Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Transport Minister & Staff refuse to answer questions on Opal Card for pensioners/concessioners

Yesterday, Transport for All NSW finally received an email letter response from the Transport Minister Secretary for transport and roads who is also the minister for the Hawkesbury region, Ray Williams, to which a lot of the questions we put to the minister about the Gold Concessioner/Pensioner Opal Card have been left unanswered.

The questions Transport for All NSW put to the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian related to the following:

1) when would the elusive gold opal card for pensioners and concessioners actually be released (we asked for a specific date, not the usual 'later in the year' crap)?;
2) how would the opal card work and benefit a person with a severe disability who may not be able to physically tap on or tap off?
3) can the minister confirm reports Transport for All NSW have found relating to private bus companies (namely busways) not selling the Pensioner Excursion Tickets (PET) to pensioner and concessioners come the 1st September despite the TransportNSW website stating clearly that PET tickets will still be sold aboard private bus companies excluding State Transit Buses (STA)?

Now these questions are quite easy to reply to and quite honestly as the NSW Liberal Government has championed itself in being fully transparent, one would think the NSW Government would reply to all the answers and finally provide more information that what is currently available right?

Well they didn't and won't it seems. Below is a copy of the reply we got:

We here at Transport for All NSW are quite disappointed that the minister nor the secretary for the Transport Minister have failed to answer all our questions and it certainly does beg the main question, is the transport minister trying to deceive the disabled and elderly community by not providing real answers and what is the NSW Government trying to hide?

We have out our questions again to the minister and will await their reply, but I wouldn't hold ours nor your breath sadly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My horrible train trip via Sydney Trains

Last Tuesday Morning, the 22 July 2014, I was traveling into the city for work when I was injured during my morning commute between Blacktown and Town Hall because of a train driver who obviously had other ideas and rather play need for speed with the train I was traveling on.

So what happened, well to start of the beginning I boarded my train service which was the 9:52am Blacktown to Hornsby via city service, which is an express service into city stopping after Blacktown: Parramatta, Strathfield, Redfern, Central and Town Hall where is was alighting to head into work.

Now as the doors closed very much instantaneously, the driver seemed to have put the "pedal to the metal" (basically means the train speed out of the station quite fast), which was unusual given it was a Waratah (A set) train. 

Normally on the A sets I tend to stay next to the door instead of the wheelchair spaces provided as normally there are a few commuters sitting at these seats and normally asking them to move politely can turn ugly. But this morning there was no commuters sitting at these seats so I wheeled myself over to one of these wheelchair spaces and began listening to my music.

Now sotting at this spot i noticed that the irrational speeding continued between Blacktown and Parramatta as when arriving in Parramatta the guard announced the train service will depart in about 2-3 minutes which again is very unusual for an express service with no slow services running ahead of this train nor any delays on the line noted or announced.

Once the doors has closed within seconds the train driver again put the pedal to the metal and gunned the train into full speed ahead. Because of this, the brakes on my wheelchair where unable to stop the gravity pushingy backwards into the wall which I then tipped onto my anti-tippers at an angle, hitting my spine onto a hand pole I was unaware existed right behind me on the wall. I also hit my head against the wall at the same time. The wall I am talking about is the wall right next to the inter carriage doors (where you can go between each carriage or car).

This instantly put my back into a spasm which caused great pain to shoot down my legs and spine. Given I have had 5 major back surgeries this incident did not help at all.

I was able to get some of the pain under control and I hit the emergency button and requested the guard come to the 6th car, last door where I was to explained what happened but also advise that the staff at Town Hall would have to wheel me off the train as I couldn't but wouldn't be able to do this my self (normally I would wheel myself off and on the train with the ramp being placed down for me).

This all happened between Redfern and Central. The guard notified Town Hall about my need for further assistance and once off at Town Hall, I advised the staff of what had happened (along with the guard - both of them as there was a change over of guards at Central).

Town Hall staff then took note of my incident and informed and made a complaint to operations within Sydney Trains HQ. in the mean time I remained on platform awaiting for the pain to subside further as I had taken some pain killers.

