Source - Wikipedia Commons

You can always #askMetro

by Evan Young | @thebevaneffect

With growing frustrations around Melbourne’s rail system, Metro Trains CEO Andrew Lezala took to the internet on Wednesday afternoon to answer the public’s  questions on his company’s service and performance.

Lezala responded to queries via the “#askMetro” hashtag through a live online blog set up by The Age, offering an insight and glimpse into the company’s inner workings.

Hosted on the same day Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the addition of another $11bil CBD rail system, the hour-long Q&A forum came at an appropriate time.

Carriage temperatures, vandalism, and layouts were all touched on, though it was clear other discussions were of greater importance to both Metro and the public.

Community uproar met last month’s accusations the altering of 400 services in a single week was in order to win multi-million dollar performance bonuses.

Lezala said the shifts had “nothing to do with money” and were to minimise congestion and the overall number of people affected by delays- many of which (such as police interventions, ill passengers, trespassers and vandals) are outside Metro’s control.

“We know people really don’t like it. We try to avoid doing it,” he wrote. “It’s only about restoring the service to move the most people we can when we’ve had disruptions.”

Lezala revealed Metro are moving toward the “aim” of a timetable-free system -which would be similar to what operates in the cities of New York, London or Tokyo- by adding more trains across the network to ensure missing a service does not mean a large wait before the next one.

“We want [much higher frequency] all over the network. We’re trying to get most lines no worse than 10 minutes. As we build timetables going forward and we have more trains become available, this is what we aim to do.”

The growing public concern in regard to incidents in which excessive power has been used by ticket inspectors was also touched on, though Lezala suggested force may have been necessary in particular instances.

“We accept [this happens],” he wrote. “Our staff are trained in conflict management and have regular training refreshers. However, we don’t know [how to] tolerate people who hit, slap or verbally abuse our staff.”

Lezala also revealed Metro are working on installing free Wi-Fi in trains and stations around the network and urged passengers to download the Metro Notify smartphone app which provides real-time information about any delays or cancellations.

While many constructive outcomes and details emerged from the forum, many took the opportunity to poke fun and vent frustrations. One user tweeted “#askmetro has cancelled due to faulty questions your next askmetro will in 30 minutes”, while another user pondered why “all ticket inspectors power tripping egomaniacs”.

Some following the blog live were critical of Lezala’s responses to questions, with one tweet reading: “Same old BS rhetoric from Lezala. He’s saying absolutely nothing new and nothing I didn’t expect him to say to please the masses.”

Ironically, Lezala admitted he does not use the Metro network to travel to and from work. “I cycle to and from work or catch the 109 tram because I live in Port Melbourne,” he revealed. “But I catch the trains as often as I can so I can see what’s going on.”

Photo sourced from Wikipedia Commons / Zed Fitzhume

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