Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Altona Loop Community Meeting 29 Mar 2011

Date: 29 Mar 2011
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Venue: Altona RSL Function Room

Who are present:
  • Andrew Lezala, Metro CEO
  • Brad Voss, Metro
  • Norman Gray, Deputy Director of Public Transport
  • Hugh Millichip, Senior Transport Planner from Department of Transport
  • Colleen Hartland (Greens), MLC for Western Metropolitan Region
  • Jill Hennessy (Labour), State MP for Altona
  • Wade Noonan (Labour), State MP for Williamstown
  • Cr Tony Briffa (Independent), Deputy Mayor of Hobsons Bay City Council
  • Cr Bill Tehan (Labour), Councillor for Spotswood Ward
  • Cr Luba Grigorovitch (Labour), Councillor for Altona Meadows Ward
  • Reporters from the mass media
  • The Altona Community

Apologies
  • Bernie Finn (Liberal), MLC for Western Metropolitan Region
  • Cr Michael Raffoul (Labour), Mayor of Hobsons Bay City Council

Send queries and suggestions to:

Send letters and petitions to the people, as listed on Cr Tony Briffa's webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of his webpage for email addresses and contact details of the people who can influence the outcome of the planned timetable changes.

Next Meeting
  • Date: Thursday 7 Apr 2011
  • Time: 7.30 p.m.
  • Venue: Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre

Due to overwhelming turnout for the first meeting at the Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre, the second meeting was held at the much larger function room at Altona RSL. But this was still packed to the full capacity, with people continuously streaming into the venue.

Altona Loop Meeting A

Like the first meeting, the Transport Minister Terry Mulder and the two Liberal MPs Bernie Finn and Andrew Elsbury did not attend, with the Transport Minister citing a prior engagement (Ref 1). The Community Meeting is however honoured to have the presence of Metro CEO, Andrew Lezala and the Deputy Director of Public Transport, Norman Gray as the pivotal guests.

As this Meeting is organized by the Greens, Deputy Mayor Tony Briffa said that the Hobsons Bay City Council had invited the Transport Minister to its own, non-partisan meeting but has so far not received any reply from the Minister. Tony Briffa emphasized that Hobsons Bay City Council had opposed the change, contrary to what the Minister had told Hobsons Bay Weekly: "I understand that both Metro and the Department of Transport have been out and spoken with all the councils in the western suburbs and councils are very happy with the level of service that they're going to be provided under the new timetable." (Ref 2)

The Meeting started with Andrew Lezala presenting data to illustrate the size and complexity of the Melbourne train network, explaining the need to change the timetables and untangle the network by removing crisscrossing of trains. The Altona Loop was made the sacrificial lamb because it makes up only 1% of the passenger volume in Melbourne's metropolitan network. These so-called Greenfield timetables will be implemented in 4 stages:
  • Cross-city services affecting Werribee, Williamstown, Frankston lines (May 2011)
  • Northern group of lines with Sunbury electrification (End of 2011)
  • Clifton Hill and Burnley groups with extension to South Morang (2012 ??)
  • Cross-city services, affecting?? (Date ??)

Metro CEO Andrew Lezala

He was interrupted several times by commotions from the audience. The moderator Janet Rice had to step in to ask the audience to allow him to complete his presentation.

The next part of the Meeting is to allow the audience to ask questions seeking clarifications on the changes. I could not follow the train of thoughts as there were simply too many questions being raised. There was a person taking the minutes so you will be able to read the details from Colleen Hartland's webpage.

These are the few information that I can recollect:
  • Morning peak hours are from 7.30-8.30 am, with shoulder peak hours up to 9 am.
  • Peak hour trains run from Laverton through Altona Loop, stopping all stations to Flinders Street. There are no more Express trains for Altona passengers. Andrew Lezala called this an improved service as the train starts from Laverton instead of Werribee so there will be more seats on the train for Altona passengers. But I will rather reach my destination earlier.
  • 7 minutes to wait for connecting Werribee Train at Newport during non-peak hours.
  • A man who had studied the new timetable pointed out that passengers travelling from Werribee will have to wait 20 minutes at Laverton to connect the Altona Loop Shuttle, in order to get to Altona during peak hours.
  • The single track sections in Hurstbridge Line and from Cranbourne to Dandenong will be duplicated in priority. Then hopefully, the Altona Loop will be considered for duplication.
You can download a copy of Metro's new timetable here. You should study how the new timetable would affect you, email Sandra Wilson your concerns and suggestions who will then consolidate all the concerns from the Community and use these as the basis for taking further actions.

