Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Our local railway line is to be closed

for seven months next year. It was also closed a couple of years ago when they did a massive alteration to meet the interstate gauge requirements. (No, do not ask. The "founding fathers" could not agree on that either.)
This time it has to do with a railway crossing. It is supposed to make it a few minutes faster for the traffic to flow and for the over-long goods trains to get to their destination more easily.
There are a number of problems with this. The first is that the traffic flow problems are not at the point where they are making the alterations. They traffic flow problems are in other places entirely - and there is nothing they could do about them short of building a  massive over pass. That might not be a bad idea but it would be even more expensive.
The second problem is that the goods trains should not be using that route at all. They should be sent north of the city. They will eventually need to be sent north of the city. Even now they are a major danger. They come down through the hills behind us and, if there is a break down they can block access to major roads. So far there has not been a najor fire emergency but, if there was, then there could also be a major tragedy because vehicles simply could not get through. As it is emergency vehicles have to come from greater distances - and through traffic which may have built up to an almost impassible point.
All that has been carefully explained to the powers that be. They are not listening. They want the cheap option. They want the short term solution.
Nobody needs to be surprised by that. It happens everywhere.
There is also a third problem. Our line is not the only one going to be closed - although ours will be closed far longer than the others. The rail network will be closed for at least a month.
That brings me to the fourth problem. How do you transport the people who usually use the train?
The government thought they had a simple answer. They would provide a "free" bus service - i.e. paid for by the taxpayer.
It won't work. If buses go the route of the train (as planned) then they will have to go where no bus can go. They claim to have thought of that. They will do a roundabout route which will allow them to pick up and drop people off at railways stations. The time table will be different (because it will take buses much longer than the trains) but "the service will be the same".
Buses of course do not carry as many people. This does not matter too much in the middle of the day when very few people use the trains - or the buses. It will matter at either end of the day when people are getting to and from work and students are getting to and from school. No matter, they tell us. We are putting on fourteen extra buses. Fourteen?
If the service is also going to be "free" other peole will want to use it as well. I imagine it will be chaos.
In the middle of all of that there is another problem. What happens to people who cannot access buses? Not all buses are "accessible" even now and I suspect that "accessible" buses will be too crowded to add a wheelchair or a gopher. I am not allowed to take my tricycle on a bus. There are wheelchairs and gophers which cannot access "accessible" buses. What if several elderly people need to get on with their walkers. Trains have spaces for those things. The doors are wide enough to make access easy.
No problem they say. Just let us know in advance if people need a taxi voucher. Oh? You are going to provide an "access cab" to and from work each day for the quadriplegic who uses his electric wheelchair on the train? It is going to arrive promptly and take him home promptly? I doubt it and so does he. That service is notoriously unreliable.
He is not the only one by any means. So far, apart from answering individual inquiries, the authorities have not said a word about this. All the individual response has said is that taxi vouchers will be provided if advance notice is given. It sounds very reasonable until you start to think about the possible consequences.
I am advised the work, if it needs to be done at all, could be done in about a third of the time if they worked around the clock. They would in many other places. Here they will apparently work one daylight shift.
Those of us who need to use the train know we will need to forego any social life that involves train travel but I hope there are no emergencies and nobody needs to get to work for seven months. It just seems rather unlikely.

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