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If there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from my IT studies, it’s this: even if you come up with a new, whizbang idea, ask yourself, what problem does it solve?

Many innovative people are probably having many innovative ideas right now, but do any of these ideas solve real problems that people care about?

As an example, my pet peeve are those barcodes on posters that you’re meant to scan with your mobile phone. Telstra seems to think they’re a great idea, but really, what problem does it solve? Is it that I can’t get enough advertising in my day that I need to access promotional crap even faster? It doesn’t even save me time, and it’s not easier either. I tried it on a bus once: navigating the menus on my Nokia and trying to get the camera (which (un)helpfully zoomed in to telescopic depths) to focus on a little square on the ceiling above my head got me nowhere except for stares all round.

Anyway, back to the main point for today. Firstly, I’d say metros are good. I like metros. Nathan Rees likes metros too.

But what problem does the Central-Rozelle metro solve?

According to the Herald today, the first three stops are Central, Town Hall and Martin Place. We already have a train line that allows you convey yourself between those very three points. Then it continues on to Rozelle. What on earth is at Rozelle? The idea is, it would be seem, to make people alight from Victoria Road buses and finish the balance of their journey on the metro. Yes, Victoria Road is a parking lot during peak hour, but does this metro solve the problem? If people aren’t catching the buses right now, there’s no indication that more people will be inclined to catch buses that connect onto a metro. Look at the map yourself: Victoria Road is a nightmare because it’s the free alternative to the Lane Cove Tunnel and the Harbour Bridge, for people up north-western way (Ryde, etc).

Then there’s the Central end. The idea is to make people get off CityRail trains and force them to change onto the metro… which runs to Town Hall, Martin Place and Wynyard. Apart from the fact that those stations can already be reached by people getting off at Central, what problem is the metro solving? It’s a little crowded at times, but it works reasonably well, and the government must have been thinking that they could artificially engineer a problem by making everyone get off. It’s not going to work.

Spending $5bn for a patronage of 5,500 people is pathetic. But people will come if you solve their problems.

So what problems are there that could be solved by a metro? Buses. Sydney Buses suck. Especially the ones that run along George and Castlereigh Streets. If you stand along George Street during peak hour, every second vehicle going past you is a bus. The Wynyard bus terminal is also a nightmare; office workers queuing up for miles to get on buses destined for the northern beaches, along with the Great Wall of China, are the two man-made formations visible from space.

I’ve had this drawn up for a while, but this is a metro line, if it were built, that I think would solve problems:

Enlarge this map

With this metro, you would terminate Parramatta Road and City Road buses before Broadway. In this case, forcing people off won’t irk anyone because the ride into the city is currently torture anyway. Likewise, on the northern approach, terminate northern beaches buses before they hit the bridge. I’ve only paired two stations with CityRail stations – Central and Wynyard (I think Town Hall is beyond hope) – and moved city stations closer together. They’re further apart than bus stops, but frankly, bus stops on every block as it currently stands is a bit ridiculous. Combined with some light rail on the surface, which Clover seems more than happy to provide, this, I humbly submit, is a metro that solves the CBD’s problems.

It’s not that I think a metro can’t be a good solution, but as it stands, the Central-Rozelle metro gets Sydney nowhere.

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I don't think it's time for me to give up my day job yet.

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It appears that CityRail quietly changed the timetable without telling anyone. This week, I’ve caught a couple of outbound trains along the Airport & East Hills line that stop all stations to Kingsgrove and then East Hills. I thought they took an all stations to East Hills service and cut out all the stations in between, but looking at the timetable, I now realise they’ve taken the services that are supposed to terminate at Kingsgrove and extended them to East Hills. The first one is at 8:23pm at Central and then every half hour until 10:23pm. The time taken from Kingsgrove to East Hills non-stop is just over 10 minutes.

The strangest thing is that they haven’t made any announcements at all, not on the web and not on noticeboards at stations either.


I am currently standing at Revesby station fuming over why CityRail can’t do anything to accommodate customers they screw over. My train just got cancelled and I will be late to a presentation that I need to attend at work. My completely reasonable request that the next express train that zooms past make an unscheduled stop was denied because the next train arrives in just 9 minutes. Perfectly sound reasoning if it weren’t for the fact this means we arrive in the city 25 minutes later and office workers can’t get in before 9am.

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A while back, CityRail started having these Empty Trains. I can’t for the life of me work out why anyone would choose such a stupid name. Does it mean that there’s no one inside? Does it mean it doesn’t go anywhere afterwards, as in, it’s terminating? (If so, what’s wrong with the word terminating?) I suppose it’s better than a (null) train.

The real WTF in the picture, though, is how a platform 23 service ended up on the Illawarra Line screen.

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Ah yes, The Mind Gap.

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I often sleep on the train, and I usually just have the ability to magically wake up on cue and make my stop. I guess I couldn’t have picked a worse time to suddenly wake up to find myself at Ingleburn. Oh, it’s not too bad I guess… it was just the last train for Friday night, and everyone at Campbelltown station apart from me and the security guards are drunk and saying “fuck” every five words, and it’s, well, fucking cold. And I have to be coherent for a 5-hour programming competition tomorrow…

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Grace mentioned this quite a while ago, but her parents’ shop at Sutherland station will be forcibly taken away by RailCorp, which wishes to widen the concourse at the station to, apparently, ease congestion. Despite their investment in the business, from what I understand, the problem lies in the fact that their contract does not provide for recompense in the event that RailCorp needs to do something with it.

I’d say that most people would be supportive of railway infrastructure development – who doesn’t want better stations, and better trains, and better services. The problem here is the way in which this development has been earmarked to proceed – to the detriment of one family, and with dubious benefits to railway commuters as a whole. RailCorp’s alleged attitude (i.e. silence) doesn’t instill confidence in the ability of this case to result in an equitable solution. As I commented (on the newspaper article), just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you should do it. If the redevelopment of the station must go ahead, other solutions, such as buying out the business, or offering to relocate the business to another part of the station, are both reasonable alternatives that RailCorp should consider. RailCorp is a corporatised business, but at the same time, as a business owned by the people of New South Wales, a more caring attitude would not go amiss, and should be mandated in the organisation’s practices.

Somehow, I get the impression that pushing RailCorp buttons won’t work in this case. The Ngs will have to search for other, bigger buttons to push. Let’s all rally behind them in their moment of need.

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In news that shouldn’t surprise anyone, trains on the East Hills line (the bane of my existence) and the Bankstown line were stalled for an ungodly thirty minutes around the City Circle because there was this lunatic running around on the tracks in the tunnel near St James. Did I hear someone mutter the word “fragile”?

What made it worse was how the station staff responded: almost like chooks with half their heads cut off, they had no idea what to do. It was mildly amusing when this train pulled up (from the opposite direction), and after a few minutes, the station staff asked the guard if he was leaving yet, but he threw his hands up in the air and told them he didn’t know where his driver went… he somehow just disappeared.

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