Upon 20-45mins later I left town hall to make the short trip to my office where upon arriving my fellow colleagues where made aware of what had happened and seeing that I was still in a hell of a lot of pain called an ambulance to which I was then rushed to St Vincent's Hospital to Emergency with chronic back pain issues.

I also had made a complaint to Transport NSW via the 131 500 number and about 24 hours later I received a phone call from Sydney Trains wanting to clarify what had happened but also see how I was going and to advise they will investigate the matter urgently.

However I was unsatisfied with this response and advised this Sydney Trains representative that I would look at taking this further (which I still am). However the representative was able to do or offer anything further about what would happen and we ended our conversation there.

I then tried to raise the matter with the Transport Ministers Office, Gladys Berejiklian, but was advised that the matter would be raised as a complaint and a response given as soon as possible. I advised the ministers office rep that given I am still awaiting a response about the opal card for pensioners to still come through and that it had been 2 months since I sent the original enquiry, I would not be satisfied with this type of response and waiting period.

I was then again advised I could not speak to the minister and an enquiry would be sent through. Once again I gave my details but are yet to hear anything back. Which to me is showing the ministers isn't really listening to the fare paying commuters but the general public as well but also that she really doesn't give a dam. I know Ministers can be busy but still given the circumstances one would think through common sense to maybe consider giving myself or other victims a callback to hear about the incident but also follow up later on to say what they have done to ensure it won't happen again but also see how I and other victims are going since the accident or incident.

To say the least, I certainly wasn't happy nor felt safe because of this and whilst I know many of you might be thinking, well what's unusual about this as trains speed all the time. The issue for me is that there is speed restrictions on place, much like road speed rules and signs, which we all must obey to of course. The same is said for trains and their drivers to keep to these speeds as highlighted.

I find it absolutely ridiculous that only about 4 months ago Howard Collins, Chief Executive of Sydney Trains was on 7 news saying they had caught a few drivers speeding beyond the speed restrictions and that drivers should know they will be caught out if the continue such behavior because trains now have GPS tracking systems which tracks the trains movements including speed but also because of the black boxes installed and CCTV cameras.

Yet here we are. The same issue still happening because most drivers caught speeding generally go for re-training, which basically and in theory should make the driver think twice or three of four times, hell maybe more times than that, think about speeding again.

Personally I think drivers caught should be terminated, fined and barred from driving a train, tram, bus or ferry, almost similar to fines and penalties given to drivers caught speeding in their own personal car.

It makes me wonder whether it would be worth consider harsher penalties for train, bus, tram and ferry drivers who are caught speeding and putting not only passengers safety at risk but the general public as well.

These fines and penalties should be linked to the drivers car license so as to insure they know if they want to run the risk that if and when they are caught, and they will be caught, know that it is not acceptable and taught a lesson.

I would like to know what you think? Should train, bus, tram & ferry drivers if caught speeding or doing the wrong thing, be penalized through their personal car license (like what is in place for truck drivers and company car drivers)? 

We would also like to hear from you if you have been injured and felt unsafe on any form of public transport because of speeding? We would like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

On a side note:

I do have to say that the one politician who has been listening and actually was concerned about what happened is Penny Sharpe - NSW State Labor member and the shadow transport Minister and I would like to thank her not only from myself but also from my whole family who would like to thank her for her well wishes and support. Thank you Penny

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Newcastle truncation set to happen this December & what it means for you

Artist impression of an upgraded Broadmeadow station from 2004

The NSW Government have confirm that on Boxing Day, December 26 2014, that the Newcastle line will be truncated (cut off) permently from Wickham, meaning trains will no longer terminate at what is currently Newcastles main CBD terminus.

This means trains on the Newcastle and Hunter regional lines will have to compete for terminus space at Wickham until the new station has been built to accommodate more trains via new platforms. 

Along with this announcement, the NSW Government along with the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian who is also the minister for the Hunter region, has along with the NSW Planning Minister, Pru Goward, stated that trains from Wickham to Newcastle CBD will be replaced by Light Rail.

However until the Light Rail stops, along with signaling equipment and reconditioned tracks and the purchase of new light rail vehicles (also commonly known as trams) are built, buses will be supplementing services into the main CBD area of Newcastle.

