Because it will help enable more frequent services, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has cautiously approved of proposals to re-design suburban train interiors.
“The current design of carriages is grossly inefficient”, said PTUA president Daniel Bowen. “The ‘wall’ of seats in the Comeng and X’Trapolis trains results in almost all standees milling around the doorways, because it is physically difficult to move further into the train. And all the recent models of trains have almost nothing for those standing to hold onto.”
The PTUA believes that the proposed changes will fix these problems, meaning less crowding in doorways, resulting in faster loading (“dwell”) times, allowing more frequent trains to be run on the busiest parts of the network.
Mr Bowen said that the PTUA has only agreed to the changes on the condition that a minimum of seats are removed, and that it had been made clear to Connex and the government that in no way would it be acceptable to remove large numbers of seats, resulting in outer-suburban passengers standing for long periods of time.
“Even at present, in the afternoon peak, people are standing from the city until well into zone 2, and that is only fixed by more frequent trains, which this change will enable”, said Mr Bowen. “We also support better education and enforcement so that those with a requirement to sit, such as the elderly, disabled or pregnant women, can always get a seat.”
In 2003 Yarra Trams experimented with removing more than one-third of the seats from some of its trams, a move that was criticised by the PTUA. “But we did suggest at the time that removing a much smaller number of seats could help accommodate people with prams and shopping jeeps, and people with disabilities. It’s all about having an interior layout that works for everyone while giving as many people a seat as practicable.
“We desperately need more trains running on the system to cope with growing patronage. These changes, reducing dwell times, will help make this possible, and should be accompanied by more rigorous timekeeping, an increased staff presence, and of course the government needs to commit to continue expanding the train fleet each year”, concluded Mr Bowen.
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This diagram (from The Age, 9/5/2008) shows the proposed X’Trapolis train layout: