TransWA – Western Australia’s only InterCity
In the first and second articles on Perth’s transport network I focussed on getting around the city so it seemed the obvious choice to use the Australind train to get down to the South West. Unfortunately, due to historic line closures the train only travels as far as city of Bunbury, so I booked onto the train to skip Perth’s highways before renting a car at the end of the line. Things didn’t really work to plan as I ended up on a replacement bus, on the highway, the whole way on my outward journey.
For the return trip, I was able to use the train but I found it extremely regimented, for a 2 carriage regional service there were a lot of rules, more about this later.
Buying a Ticket
Things were regimented and formal right from the start. In order to buy a ticket at the station, I had to show an ID with my date of birth on it. When I asked, the only reason the booking agent could give me was so that my OAP concession would kick in automatically. I’ll have to return in 35 years to test that!
I got to pick whether I wanted a window or an aisle seat and told to arrive 15 mins early to check-in for the train.
It all seemed like a trip to a 1980s travel agent.
As instructed, I turned up for the train 15 minutes early only to see the gate closed. There was no information or member of staff at the gate.
Looking around I spotted a member of staff who directed me to the other end of the station forecourt where I saw a bus waiting. There was no explanation given so I joined the short queue of passengers waiting to check in. The bus next to us had a sign in the window saying, “Australind”. Whilst the queue of passengers was waiting, the bus pulled away leaving a second one behind with a sign on the front saying “Bunbury”.
A passenger in front of me notified the host that he was travelling beyond Bunbury, to the town of Busselton, only to be told that he should have been on the first bus. The host then shouted to the on board host that the first bus would have to wait for this passenger at the next stop. When another passenger said that they too were travelling beyond Bunbury, they were scolded by the host for not organising themselves. In the absence of any information or direction, passengers were entirely reliant upon the hosts for organising the journey.
Once all passengers were on the bus, the hosts then had to reconfirm with each passenger where they were travelling to, delaying the departure. Those passengers who needed to travel beyond Bunbury were told that they were now on the stopping service, so would miss the connection at Bunbury as they should have boarded the non-stop bus. In the event, the non-stop bus had been told to wait at the next scheduled stop so that these passengers could change buses.
The whole process seemed to be chaotic, abrupt and provided a very poor experience for a visitor. I would not risk this treatment again. If this is a regular occurrence, it needs better organisation than passengers being on the wrong bus and having to change mid-journey.
Arrival ‘in’ Bunbury
The station at Bunbury is a considerable distance from the city centre meaning that is is impractical to walk to the central area or beaches. The line appears to have been truncated leaving the old station abandoned in the heart of the city.
The Return Leg – on the actual train!
On the return trip, I was relieved to see the train at the platform, guarded by the on board hosts. when I checked in for the service, I was walked to my allocated seat and instructed where to put my luggage. I was quite surprised to see that it was just a regular commuter train as all the preparation and organisation had built the train up to be a lot more than a 2 hour trip.
There was a moment of humour on the journey as we sped through a small station only to brake suddenly and then reverse back to the station as the driver hadn’t spotted a waiting passenger.
Otherwise, the journey was uneventful though the train became quite stuffy after a few hours. It wasn’t possible to stand near the door at a station, to get some fresh air, as the on board hosts stood guard.
Arrival into Perth
As we were arriving into Perth station, the terminus for the service, passengers were told to return their tray tables and seats to upright position, this was obviously not for a safe landing so it just felt like we were being asked to save the staff having to make the effort to prepare for the next journey, if that’s the case then there are more courteous ways to ask for this assistance.
A further announcement was made that taxis were available, though no mention was made of connecting rail services run by Transperth. This was also the case with station signage.
Interchange from the Australind to other services is not well signposted at all. I suspect that this is a result of the severance that has been installed in the station, separating the Australind platform from the other platforms. Passengers must leave the station building in order to re-enter the main station facility 100 metres away.
A Seamless Service?
The schedule of the Australind service looks to be designed to allow people to commute from Bunbury to Perth but I don’t think I’d want to use the service to commute on regularly. I did not feel comfortable on board and tried to avoid interaction with the officious hosts. The train does not offer Wi-Fi so it is difficult to use the time on board productively. As passengers must drive to the remote Bunbury station anyway, I assume that most people would rather remain in their car and drive to Perth in their own environment.
The entire service just seemed to be over-managed. There were 2 hosts plus a driver for a 2 carriage train, the compulsory booking rule also means that back office processes must add to the cost of this service. I have to wonder how sustainable this is.
Author: Liam Henderson
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