Now whilst the truncation of heavy rail and replacement of these services via light rail are going to transform public transport for novocastrians, there are issues that not only we have found here at TfANSW, but also through various other community lobby groups and transport experts alike which are very worrying.

These issues namely relate to the timeline of this whole process, which seems very rushed at best, but also the main issue is the timeline for the light rail conversion process of the heavy rail from Wickham to Newcastle CBD.

Based on the press releases from not only the Ministers Office along but also local MP's and Transport for NSW is the issue surrounding the light rail conversion, which is not slated to begin until just on a year from the official truncation of the heavy rail from Wickham.

To us here at Transport for All NSW this is very worrying considering that planning for the new light rail stops, along with the conversion of heavy rail tracks, signals, power supply, wiring and building of new Light Rail Vehicles should be in the planning stages, with the beginning of conversion building stage happening immediately after the truncation of services, it certainly shows that this whole process has been rushed and little thought given to the thousands of commuters who still need to travel into the heart of Newcastles CBD beyond Wickham, especially people with disabilities who will be forced onto crowded smaller state owned Government Bus services run by State Transit/Newcastle Buses.

To be honest, such planning should be currently undertaken along with the release of what an upgraded Wickham Terminus will exactly look like, along with the transport interchange between heavy rail, light rail and buses but also planning of the conversion building stage be undertaken now.

We have reached out to the Transport Minister for comment, however at the date of publish we have been advised that a response can take up to 1 month.

We would like to hear your thoughts about the truncation of the heavy rail system but also the conversion of the system to Light Rail and the timeline for such a conversion to occur. Tell us your thoughts in the comments below

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Opal Man - Transport for NSW latest campaign to make you fall in love with the new Opal Card

Transport for NSW and the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, yesterday launched their new campaign to make Sydney commuters, either regular or irregular,  to take up and love the new ticketing smart card, Opal.

However the more disturbing is that the ad, which features a gentleman dressed up in lycra (I mean come on - that's for going to gym or bike riding at best) with his head popping out from a massive black adult Opal Card. Even later on within the TV Ad which is hitting the airwaves in Sydney and regional areas, features two children in green lycra with little green Opal cards surrounding their heads for the children's Opal Card.

I am sorry but not only should the fashion police be called, the Minister herself should be charged with fashion horrors of the extreme to the public!

Now whilst the campaign won't win any awards for creativity (as you can tell it wasn't a big budget nor even thoughts out properly), it does go to help someway highlight the strengths of the Opal card versus current queuing issues for paper tickets.

Instead it does however highlight a huge issue, mainly relating to the still non-existing Gold Pensioner/Concessioner Card, which is slated to still come "later this year" whatever that may mean but highlights that such a TV should not be placed up as the full rollout has not yet been completed, with the remaining bus network still yet to be completed along with Light Rail service which won't happen until early 2015 at this stage.

For example, a family may have a disabled child who is of a pension age, but the parents may have the adult Opal Card, however because of this they will still have to line up, queuing to still get a paper ticket for their child.

The same could be said for grandparents. Where their grandchild might have the children's concessioner green opal card, but the grandparents don't, meaning they too would need to line up and queue to obtain their paper tickets before continuing on their way.

We here at Transport for All NSW have sent enquiries to both the Opal Card Centre, Transport for NSW and the Transport Ministers office, the last stating that enquiries can take up to one month to at least 2 months for a response (which is quite poor for a ministers office).

If you haven't yet seen the Opal Man TV ads, here they are for you below:

We are hoping the current incumbent NSW Government comes to their senses and announce the Gold Concessioner/Pensioner Opal Card soon, but sadly we doubt this will occur.

What do you think of the new TV campaign? Do you think Opal & TfNSW should have waited till the full roll out of all opal cards to the whole transport network is completed? We would like to hear your thoughts and suggestions

Western Sydney Light Rail - where should it be built

A couple of weeks ago, the Liberal/National State Government announced their 4th and final budget before next years state election, and whilst many commentators have stated that the budget was basically an election pitch due to this reason. However there was some good points and some points that we were very confused about.

