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Article: Finding a way through the railway labyrinth
« on: June 22, 2008, 04:05:59 PM »
From The Age click here!


Finding a way through the railway labyrinth

Quote
Finding a way through the railway labyrinth

Date: June 22 2008

Reid Sexton

ASK Chris White why Connex doesn't put more trains on the overcrowded rail network tomorrow and he pulls out a three by one-metre piece of paper.

On it are hundreds of multi-coloured zigzags, criss-crossing eachother along a time-space graph to form half of the system's master timetable.

Connex refused to let it be photographed but it is of little value to the untrained eye, a tangle of blue, red and green lines that Pro Hart might have painted had he used rulers.

Each one shows a train's journey from start to finish across the day along with the intersections, corridor space and entry points it faces.

But what it's really useful for, Mr White says, is showing the complexity of a network where each train depends on others to reach its destination on time.

This means a delay at North Melbourne can stop trains in Richmond, and is what Mr White, who is Connex's general manger network development, must deal with as he oversees the network's biggest timetable restructuring in years.

More than 200 weekly services will be added in November to offset some of the chaos Connex chief executive Bruce Hughes last week predicted would grip the system by 2013.

Mr White agrees with his boss but says the new services will also alleviate overcrowding in the short term.

"The harsh reality is while you're growing at 10% you're never going to fix the problems," he says.

"This is going to give us breathing space but ? it's a balancing act."

Connex and the State Government have played catch-up since patronage growth began booming in 2005 and led to ever-worsening overcrowding.

Many of the new services will run on the Werribee, Sydenham and Epping/Hurstbridge lines, with others dispersed, according to last month's patronage survey ? the results of which have not been released.

Planning for the latest timetable began last October, when Connex started a multimillion- dollar program to upgrade the network's five maintenance depots.

Whereas 88% of the fleet would run during the peak, maintenance efficiencies will lift that to 94% by November, which should, says Mr White, bring an increase of 10 six-car trains.

While critics claim the upgrade should have started years ago, there is no disputing the additional trains will provide the backbone of a restructure, which also includes untangling city loop portals at North Melbourne and Clifton Hill.

Passengers on morning trains from Werribee and Epping/Hurstbridge will travel straight to Flinders Street, avoiding the loop but lengthening the journey for thousands of commuters.

"If we put extra trains in and evenly gave access to the loop, it would just lock up," he says.

"The Werribee comes out simply because its track is on the outside (at North Melbourne) and the loop tunnels are on the inside.

"If the loop tunnels were on the outside the Werribee would still go through the loop and

the Upfield wouldn't, but that's just the way it's laid out."

The infrastructure constraints of the radial network must surely frustrate everyone at Connex, but none more than its four master timetablers.

It is their job to request V/Line timetable changes and tweak services around congested intersections.

Mr White says he doesn't know whether it's healthy or not, but the constant drubbing of Connex acts as motivation.

"There's a lot of pressure," he says. "You can't help but take a lot of things personally."

All Connex can do, he says, is search for breathing room until the network is rescued by major infrastructure upgrades.

"There are a lot of things on the network that people would like to change and I'd like to think what we're offering in November does some of that."
Half baked projects, have long term consequences ...
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