An Open Letter to NSW Transport Minister

Mr. Andrew Constance,

You may know me as the angry man berating you on Twitter. I’ve decided to take a more professional approach in contacting you via this correspondence. A bit about myself: I am a full-time worker who commutes between my home in Helensburgh and my place of work in Martin Place via Sydney’s train network. For years I have found the services provided to the people of this city to be less than adequate. These issues have been present long before your appointment as Minister of Transport so I will reprieve you of blame for the past failings of others, however I believe there needs to be more done to bring Sydney’s transport network up to a ‘first-world’ and ‘global’ level.

I have spent the past year conducting a little experiment; I returned to work on January 30th 2017 and finished up on 22nd December 2017. In that timeframe I have recorded every delay that occured on my commute, a reason for the delay (if any) and the date the delay occurred. Please note that this is just my own experience with delays – one man, on one of the many train lines of Sydney, at one consistent time (a.m. and p.m. peak between Helensburgh and Martin Place).

The results, to be blunt, are damning. In my recordings alone, I documented over 60 instances of train delays across 49 weeks (245 work days). This equates to a delay every 4 days on average, meaning that this average commuter was subjected to a delay at least once every week. Let that sink in: at least once every week a commuter can expect to be delayed in Sydney, a ‘first-world’ city. In many cases, no reason was given as to why there was a delay, and when information was provided, it was hardly reassuring or professional. Such excuses as ‘service cancelled for today only’ or ‘train terminating at a different stop’ are, in my mind, not acceptable for a global city such as Sydney. Other reasons such as mechanical failures, signal repairs and malfunctioning doors / toilet amenities are problems that should not (or rarely) occur in a first-world transport network.

Above were merely a handful of the excuses that were paraded out this year. It is worth mentioning as well that ticket prices increased on 1st July 2017, despite no improvements to the service. The Opal Card has been a good system for fares, however the brilliant ‘free trips after 8 weekly journeys’ regime has been compromised, and now punishes the commuter for using the trains. You would think that the exorbitant amount of money commuters are spending would mean we’d have trains that don’t break down all the time. Other issues include the guards and announcers being unprofessional in their approach to their vocation; we’re talking passive aggressive announcements, announcing station stops incorrectly, not speaking loudly enough over the PA system. I would hate to be a non-English speaking tourist in Sydney – how in the world are they expected to work out where they are going when the transport network is so inconsistent?

Perhaps the worst offence of your employees is blaming the commuter for delays – when trains are late, the crowds on platforms build, and often an announcer will often berate these crowds for holding up a train departing. I cannot fathom how this is the fault of people who are just trying to get to work or home on time. When trains are delayed or cancelled, it impacts on the personal lives of those using the system. People run late to work; this affects the economy. People run late home; this affects personal relationships and mental health. The knock-on effect of your train network’s failings may not be obvious, but it also cannot be denied. 

I returned to work 8th January 2018, and in this first week alone there have been horrendous delays for several days. Acts of God, sick drivers, faulty trains are just a few of the excuses I have heard so far. New year, same rubbish. As I previously stated, I will not berate you for the failings of the past, but as Minister for Transport I feel you have a responsibility to ensure our train network is kept consistent and of a high quality. This responsibility is not being met at the present time. Sydney trains are inconsistent, are poor value for time and money, and the business as a whole is unprofessional. I could ask you dozens of questions out of frustration and anger, but I think the best question to pose to you is to read my list of recorded delays and answer me this – Do you think this is good enough?


P.S. Clinen.

List of recorded delays between Helensburgh and Martin Place between 30/01/2017 to 22/12/2017:

  • 10/02: pm peak. Hot weather and mechanical failures.

  • 13/02: pm peak. Driver was sick. Had to wait for a new one.

  • 17/02: am peak. Track failures on city circle.

  • 22/02: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 03/03: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 07/03: am peak. Driver disappeared; had to wait for a replacement.

  • 10/03: am peak. No reason given.

  • 14/03: am peak. Major delays, express became an all-stops.

  • 21/03: am peak. Overhead wiring problems causing major delays. Train terminated before destination reached.

  • 22/03: pm peak. Wet weather.

  • 23/03: am peak. Train terminated before destination reached.

  • 24/03: pm peak. Medical emergency. 4th day in a row for delays.

  • 27/03: am peak. No reason given.

  • 29/03: pm peak. Freight train breakdown.

  • 11/04: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 20/04: am peak. Faulty doors.

  • 27/04: am peak. Congestion of trains.

  • 28/04: am peak. Congestion of trains.

  • 08/05: pm peak. Mechanical failures.

  • 09/05: am peak. Mechanical failures.

  • 09/05: pm peak. Faulty toilet.

  • 16/05: am peak. No reason given.

  • 16/05: pm peak. Train moved at a low speed for entire journey.

  • 19/05: pm peak. Wet weather.

  • 23/05: pm peak. Train remained at a standstill for 15 minutes. No reason given.

  • 26/05: pm peak. A disturbance at Redfern – whatever that means.

  • 29/05: am peak. No reason given.

  • 05/06: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 08/06: am peak. Wet weather.

  • 23/06: am peak. Urgent signal repairs.

  • 26/06: am peak. Track failures.

  • 01/07: Ticket prices increase!  

  • 12/07: am peak. Train breakdown ahead.

  • 12/07: pm peak. Trespasser on the tracks.

  • 14/07: am peak. Mechanical failures.

  • 14/07: pm peak. Urgent signal repairs.

  • 17/07: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 19/07: am peak. Sick passenger. Train terminated before destination reached.

  • 31/07: am peak. No reason given.

  • 03/08: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 09/08: am peak. Major delays with no reason given.

  • 14/08: pm peak. Indicator boards incorrect leading people to get on the wrong train.

  • 29/08: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 31/08: pm peak. Mechanical failures.

  • 01/09: pm peak. Malfunctioning doors.

  • 07/09: am peak. No reason given.

  • 07/09: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 19/09: am peak. Service cancelled for the day.

  • 20/09: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 21/09: am peak. Urgent signal repairs.

  • 27/09: am peak. Mechanical repairs.

  • 28/09: am peak. Urgent signal repairs.

  • 09/10: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 12/10: am peak. Urgent level crossing repairs.

  • 25/10: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 09/11: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 13/11: am peak. Extended trackwork. Train terminated before destination reached.

  • 23/11: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 24/11: am peak. Mechanical failures. Train terminated before destination reached.

  • 07/12: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 09/12: pm peak. No reason given.

  • 10/12: am peak. No reason given.

  • 20/12: pm peak. Wet weather. Train cancelled for the day only.

Published by P. S. Clinen

Official website of Australian author and artist, P.S.Clinen. He has published two novels - Tenebrae Manor and The Will of the Wisp, as well as the illustrated poem A Boy Named Art. His most recent release is a poetry collection Vignettes - An Anthology. All of his works are available to purchase on Amazon. Check back often for more by this author, including poetry, short stories and other updates.

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