17 Jul 2011

Surprise Trains

I was on a train going from Newcastle to Sydney when the conductor said something through the speakers. I couldn’t understand everything he said but I understood enough to know that people travelling to some place had to stay in the first few carriages of the train.

Until then I had only experienced this type of situation in England. Why this “wonderful” practice has been imported to Australia is a mystery to me. Does no one worry about the number of people that can’t hear properly or those whose mother tongue isn’t English, or people that may just be relaxing because they got onto a train that was supposedly going to take them to their destination and may now be snoozing away, or enjoying a book, unaware that they may be sitting on the wrong carriage and will be left stranded at some remote station?

If you are someone that takes the same train regularly you know what the deal is, but for a lot of other people, this type of thing invariably leads to confusion and anxiety. "What did he say?" they may wonder. "Am I on the right train?" "What carriage number am I in?" "Can I move to another carriage without having to go on the platform?" "What about my luggage?" "What was the name of the station the conductor mentioned?" "Is it the next one?" (Most of the time, if you aren’t a frequent traveller you don’t know and don’t care about the stations between the one where you got your train and the one that is your destination.)

Isn't this a bit insane?

A similar issue happens between Hamilton and Newcastle Stations. A plaque at Hamilton Station advises passengers to travel in the last four carriages of the train when returning to the station, as the platform is too short. Is this the type of thing we should expect from one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world?