As a seasoned train commuter, I ought to have known better by now: rose coloured glasses and rail travel really do not mix.
When City Rail announced they were rolling out a platform (pardon the pun) to quell the disquiet on board some of their services I immediately conjured up commuting images complete with mood music, muted conversations and dimmed lighting. And because I was unfortunately very familiar with the oversharing, shout-away-on-your-mobile-phone-with-no-regard-for-others type of passenger, I was curious to see for myself if such an optimistic proposal could actually work.
Excitedly boarding the 2.15pm from Central, I settled myself in for a serene commute back to the Coast. However, within minutes of pulling away from the platform I’d already counted two phone conversations swirling around me, an opinionated one-upmanship conversation to my right and two stops down the track encountered a teacher with eight primary school students in tow (and clearly excited to have been on a field trip to the ‘Big Smoke”) traipsing through the “Quiet Carriage”.
Central Station, I thought ironically (to myself, of course!) we have a problem…
Suddenly there was so much noise that no one could even hear the announcements over the loud speaker advising that we were in a designated quiet carriage. In fact the only way I could foresee this scheme actually being a success was if the noise police began to patrol the aisles or a stern faced librarian sat at the front of each carriage, ready to reproach wayward passengers into silence with a single stare.
Forty-five minutes in however and finally, we were close to commuter nirvana. All was silent, bar the softly snoring gent a few rows back from me. Perhaps the “quiet carriage” might just have been the very thing responsible for lulling him off to sleep?
Our silent luck though was sadly to be short-lived. Thanks to a delay generated from a broken down freight train in front of us at Woy Woy, all noiseless bets were off. No designated quiet area can stop the disgruntled chatter between commuters as the unscheduled stop stretches into the half hour mark.
And just when I was settling back into my seat with the Woy Woy delay finally behind us, imagine my surprise when a policeman literally materialised before my eyes! Perhaps it was an initiative of City Rail to patrol the correct execution of etiquette in the “Quiet Carriages” after all!
Alas, by Gosford, when yet more school students spilled through the doors and into the “Quiet Carriage” it became clear this enterprise might just be on par with wishful thinking. And as my husband joked, as I lamented to him about the lack of enforcement of the peace, perhaps those carriages not deemed as a noise free zone were the real places to be sitting. Surely everyone else, as idealistic as I was cramming onto the first and last carriages with the same hope – to enjoy an undisturbed trip home – leaving the “anything goes” carriages probably relatively peaceful!