Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The city I live in

is spread out in a long, thin line from north to south along the coast. It had nowhere else to go when people first came here. There is line of hills running parallel to the coast as well. The city is crammed into the space between the hills and the coast.
Although there are houses in the hills now, and many more than there used to be, building there is not really wise. Getting out would pose a problem in a major bushfire. So far we have been fortunate. Fires have claimed fewer lives and done much less damage than they might. Still, there are housing areas in the hills where fire crews will not go. It is too dangerous. They would have no way of getting out if the situation altered just slightly.
There is also another problem. The long goods trains also come through the hills and into a depot almost in the centre of the city. If one of them was to derail and cause a fire, such as the one in Canada, then it could cut off escape routes for many people.
When this issue is raised the authorities say it is nonsense. They say it won't happen, that they have all sorts of safeguards in place - and that people who live in those areas need to be aware of the potential hazards and have plans in place.
Of course human beings do not function like that but the authorities still claim that they should. That they themselves had the opportunity to bypass the city altogether and send the goods traffic via a northern route is beside the point. They did not want to do it. It would have meant admitting to another mistake - or two.
Now they are making yet another mistake. They say our local railway line should reopen next week. Perhaps it will.
It has been closed since January. They now have to encourage people to use it again. This is winter here and many people have discovered that using their nice, warm cars is convenient. You can walk out the door, get in the car, turn on the heating and the radio and drive to work. You do not have to wait in the open for the train - a train which may not run to time.  The "shelters" provided now provide much less shelter than the old corrugated iron structures. The new shelters are really open to the elements and more for show than shelter. It is no better at bus stops, indeed the majority of those have no shelter at all. There is just a yellow pole and a sign - even the bus drivers occasionally miss seeing them.
So, what has the government done? Instead of welcoming back those brave enough to use public transport they have increased the fares. We now have the most expensive fares in Australia. Of course they have attempted to justify the need to put the fares up. All governments will do that.
But, the psychology could hardly be worse. Is someone, somewhere still trying to save the car industry? It is the only possible answer.

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