The crazy things people say
The rail industry is not the only provider of “easy target” stories for the media, but it often seems that the smallest story involving rail attracts more than its fair share of negative and unsubstantiated comment.
By Mark Carter
Being a fairly avid soccer fan, I’m used to the rather inane approach of the Australian media towards the sport and the focus on the negative.
Just last week here in Adelaide, there were 10 arrests for disorderly behaviour outside the ground after a match between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory and a couple of flares were lit.
The police were quick to report they were very pleased with the overall crowd behaviour given the 14,500 people in attendance, but overnight the media turned this relatively low-key incident into a “violent brawl” which made headlines for the next two days.
And so it is with the rail industry – the media claim to be “just doing their job” when reporting on rail incidents, but often seem loath to provide context and reluctant to question the absurdity of some of the quotes and comments included in their stories.
For sheer absurdity pride of place for me this month is a report in The Border Mail claiming that that a group of North East residents are “on the edge”, saying that, “Freight trains on the mudhole-plagued North East rail corridor are shaking and rattling their homes, leaving cracks in the walls and floors”.
Bev Bresenello says she has a 1.5-metre crack in the front room of her house on Glenrowan West Road.
“The windows rattle in the house, the glass rattles. One night I was in bed and heard an enormous bang and I went into the front room and there was a big crack in the wall. It happened while one of these trains was going past.”
Despite the fact these heavy trains have been going past Bev’s house for decades, the insertion of concrete sleepers has somehow managed to alter the entire geology of the Glenrowan area?
Even better though was Maurice Welsh, who has lived in Chivers Road at Glenrowan West since 1965, who says he and his wife Jackie could feel their floors vibrating despite the fact their home is one kilometre from the track.
Yup, read the last part of that sentence again – one kilometre from the track.
Either the journo hasn’t got a clue or he is trying to make Maurice look a little daft?
Maurice goes on to back up his claims with tried and tested scientific data.
“The trains are probably four times as long as they used to be now and carriages are bigger and they’re probably carrying hundreds of tonnes more weight. It wakes you up. It’s almost like sitting in the backseat of the car with the windows down and having the noise rushing past your head. It’s so deafening.”
So deafening they seem unable to hear the non-stop roar of B-doubles heading up anddown the nearby Hume Highway.
One gets the impression that The Border Mail sees itself at the vanguard of investigating journalism in its continual highlighting of the alleged shortcomings of the Melbourne to Albury track upgrading.
The fact that ARTC was recently using a handful of wooden sleepers on bridge upgrades even managed to create headline news and get the Mail’s photographer out of the office.
“New wooden sleepers are being used on the problem-plagued Albury to Melbourne rail line. But it is not a change of heart on the $285m overhaul to replace 300,000 wooden sleepers on the track that began three years ago.”
Not a change of heart – so why run with it? One can only surmise that their only reason for running such a non-story was to sow the seeds of doubt amongst the chattering classes of Albury Wodonga.
The Border Mail would no doubt love to have someone like Neil Woithe living in their community, for here is someone that tells it how it is. Neil doesn’t even live near a railway line, but he knows that, “Freight trains are a menace….”
Adelaide’s Eastern Courier Messenger reports that Unley residents living near the (Adelaide to Melbourne) train line have joined Unley Council’s newly formed rail freight advisory group that will lobby the Federal Government for a $2.4bn bypass to divert trains from the Unley district.
Parkside resident Neil, 62, nominated for the group because he was concerned about increased noise, pollution and traffic delays, but interestingly the report fails to mention that Parkside is about as far away in Unley as you can get from the rail line.It has to be acknowledged that there is a problem with freight train dwell times over three level crossings in the Unley Council, but $2.4bn to resolve the problem could be considered overkill given the less expensive options to reduce crossing delays that are already being planned.
And, while I’m dismayed at the lack of research put into the story, I should add t
hat a lot of people would disagree with my comments – the last time I looked 243 people had clicked they “liked” this story!
But it is just not disgruntled residents that see rail as a nuisance.
Following the unfortunate death of a teenager in Victoria recently, who it appears ignored the lowered crossing barriers at a suburban station, the Committee for Melbourne has apparently warned us that commuter safety will continue to be at risk unless Melbourne removes its dangerous rail level crossings.
Committee CEO Andrew MacLeod says, “A number of avoidable fatalities in recent weeks have highlighted the need for government to urgently address how some of Melbourne’s rail level crossings can be removed.”
I can’t quite get my head around the exact point the McLeod is trying to make when says, “We are hearing more and more stories of people trying to beat oncoming trains. But what is just as tragic, is that these deaths could have been avoided if the right infrastructure was in place.”
Mr McLeod, the only way to avoid such deaths would be to replace every level crossing in Melbourne, because by your own definition every crossing is dangerous if users are going to ignore the basic rules.
So, if this is the case, why is the Committee only calling for some crossings to be replaced and not all of them?
he quote, “Our members have indicated to us that there is opportunity for private sector to help government assess and prioritise those crossings with clear marketing propositions,” suggests to me another agenda all together and to be honest makes the timing of the press release look pretty crass.
Unfortunately I think most of the level crossings in Albury Wodonga have recently been replaced otherwise I’m sure for The Border Mail and The Committee for Melbourne could have found some common ground.