”

  1. Dave says:

    We’re well overdue for a ‘weekend’ timetable, that just has a few extra late night services on the Saturday night.

    It’s the same, but not quite as bad, as tram frequency on Sunday AM. The number of times I jump in the car because TramTracker says the next tram is in 29 mins… yeah right I’m going to wait.

    We’ve paid for all that infrastructure, just to let it lay idle when people would actually use it? Doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I’m only 10 minutes from the CBD by train – and if the 20 minute wait for an off peak train isn’t bad enough, the last time I tried to do so, I turned up 10 minutes early for a train, just to see the train before my leave, and get stuck there for a full 20 minutes until the next late train arrived!

      About the only downside of extended operating hours is shrinking of maintenance windows – at the moment they only get a few hours between last train on Saturday and first train on a Sunday, so more evening / early morning bus replacements would be required (which are still better than a non-existent service!)

      • Dave says:

        I don’t buy the maintenance window argument as a reason not to improve service span and frequency. We have the trains sitting idle on track that mostly isn’t having anything done to it on any given Sunday morning.

        We simply don’t have enough maintenance staff to cover all lines at once, so we should be running services on increased service spans, then performing temporary shutdowns when necessary for maintenance (probably nights, weekends, or rarely, a full shutdown for 1-2 weeks – ie NY subway style).

        As only one or a couple of lines would be down for maintenance on any one weekend, disruptions can be planned for and bustituted (or passengers travel on nearby lines). Plus, it gives all those buses sitting idle in depots something to do on the weekend.

      • Dave says:

        – and in relation to my previous post, understand you’re saying it’s a downside but not a reason not to do it. Just trying to emphasise that there’s a massive net benefit to improving service span!

        • Marcus Wong says:

          You’re spot on there – I’m sure any potential passenger would prefer being stuck on a rail replacement bus to sitting on an empty platform waiting for the first train to arrive!

  2. Simon Russell says:

    I spent a while last weekend travelling around Sydney on various means of public transport. Every part of their train system, save for ticketing, is better implemented. Better (actually present) station information displays, better in-train information, better trains, better tracks, better trackside infrastructure. It’s certainly not perfect, but Melbourne isn’t even playing the same game.

    Melbourne’s train system should be seen as an embarrassment. We’ve spent years (and millions) shuffling the deckchairs with privatisation, meanwhile Sydney has actually gone about just fixing things.

    That said, their ticketing is terrible — Opal will presumably fix that. And one can’t help thinking that the better service levels are paid for by pretty high ticket prices. So I guess it’s not all good news.

    • enno says:

      Don’t presume too much. Opal is not going to “fix” the main problems with Sydney ticketing, other than the need to carry a pocketful of coins. You are still going to pay through the nose to catch a train and then a bus, or two buses.

      • Marcus Wong says:

        You’re correct about Opal not being a silver bullet to Sydney’s transport ticketing troubles – it is just an ‘electronic purse’ all it will do is make paying for travel cheaper.

        Hong Kong and their Octopus card is the same – you can catch a train, ferry and then a bus with it, but you get charged a separate fare for each.

        • Simon Russell says:

          My comment was mainly about the complexity of choosing the right ticket, and having to buy it. Opal is similar to Oyster or any of those cards; they’re not redesigning the fare structure, just replacing the ticketing mechanism.

          It made me realise that for all the complaints about Myki/Oyster/whatever being complex for tourists, once you figure out you need that card and put money on it, you’re basically sorted.

  3. enno says:

    Sydney’s trackwork replacement buses are usually pretty good. On the weekend, and during the Christmas-New Year week, the buses often run faster than the trains. I’ve only been screwed by the bus once, and that was when the main western line was closed between Strathfield and Parramatta, and the last train out of the city in the evening terminated at Strathfield, and we caught the bus, which went promptly to Parramatta, and the last train from Parramatta to Penrith pulled out Parramatta station just as 30 passengers off the bus were entering the platform.

    But it is the train driver who deserved to have his teeth kicked down his throat for that, and not the people organising the buses. Better coordination is required.

    It seems to be a joke that that the train start so late on Sunday in Melbourne.

  4. scott says:

    I was suprised on a recent trip to sydney, that sydney has trains on most lines every 10 minutes!

    Yet you can’t even get a train on a Sunday in Melbourne before 8am.

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