What comes to mind when you think of Sydney, Australia? Probably not the Light Rail line but there is one and I actually had a reason to use it when I was there recently. The Light Rail line doesn’t really take you to any of the sights but it does provide the only rail link to the western part of the inner city.
And so it was that on a drizzly day in March we were walking around the Western Suburbs and saw on my phone that Leichhardt North station was nearby. I’d never used the Light Rail so I kept my eyes open for a station. Hidden on the side of a highway intersection I spotted the small ‘L’ to identify the station entrance. Entering the station was rather underwhelming as it feels as through the staircase leads down into a factory.
My partner realised at this point that he didn’t have credit on his Opal card so we looked for a ticket machine – there wasn’t one. Being visitors we looked on the local area map to see if it showed nearby locations to buy tickets or top up – it didn’t.
We had no choice but to use data and download the app and try to top up on there – the minimum top up was $40 and it takes up to 60 minutes for credit to apply. Thats a big commitment for a visitor who’s expected to wait on the platform watching numerous trains go past before their credit is applied. So we made the logical assumption that for stations without ticket machines, there must be an option to buy on board –
To summarise, we approached the on board staff immediately, they advised that passengers must buy tickets before boarding. When we highlighted that there was no machine at Leichhardt North, they informed us that we would have to get off at the next station or would be fined.
Apparently we weren’t the only passengers to be turfed off at Lilyfield station, as we were left abandoned there along with a shocked young family, amongst others.
If you are going to insist on passengers having tickets before travelling then it’s not unreasonable to provide the means to buy them. The fact that two members of staff were patrolling the train we boarded obviously shows that they are keen to avoid fare evasion but if there are staff on the train they should be able to sell tickets when there is no other way to buy them. Coming from London, I’ve become accustomed to using my phone (contactless and Apple Pay) to just tap in at stations, there’s no excuse not to have paid but I feel that passengers on the Light Rail shouldn’t be penalised when there are clear gaps in the ability to pay.
The image of a family with a pram being evicted from a train is proof that on this occasion, there was a Passenger Experience failure.
We got an Uber from here.
New Light Rail Line
Visiting the Eastern Suburbs we came across a local street festival in Randwick. One of the stalls was a public engagement stand for the CBD & South East Light Rail project. Sydney only has one rail line to the east of the city, terminating at Bondi Junction, so this new line from the CBD will transform access to these neighbourhoods.
Visitors to the stall could try the VR headset and explore the future stations on the line: here’s a photo of me hunting for the ticket machines!
Author: Liam Henderson