Mandurah train station: more fun than rats in a maze

Typical Mandurah line patrons

People who get on and off the train at Mandurah are a strange lot. I don’t mean to imply that all people who live in Mandurah and surrounding suburbs are less intelligent than average, but if you were to go only by activity you observe at Mandurah train station then you might be forgiven for thinking that there is something in the water inhibiting cognitive abilities. For those of my non-Perth friends, I’ll give a bit of background first.

The Perth to Mandurah train line opened around Christmas 2007. It connects Perth to Mandurah, which is WAs second largest city located about 70km south of Perth. It also provides light commuter rail services to the southwest suburbs with train stops are large centres like Cockburn, Kwinana and Rockingham. It was quite a significant and costly undertaking, and almost doubled the total length of commuter rail in Perth. It takes about 55 minutes to travel the full length.

The Mandurah line has been going now for about three years, but am still not sure people down in Mandurah have the hang of it yet:

  • As the train is pulling into Mandurah, there’s naturally people there waiting to get on it. During peak times, it may take 4-5 minutes until it’s ready to turn around and leave. During non-peak times they usually run every 15-20 minutes. What I don’t get is that as the train pulls into the station, people will walk or hurriedly skip along the platform beside the train to remain in proximity to some particular door, continually pressing the button in a vain attempt to open it. Often the total length walked will be longer than two carriages, each of which has two doors. Don’t these people understand that you can simply wait in one spot and let a door come to you? Sometimes I’ll be standing on the platform and one of these over enthusiastic mouth breathers will crash into me, and then look at me as if I’m something they’ve stepped in. “Dude, why are you standing there? Can’t you see I’m trying to get on the train? Let me past!”
  • In the evening on the way home from work, people will get up from their seats and wait near the door a full 3km from the station (I’ve measured it on google maps). It takes another 4-5 minutes for the train to slow down and come to a stop on the platform, but there’s always a bunch of people crowded around the door waiting to get out long before the train is anywhere near the destination. Why is this? It’s not like Mandurah is a particularly busy station, and there’s usually not that many people getting off which might contribute to a bottleneck at the exit gates or in the car park exit. Also, people seem to walk along the whole train so they’re right near the very end door, as if walking through the train will save them having to walk along the platform. It doesn’t make it any quicker to get off because so many people attempting to disembark through one door causes a bottleneck.
  • The exit turnstyles are another source of puzzlement for me. Like most places we’ve got gates which open and close to let one person through at a time after reading their electronic tickets. To cater for people in wheelchairs or with prams or luggage and also for travelers without electronic tickets there’s a wider exit with no gate. It does have an electronic card reader, but is also staffed by transit guards who check that people going though the exit either possess a cash ticket of correct value or swipe their electronic tickets. The strange thing is that at least two thirds of people exiting the station prefer to use this wider, non-gated exit. I can’t understand why, for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve observed that around half the people going through this exit actually possess electronic tickets. To cater for wheelchairs, the ticket reader is closer to the ground and angled in such a way that it makes it inconvenient to use if you’re able bodied. So you usually end up with a queue of people bending over to swipe their cards and then bobbing up and down to read the feedback on how much credit they have left on their cards. Meanwhile I calmly walk through the gated exit without queuing or breaking stride. Secondly, Mandurah is the last stop on a very long train ride and cash fares are almost 9 dollars. Electronic tickets give you an automatic 25% discount so I would have thought there’d be less people with cash tickets at Mandurah. It’s always the same people with cash tickets paying 1/3rd more than they should. For the stations closer to Perth, a 25% saving of a cheaper fare isn’t much at all, but the discount sure helps with a higher fare.

On the plus side, I haven’t experienced any violence on the Mandurah line like I used to on the Midland line, so there’s that.