23 August 2008. This is according to the small paragraph in the paper this morning.
Being without a train service has caused a major disruption to our transport system. Adelaide's transport system is best described as 'antiquated'. We may well have the world's longest guided bus way out to the northern suburbs but even that has little to recommend it. There is not one single accessible bus for people with disabilities on that route.
There is talk of electrifying the train lines to Noarlunga and Gawler. Nothing is being said about the train line to Outer Harbour. That leaves our Belair line. This runs into the not-very-high hills behind us. It is apparently an engineering impossibility to electrify this - just as it was apparently an engineering impossibility to keep open all the stations when the goods track went to the interstate gauge and we had to go to a single track working for the passenger line. All this came on top of the gradual closure of the outer reaches of the hills line. It used to do a passenger service through to Murray Bridge - my entrepeneurial great-grandmother used it to carry supplies. When I was child it went all the way to Bridgewater - but they closed that in favour of a bus service which is slower, less frequent, less reliable and not accessible. All this is supposed to have been a good thing. After all, South Australia runs on the car industry. Even if Mitsubishi has closed operations here the economy needs the car industry. We cannot have alternatives. That would make the union movement unhappy and, we are told, would put hundreds of thousands of people out of work. I suppose it takes less people to make solar panels, bicycles, rainwater tanks etc. Less cars on the road would mean less work for any number of people. The car is the economy.
But, someone somewhere apparently realised we do need the railway line. I assume that is why the millions of dollars have been spent. They had to rip out the entire line. They have put in tonnes of gravel like filler and concrete sleepers. Two shiny strips of metal went down and were gradually banged, heaved, knocked and belted into submission. The crossing by-pass at Mitcham curves gently and elegantly.
I am wondering if they have levelled the track to the point where there will no longer be a step on and off the train. That will make it much easier to get my tricycle on and off. It will make matters much easier for the users of wheelchairs and gophers and the parents with baby buggies and pushers.
The train should be running in time for the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show. It will keep cars off the road simply because there is not enough parking at the Show grounds. It may even mean that some of those who have been driving to work rather than catch a slow bus will return to the train. They will catch up with friends, chat on their mobiles, read, do the crossword puzzle, listen to their i-pods, knit, join in the informal lesson being given to a student of English and sometimes just sit.
The train should be running again on 23 August.