The thing we were confused about here at TfANSW was the $400 million provision to help identify the route which the State Government will build its second light rail link, knowing that such a line will start and terminate within the Parramatta CBD, Sydney's second biggest city within the metropolitan area.

However most of this was done by Parramatta City Council who did a review which was published and released for comment as part of their wider transport and building initiatives and the two routes that the council have identified within their own reports, which in turn has been put as a formal and informal proposal to the State Government and Transport for NSW.

The two routes which Parramatta City Council have made preference are:

  • Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood 
  • Parramatta to Castle Hill via Windsor Road 

However the State Government has also selected an additional 8 routes in which the light rail line could also be built within the area. These additional routes include:

  • Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Carlingford
  • Parramatta to Castle Hill via Old Northern Road
  • Parramatta to Liverpool via the T-way
  • Parramatta to Bankstown
  • Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park
  • Parramatta to Rouse Hill
  • Parramatta to Ryde via Victoria Road
  • Parramatta to Sydney CBD via Parramatta Road

Now what is even more surprising is that the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, has stated to the press and via the press release that Light Rail within the Parramatta CBD area will be built before their own report and consultation is complete for a preferred route.

What baffles us is that why would such a report cost $400Million to find out which route to build the light rail when most of the ground work is done.

That said, it got us thinking, which route should this Light Rail network be built on? Surely going with the Parramatta City Council proposed routes would be a good start, but what about in future as well? Where could such extensions on the light rail network be built in future?

Here is what we think:

Convert the existing three T Way networks 

Converting the three existing T-Way Networks which run from Parramatta to Liverpool, Parramatta to Rouse Hill via Westmead and Parramatta to Blacktown, to light rail would be far more beneficial for commuters, given that Buses cannot carry as many as a LRV (Light Rail Vehicle) could. 

Honestly converting these existing infrastructure would mean only track, sleepers, overhead wiring and poles along with signals would be required and would mean stations wouldn't have to be built as existing bus stops will be utilised.

There would also provide faster and more convenient connections, freeing up the private buses that run on these networks to other routes and in turn hopefully providing more bus routes for the private operators to run.

Convert the Carlingford line to Light Rail, extending to Parramatta & Westmead Health Precinct

This might sound far fetched, but converting the current heavy rail branch line known as the Carlingford Line, which is served by 1 train in each direction every half to 1 hour would provide more capacity to serve commuters who have long been forgotten about.

Converting the Carlingford line make sense, as it would also remove the last major level crossing and pinch point within the road network along Parramatta Road. 

There is great potential for further expansion if this occurs. For example, linking the line to either go to Clyde and possible works its way down to Olympic park could be a future expansion of this network. You could also do a future possible extension of the network towards Macquarie Park and even possibly connecting up to a converted T-Way which would then become part of again future expansion of the network.

Linking this up to Westmead health precinct (i.e: Westmead Hospital, Westmead Private, The Children's Hospital at Westmead & Cumberland Hospital) would also make sense given most express services no longer stop at Westmead and instead their next stop after Blacktown will be Parramatta if heading into the city, or from the city would be Blacktown after Parramatta. This sort of extension would provide an additional boost for commuters and replace the current incumbent services from Hillsbus/Transit Systems Australia.

Connect up to the City via the Light Rail extension down Parramatta Road

What would be beneficial for Western Sydney and indeed Inner-western commuters would be if the Parramatta Light Rail Network linked up towards the soon to be built Sydney CBD light Rail Network via a route down Parramatta Road once the West Connex is built of course.

This would again boost and enhance transport options for all residents but also allow for buses to be re-directed to other routes or possible allow for new routes to be developed. It would also take out the frustrations of Bus commuters who take the bus via Parramatta road and find that they end up staying in a car park due to traffic congestion.


Of course this is just some of the ideas we would like to put forward for possible routes for such a Western Sydney Light Rail Network should be built, but we would like to get your thoughts or suggestions? Do you think one of the above routes should be selected for the LRV network to be built? Do you have another route or suggestions or idea? We would like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Here is the press release from the Transport Ministers office regarding the WSLRN (Western Sydney Light Rail Network).

Western Sydney Light Rail report - Parramatta City Council