Paying more to avoid using the packed train

Paying more to avoid using the packed train

1 March 2013 | 7:30 am

Getting to work and back home in a good mood is definitely worth the extra expense and time.

I work in Surry Hills, close to Central Station. The quickest, cheapest and simplest way for me to get to work every day is to catch the train. However, I avoid it whenever possible. Why? Because it was making me arrive at work in the morning and home in the evening in a filthy mood.

The crowds, the crush and everyone else hating the experience as much as I add just added up to getting to work (or home) sweaty, cranky, often pissed off and frustrated – not great for the day ahead or to start a relaxing evening.

Everyone is packed in like cattle, enduring the journey in silent misery. Half the time when the train arrives it’s already so full you can barely get on. Everyone tries to get through the journey as best as possible, escaping via book, iPod, laptop or tablet. At every new station more people push on until we get to the city and the floodgates are finally released (cue much pushing and shoving, much of it unintentional, but irritating none-the-less).

Before my office moved to Surry Hills, when it was closer to the bridge, I used to walk to work. I’d only reluctantly take the train if it was absolutely pouring with rain (when every else did too, of course, making for a horrible, crowded and very wet commute). Walking took longer than catching the train, but it was a lovely walk across the bridge, didn’t cost a cent, got me fit (I started running home), and again, let me avoid the frustration of a crowded train twice a day.

However, walking in now would take far too long (I also moved home, taking it beyond the realms of possibility). Still, I really wanted to avoid that horrible train journey.

Now, instead of taking the train straight through, I get a ferry to Circular Quay, then a train to Central. This takes longer and costs significantly more, but it’s a beautiful journey, avoids the crowds and I don’t arrive at work with a black cloud over my head.

The ferry journey is heaven. Sydney has one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, and getting to work by traveling under the bridge and into Circular Quay is one of the best ways of seeing our amazing city. I’ll often just sit and take it all in, enjoying the sunshine and the salt on the wind, or the sunset on the way home. It’s bliss.

Yes, I still catch a train (Circular Quay to Central), but I always take it clockwise around the City Circle. This train’s just come from Wynyard (where everyone got off), leaving it practically empty. That suits me just fine.

I’m lucky, of course. I’m well aware of that.

I’m lucky that I live near a ferry wharf, and I’m lucky that I can actually afford to choose to pay for the more expensive MyMulti ticket (which you can use on trains, ferries and buses) instead of the cheaper MyTrain ticket (which just works on the train). I don’t have a mortgage, and I don’t have a family, so I can work this extra cost into my budget (grudgingly). But if the train wasn’t so crowded, I wouldn’t need to.

I’m sure it’s not a simple thing to solve – but Sydney is only going to be growing in the next decades. What happens then? I dread to think what the same train journey will be like in 2023 – probably with the exact same trains.

What’s the answer? More trains? Different trains? I’m not sure, but there are plenty of other big cities around the world that seem to do better (and worse, to be fair). Can’t we learn something from them?

I guess at the end of the day it comes down to money. However, plenty of money seems to get thrown at far less worthwhile investments in NSW – isn’t it about time to bite the bullet and do something with the train network that will hold Sydney in good stead for the next few decades?

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