Friday, 30 November 2018

They want to close the only rail service

between the state I live in and a neighbouring state.
They say people can fly or catch a bus instead. They say the service is running at a loss and should no longer be subsidised.
This is wrong on so many levels.
I have used that service a number of times. It used to be a night service. I endured uncomfortable nights sitting up in an unheated carriage in the middle of winter. It wasn't fun but I did it because, that many years back, it cost about a tenth of the air fare.
Air fares are much more reasonable now and a day trip to the next state is not uncommon for business people, shopping or even a sports match. (Yes, some Downunderites are that fanatical about their football.)
And yes, there are multiple bus services with reasonable fares. The buses belt along the highway and get you there faster than the train which has to negotiate some passing loops because it is a single track service most of the way.
That's the problem....plane and bus get you there faster. Even if the price was comparable people want to use those means of transport for that reason.
There is however another problem, an entirely different problem. There is a tiny minority of people who cannot fly for medical reasons. Some of them might be able to use the buses but others can't.
I know someone (and I am telling you about him with his permission) who cannot fly and cannot travel in a car or bus. He has panic attacks ever since he was involved in a serious road accident involving a bus some years ago.  He walks to the railway station each morning and catches a train to work. I know other people have told him, "Get over it!" but it isn't that easy. He's still working on it. His daughter drove him around the block recently. She told me he was "a mess" on that short drive. He's been trying because he wants to go to his son's wedding next year - in the neighbouring state. They had planned to go on the train. The locations he would have needed to attend there were all accessible by suburban train.
If the service closes, as seems likely, he won't be going.
Yes, it is just one example and I know there are people who will say that he had just better get over his fear, that a service losing money can't be kept open just for him or people like him.
But why wasn't the service well patronised? Yes, it took longer to get there but the trip has been a daylight one for some years now. It must surely have been pleasant to sit there without traffic rushing past or at you. There was the possibility of getting up and moving around a little because there was more room and it was safer to do so.  You were not crammed into a small seat in too close proximity to an objectionable stranger smelling strongly of stale cigarette smoke. 
I did that daylight trip just once. I haven't needed to go  back since then and holidays have not been possible because of caring for the Senior Cat. 
That daylight trip was interesting and not just because of the passing scenery.  I observed people relaxing. When I had finished doing the work I needed to do I took out my knitting. A woman several seats away came and sat opposite me with her knitting. She was a German tourist. Her English was a little awkward but she showed me pictures of her fine lace work and we talked about knitting, her stay in my home city and where she was going next. A young American exchange student joined in. Her second host family was meeting her at the other end and she was, naturally, a little nervous. 
Not everyone wants that sort of experience - and I would have been content to knit and look out the window or even go on reading - but for me it was more relaxing than a bus trip.
And at the other end I briefly met the  host family of the young exchange student. They thanked me for my interest in her and she went off happily. The German tourist firmly removed her husband from what had apparently been a fascinating conversation about engineering of the rail line and they left too. 
I caught the suburban train to my destination.
Two days later I saw the German tourists in the city. They recognised me and crossed the road to say "hello".  They both said how much they had enjoyed the freedom to move around on the train and speak to me and the railway personnel who had told the husband about the line.
I suppose something similar could happen on a bus - but it's less likely...and the rail trip was infinitely more comfortable than the bus. 
What's not to like if you have the time and the price is comparable?


Allison said...

Do you all have RV rentals available? Perhaps that could provide your friend with a way to get to the wedding especially if someone else could drive so he could move around at need.

Jodiebodie said...

The other state felt it was an important enough service to contribute a subsidy to keep it running yet ours didn't. Do you think the traffic is 'one way'; e.g. more money from our state being spent in the neighbouring state instead of the other way around? After all, so many touring shows and events get held over there and never make it here providing incentive to travel outside our own state. It seems strange that one state can see the value of a train service but the other can't and I wonder why that is. I do hope your friend can find a solution. As usual those doing it tough bear the burdens of such decisions. Isn't there current thought globally that a new focus on rail transport for both passengers and freight is a trend now and will be growing in the near future because it is more environmentally friendly and sustainable than private transport?