Calls for review into capacity of stations as figures show a sharp rise in passengers during peak hours lead to highly stressful situations

Inner West Courier, August 9th 2016

INNER West morning peakhour trains are so crowded some commuters are fearful they will get hurt.

Monthly passenger numbers at Erskineville and Macdonaldtown stations have risen sharply this year, prompting calls for a review into the capacity of Inner West stations.

In the three months to April – the latest figures supplied by Transport for NSW Train Loads survey – total patronage at Erskineville jumped 19 per cent to almost 275,000 compared with the same period in 2015. In March alone, the number of commuters topped 96,000.

At Macdonaldtown, the survey recorded a 27 per cent rise in total patronage to 150,000 over the same period with the increases across the Inner West being attributed to high population growth and road congestion.

Morning trains are already packed as they come into stations such as Macdonaldtown, Erskineville and Ashfield, where anywhere from 50 to 200 people are waiting to get on board a single service.

Friends of Erskineville president Darren Jenkins says overcrowded trains have to be fixed.

“Does it end with people being injured on trains? Does it end with people fighting over the last square inch of space ?” he asked.

“The trend is blatantly clear and any government that would ignore such a trend is incompetent and negligent,” he said.

Mr Jenkins called for an immediate review into the current and future capacity of the inner west stations.

“The Government knows how many apartments are being built and have a control about that. It’s a matter of simple arithmetic – it means more workers, it means more passengers and services must keep pace.”

The State Government has consistently ignored pleas by the community to address the issue, he said.

“We’ve been raising this issue now for years. All we’re met with is stony silence,” he added.

Commuters interviewed last week said they were concerned for their safety on the trains – bursting with inner city residents who report times where they are simply not able to get on or are choosing to travel earlier to avoid being crushed.

Kate Brooks of Newtown said she often catches an earlier train than she needs to in order to ensure a spot when boarding at Macdonaldtown.

“It’s pretty stressful because you don’t know if you are going to get on the train or not. If you don’t, you have to wait another 18 minutes,” she said.

“Either they need to add an extra train perhaps or provide a more up-to-date train with more space.”

Frequent delays force more passengers onto peakhour trains, creating a claustrophobic commuting experience heightened by inclement weather.

Ms Brooks said she would be concerned about the overcrowding on the train if there was a fire or if it was stalled on the tracks with so many people on board.

Emilian Cavaliski said he felt uncomfortable travelling on the packed peak-hour trains at Erskineville with his three-year-old son, and often walked to Redfern station to avoid the crush. “There’s no way we would fit and he’s small, people don’t see him,” he said.

Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker said the Newtown Electorate office has received a steady stream of complaints about overcrowded trains at Erskineville and Macdonaldtown.

“Local residents have reported having to physically push their way on to carriages or, on some days, having to stand and watch packed trains stop and leave again with no space for them to get on,” Mr Parker said.

“Jamming people on overcrowded carriages is not only uncomfortable but is potentially a safety risk.”

The situation is set to get worse with plans to build apartments of up to 20 storeys at Eveleigh and eight in the 17ha Ashmore estate in Erskineville.

Mr Parker said platforms were not being used at Erskineville station, and at both Erskineville and Macdonaltown many services pass without stopping.

“The infrastructure isn’t the problem. We just need Transport for NSW to recognise that the current timetable isn’t meeting the heavy demand …” Mr Parker said.

A NSW Transport spokesman conceded current train infrastructure simply would not cope, especially as another one million people were expected to move into Sydney over the next decade.

“It’s why we’re building Sydney Metro, which will move more than 40,000 people an hour, compared with the 24,000 capacity of current Sydney rail lines,” the spokesman said.

The train line between Sydenham and Bankstown is to be converted from heavy rail to Metro, but Erskineville and St Peters stations are excluded from plans for the higher capacity, higher frequency trains.

It remains to be seen how Sydney Trains will address those stations’ capacity issues, or service those stations in the future once the Metro is completed.

“Customer demand levels at these stations are always being monitored … new train timetables are being designed over coming years,” the spokesman said.

Sydney Trains did not confirm by deadline how the Sydney Metro would benefit customers between Redfern and Homebush, including Macdonaldtown.


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