In the wake of yet another tragic level crossing accident in Melbourne, a Melbourne train driver gives his perspective on the often frightening view from the driver’s seat…
Express running is the worst, or running empty cars back to a depot because you are not scheduled to stop but the punters are attuned to the stopping of trains at platforms.
They assume you’re going to stop and if they quickly duck under the safety barrier they can still catch your train!
A couple of my fellow drivers have hit small children at level crossings. Imagine pulling the train to a stand still, getting out of the cab and being confronted with the grieving parent. One train driver even had the mother screaming at him and physically hitting him.
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The concept of high speed rail travel was dismissed by 19th century scientist Professor Dionysius Lardner, who warned that “passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia”.
The passage of time (and the development of physics) has proved Lardner wrong, with the proliferation of extensive high speed rail networks on every inhabited continent - except for Australia.
That’s not to say it has not been considered here. Far from it. Australia has been through at least three serious considerations of High Speed Rail (HSR) in the past 30 years.
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So we’re a step further down the track to blowing $110 billion of taxpayer’s money on a new high speed rail network which will do exactly what planes do, only three times slower. Woohoo for progress.
Yesterday’s $20 million feasibility report was enthusiastically greeted by many, even though Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese admitted our relatively small population meant the price tag could be hard to justify.
He’s not wrong. Every other country with high speed rail, like Japan and China and France and Spain, has a far denser population than ours. In Australia, economies of scale mean this thing would be unlikely ever to pay for itself.
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So I’m on the train recently, and excuse me for being a busybody, but the lady in front, who can’t be a day under 75, is a reading a breathless novel about Rebbekah melting into the muscular arms of Storm. And I think to myself, “gee, I love public transport sometimes”.
The other day, I get off the train at Sydney’s Macquarie Park station. Right outside the station, two motorists are having a fist shaking match in gridlocked traffic and I think to myself, “gee I love public transport sometimes”.
November 2009. I’m in Melbourne for the golf, and I take the train to Huntingdale Station, followed by a free connecting bus to Kingston Heath Golf Club. The bus breezes through a special lane, while Tiger Woods is stuck in traffic, and I think to myself, “gee I love public transport sometimes”.
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Paul Kelly’s greatest ever song Luck is a plaintive lament about the constant conspiracy of mother nature, society and the capo-political machine against the humble individual struggling to make his way in the world.
(Sorry Joe, we couldn’t find Lucky. All we’ve got is this homemade version of From St. Kilda to Kings Cross)
Or, to put it another way, it’s about a man who misses a train.
The basic moral lesson of the song is that if life can find any way to defeat you it will do so both crushingly and as often as possible. It is a philosophy I have held dear all the years of my life.
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SQUASHED in a carriage like sardines, two bankers in striped suits bitched about a mutual client, then switched to moaning about how crowded and late the train was.
“Shouldn’t have to pay for this,” harrumphed one. “Bloody public transport. Should be free,” his mate chimed in.
If 10 strap-hangers and their sweaty armpits hadn’t blocked the path, I might have confronted the whingers with the fact no major world city has ever successfully run a free public transport system.
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