Saturday, January 22, 2005

WATCH OUT! HERE COMES 100 TONS OF METAL

Everyone in NSW from the Premier down is gambling with their lives stepping on to a train in Sydney. Its official, the trains are deadly, the Waterfall enquiry found. Premier Bob Carr risked his life for a media stunt by going for a train ride with his new minister for trains. The old minister? Well he's gone for a head shave.
OK it's not funny. The question is how did this mess come about? Well let's go back a few decades. Back to the good old days when the NSW Government was handing out steel contracts to BHP. The big steel giant like all steel giants needed tonnage to build smelters - big smelters. The iron ore miners needed tonnage to dig big impressive holes in the outback. Australians needed jobs for wage slaves. In their imaginative genius the NSW government made a momentous decision. They agreed to the engineering miracle of powering the Sydney train network with electricity.
Faraday would be impressed with this scheme. If you have ever been to Sydney you will know it's a big sprawling city from the coast to the Blue Mountains and beyond. Hundreds of kilometers (miles) of track had to laid and guess what? The bold bright engineers of the day decided to power the trains with overhead lines needing millions of tonnes of steel erected in the air to carry cables. Now when you look at the Sydney rail network there's a steel structure every few meters carrying power lines. These structures are rusting away in many places ready for the junk yard.
The next joke came building railway stations. Most stations go over the tracks and because of the overhead cables they need twice the number of stairs to get over the track. Going under the tracks it seems was a bit beyond the suburban engineers, or was it the need to create jobs, I'm not sure. No, disabled people were not consulted, they had to fly to get into the station. In modern times expensive engineering solutions have had to be devised to get the disabled, elderly and mums with prams up and down those steps to catch the train and get round human rights discrimination. A visit to Rooty Hill station is a real laugh, except you still have to walk up and down the steps.

In more civilized parts of the world rail engineers invented the third rail. A neat solution to powering trains. A neat solution to keep the tracks aesthetically pleasing. There is more to the train story in this country and when I get a moment I'll tell the story about an Irishman an Englishman and the rail gauge. No it's not a joke.

4 Comments:

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