What I feel is that the Metro CEO's replies barely satisfy the audience. When pressed on how the new timetable would benefit Altona, he could only keep reiterating that the new timetable would bring about improved service reliability and punctuality, that it is limited to the off-peak hours and that it will benefit the Melbourne's train network as a whole. The audience will like the discussion to be focused on Altona train services rather than other parts of Melbourne. An old lady in the first front row aptly summed up the sentiment by saying that Altona residents have been neglected for 50 years and when the service is just starting to show improvements, the community is once again punished for the betterment of other parts of Melbourne. Another lady struck a chord with the audience by recounting how she was told by the Metro customer officer to travel to and forth between Newport and Laverton without getting anywhere near to home, when all trains decided to run express and skip the Altona Loop to make up for lost time. This inequity needs to be redressed.

Here is a video showing the proceedings of the meeting.



The last part of the meeting is to inform the audience of what the Committee and various MPs had been doing (such as petitions) as well as to get suggestions from the audience of how to proceed. At this stage, the Metro CEO and the Deputy Director of Public Transport left the venue.

The following suggestions were raised (I cannot recall all):

1. Andrew Lezala said that Metro had conducted a survey that finds out 82.9% of Werribee passenger prefers direct service to Flinders Street and not through the City Loop. This forms the basis of taking the Werribee Services completely out of the City Loop during peak and non-peak hours. The audience was skeptical of this finding. Andrew also said that Williamstown had more passengers compared to the Altona Loop, which justifies the decision to transfer the shuttle train service from Williamstown to the Altona Loop. Again, the audience was not convinced. Someone suggested conducting an independent analysis to ascertain these two justifications.

2. People who normally travel just outside the peak hours e.g. after 9 am will be forced to schedule their travel in peak hours. This will result in crowding during peak hours, with prams and handicapped persons taking more time to board trains, thereby contributing to decreased train reliability and delays during peak hours. This will impact on Metro's performance and Andrew Lezala's promise that Altona passengers will enjoy improved train reliability and punctuality.

3. If the train is late or you miss the connecting trains due to delay, make complaints to Metro and the Transport Ombudsman. If every Altona passenger makes it a point to lodge a complaint for every single delay, then Metro will have to come up with even more manpower and financial resources to handle these complaints.

4. Request documents from Metro and the Transport Department on why Altona is singled out. Challenge the research done by Metro - ask for details and sample size.

5. Post-mortem after one month of implementing the timetable to validate the improved reliability and punctuality, as promised by the Metro CEO.

6. Examine the new timetable for irregularities and loopholes to see why gaps are not filled up with more train services. Propose an alternative, improved timetable.

7. Engage other organizations within the community. Look at discrimination against certain groups, such as the disabled.

8. Segregate the petitions into groups, such as the handicapped, students, local traders, working people, senior citizens, people and tourists from other suburbs, etc.

9. Explore legal action. Look into the franchise agreement/contract between the Victorian Government and Metro.

10. Involve the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is an Altona resident. Frankly speaking, I think this will not work as she will be seen as interfering with state affairs. The most she can do is to put her signature on a petition letter, in the capacity as an Altona resident.

11. Everyone wearing the same coloured clothes, taking a train excursion to the City, changing trains at Newport and North Melbourne and having a picnics (demonstration) in front of Parliament House.

12. Altona, Seaholme and Westona passengers all go to Flinders Street Station without paying - hurt the pockets of Metro. I think Metro and the mass media should be given prior notice that this is a form of protest, otherwise Altona commuters will end up paying fines without achieving any objective and limelight.

13. Grab the media attention. When Bairnsdale Station was to be closed, the locals sat on the tracks for days, finally winning over.


I will add to this post if I recall more.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

When they introduce the new timetable can we just delay all the trains slightly so they still don't meet their targets? If we hold them up for a few minutes at Westona, Altona and Seaholme every time we could cost Metro a fortune in late fines! Inconvenient but wouldn't it be satisfying?

Anthony Ang said...

I do not know whether it is wise to do this. Will they count delays deliberately introduced by human intervention? Remember anybody, including the Metro people, can read this blog. If you wish to do something dramatic, you can set up obstacles to prevent the trains running through the Express tracks and force them to run through the Altona Loop - but I am not sure whether this desperate act is the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

no, it's not wise to do this or block tracks! As this is a money saving scheme by Metro I am just trying to think of ways we can cost them money without inconveniencing passengers (at least not too much - and definitely not on other lines).

As for Metro reading these comments - good! I hope they do and know there is enormous ill feeling towards these changes. Sadly I think the community meetings etc. will do little to change Metro's plans. Its all about $ and unless you can threaten their income then we are insignificant. By the way - great blog Anthony!

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