Monday, November 22, 2004

The Commuters Are Revolting

Everything and nothing to write about.

Today we (most of NSW in Australia, a whole state almost) had free public transport. All day. Because Rebecca Turner, woman of action, took it upon herself to incite the commuters.

The Premier, Bob Carr, has buckled to commuter anger over Sydney's troubled rail network and agreed to let passengers travel free on Monday, at a cost of $2 million to the Government.

Mr Carr overruled his Transport Services Minister, Michael Costa, and rail chiefs, who had warned that fare evaders would be fined if they followed the lead of the commuter campaigner Rebecca Turner.

Ms Turner, a legal secretary from Beecroft, won support from unions and the public for her proposed "no-pay day" for Monday, which she organised after almost a year of cancelled services and delayed trains - smh.

Actually the whole point isn't really free fares for a day (a few $ hardly makes up for late trains the other 364 days of the year). The point really is how fed up everyone is with cityrail. Anyway, Rebecca Turner organised a no-pay day and it freaked out the premier so much that he instructed all city rail staff to let everyone travel for free. More of an aversion technique I think then actual appeasement. You see, if there is one thing likely to tip the NSW bucket over into unruly civil chaos it is the NSW public transport system. No I really am not joking, at all. Last week angry commuters waiting for a late train barricaded station staff in a (grotty) staffroom where the poor station staff cowered till rescued several hours later.

One inner-city station master revealed that his staff had resorted to shutting themselves inside their offices during peak-hour delays because they were helpless to deal with the constant tirades of disgruntled passengers.

"It's a nightmare," he said. "We're taking a gobful on a daily basis. Some customers have resorted to swinging punches and asking questions later." - smh.

Aei, who would want to work for cityrail. Underpaid, overworked, crappy resources and constantly copping the blame for a skinflint state's public transport budget. Not to mention armed guards patrolling platforms with loaded weapons. No I do not like the guns thing on platforms and no I do not feel safer for it. I like to travel to work without firearms pacing around waitin' for trubble.

Anyway, this is just to give a picture of how potentially inflamed things could have become. Oh, did I mention countless train accidents and ensuing (unsatisfactory) enquiries? Where was I, o yes. How potentially inflamed things could have become. But thankfully didn't. Because Bob Carr even though he is a sellout affluent sham (yeah, sure, Bob's not as bad as John Howard but that's only because Bob isn't prime minister) is astute enough to sense an imminent derailment (civilian patience variety).

How would I describe the public mood today ? (as an independent witness). Just to throw round a few words;

air of quiet triumph
mild buthardenedbyexperience skepticism
stoic resignation - as trains arrived on platforms later then ever (left half an hour earlier then usual to catch the early train but may as well have spent the extra time blogging because the train was 25 mins late anyway).

As if a quiet and resolute air of determination pervaded every carriage. A sort of waiting. A sense of small though significant, collective, victory at the beginning of a long and possibly arduous journey. A waiting. To see. Whether the state government can really do anything more then patch and monitor public opinion. A waiting. To see if the mending of trains is tended to as attentively as the mending of poll stats.

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