November 23, 2017

Horse 2343 - Suicide Isn't Painless: It's Inconvenient

As far as I'm aware, Sydney is the only city in the world with a fleet of double decker suburban rail cars; let alone double decker suburban rail cars that go underground. The majority of the City Circle dates from 1926; with services going across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, and the City Circle passing through Circular Quay in the 1950's after Premier Joseph Cahill decided to permanently foul up Sydney's infrastructure by ripping out the trams.
As such, Sydney's suburban trains are capable of carrying up to 2000 people, as opposed to the 900 that the trains on the London Underground can carry. Unlike the London Underground which has had a very long history of improvement (in a lot of cases belatedly), Sydney's underground stations remain mostly the same at platform level as the day that they were opened. Both at Town Hall and Wynyard Stations you can still see the now 90 year old wooden beams which make up the station ceilings, as well as the massive steel beams which hold the stations together. What we don't have in Sydney that I think that the network is desperately crying out for, is anti-suicide pits at least and platform length barriers at best.

The worst trip that I have ever been on, when I was on a northbound train going into Town Hall once, when suddenly the lights went out and those of us standing in the vestibule area near the doors, were thrown violently into the wall of the driver's cab. From the other side of the wall, I could hear frantic yelling as the driver was making his opinion known by use of very Saxon four letter expletives and I also heard that dreaded phrase of "one under".
I don't know what the statistics are for people being hit by a train in Sydney is like but if it's anything like London, then most people who die by being struck by a train are willing participants in the deadly game. Practically none of them are pushed but there are a few accidents.

I can not possibly understand the kind of angst and chaos that must pass through someone's mind to make them decide that taking one's own life is either desirable or acceptable and so I shan't comment on that but I do know that by changing the infrastructure just a little bit, them many lives can be saved.

My proposal would be to have a ditch cut between the two rails as they pass through the underground stations in Sydney. I don't know how deep the anti-suicide pits in London are but I do know that if built in Sydney, that they would be more effective because unlike the London Underground, Sydney's trains are powered by an overhead source of electricity and so there is no third rail between the tracks.
The point of the anti-suicide pits is that when you do have someone​ go under a train, they will fall between the two tracks and into the pit, while the train passes safely overhead. In the London Underground's​ experience, the the number of people who later report that they changed their mind as a result of being saved by the anti-suicide pits is significant enough to justify the almost minimal expense. The amount of bother caused by someone going under a train and the chaos and trauma it causes, is something which should be prevented.

The other more expensive thing that I would like to see in Sydney are platform length barriers installed. The concept is ridiculously simple. You have a series of glass or Perspex barriers down the full length of the platform, with doors that only open when there is a train stopped at the station. Everyone is familiar with the idea as this is how elevator doors should work: the doors on the elevator should only open when there is a car present. Although it is harder to synchronise when you have a train which weighs many tonnes, various underground railway networks like the London Underground, Paris Metro and the Rome Metro have already figured it out. Since Sydney's trains are now almost exclusively eight cars long and with sixteen sets of doors on one side, the set of design requirements are already known. The only challenge would be if there are the older style of V Set trains where the doors are closer to the ends of the cars but they tend not to travel down the underground portion of the network all that often. Really the only stations which would derive the most benefit from platform length barriers would be Wynyard and Town Hall as they experience the highest volume of peak passenger traffic.

Call me callous if you like but I think that I'd prefer the inconvenience caused by retrieving a person who is alive and at the bottom of an anti-suicide pit than the larger inconvenience caused by retrieving a person who is dead and has been pulverised for many meters at the bottom of a train tunnel. I think I'd prefer the inconvenience caused by being forced to stand behind a barrier and being fenced in like sheep, rather than having someone accidentally spill into the path of a moving train.
I realise that the death rate of the population is 100% but I'd rather have people die of old age in the palliative care ward of a hospital, than in front of the 05:47 train to Penrith and inconvenience several thousand people.

Anti-Suicide Pits and Platform Length Barriers... and Bring Back The Roundels Please

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