Why Can’t Queensland Rail do Better in Weather Events?

Hail Falling at Central Station

Hail Falling at Central Station in Front of a Powerless Train

If you’re a daily rail commuter in Brisbane, it’s like you were stranded in the city twice in two weeks. It’s entirely understandable that such intense severe storm events will shut down the rail network. After all, the tracks at Fortitude Valley were underwater both times!

That’s not what this editorial is about. This editorial is about the communication by Queensland Rail staff at Central Station, or lack thereof.

I missed the first shutdown – I’d heard the trains were out of action and stayed at work. On Thursday this week, I tried to beat the weather out of town but the power went out just as I got to the platform.

An announcement came across the public address systems.

“Due to the severe weather event, all trains are suspended until further notice.”

Fair enough. But this was the announcement that continued for the next hour. Like many others, I thought it might just be a short power outage that would be resolved quickly. So I stayed at the station waiting.

Meanwhile tracks at Fortitude Valley were under water! I discovered this via Twitter. Surely Queensland Rail knew their tracks were under water. After all they turned the overhead power off for safety reasons.

So here’s my argument. They knew trains were going to be out of action for at least a couple of hours. Even after the water receded a safety inspection would be required. So why not say up front that the trains will be out of action for at least a couple of hours? Or at the very least say that there was flooding at Fortitude Valley and let people make their own decision.

Letting people know a minimum expected outage time would let people start to make alternate plans earlier. Like going to dinner or arranging a carpool pickup.

The worst thing in any inconvenient situation is not knowing what’s going on. Not everyone has the benefit of getting information from Twitter and nor should they have to. Queensland Rail need to provide more useful information so commuters can make better informed plans when storms or other disasters stop trains.

Were you left stranded on Wednesday 19th or Thursday 27th? Tell me your story in the comments below. What did you know and when did you know it?