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Trains without air-conditioning leave commuters hot under the collar

By Maryann Wright - posted Monday, 21 February 2011

You’re sitting in a rattling can running along rails. It feels like you are in a sauna because there is no air-conditioning. Sweat is dripping from your every pore and sticking you to the plastic seat. A bit of chocolate (probably left smudged onto the seat from last night) is also melting and leaving an unattractive stain that looks like poo on your freshly ironed skirt or pants. The lights above your head intermittently flicker on and off as you try to better endure the ordeal by reading a book.

At least in this scenario you have a seat. Here’s another:


You are standing so tightly pressed between bodies that you can barely move your arms, let alone read a book. Your nose is almost pressed into an armpit. Shuffling to face the other direction is of no benefit either; now your shoulder is taken over by someone who is either nodding off or passing out from the heat.

A fortnight ago Sydney residents suffered a record-breaking heatwave

Sydney has not seen temperatures over 30 degrees for seven days running in the 152 years the Bureau of Meteorology has kept records. The unexpected heatwave tested the state’s public transport system and has left many rail commuters hot under the collar.

I commute daily via train on the East Hills/Airport line.

Out of the ten trains I caught, predominantly in peak hour, eight of them had no air-conditioning. The temperature over the week ranged from 35 to 42 degrees but temperatures inside the train were significantly higher due to the tiny windows in the old carriages that barely move the trapped heat.


I thought I may have been extremely unlucky to catch all the old trains. According to a spokeswoman from RailCorp, 71 percent of the CityRail fleet is currently air-conditioned of which the trains are “distributed” across the network.

So, I had a 29 per cent chance of getting a train without air-conditioning. And yet, I happened to get one 80 per cent of the time. I must have been unlucky. The spokeswoman also said CityRail staff handed out water bottles at “a number of major train stations to help keep passengers hydrated and cool”. Most of the trains I caught were from Museum and Central yet I didn’t see any of the water bottles either.

As I witnessed babies wailing in the debilitating conditions, heavily pregnant women counting down the seconds until they could escape and the elderly slumped with exhaustion - I was mindful of our State government harping on about Sydney being a “global city”. How can we have a global city with a medieval transport system?

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Article edited by Brian Holden.
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About the Author

Maryann Wright is a third year media and communications student at the University of Sydney majoring in government and international relations and performance studies. She works at as a casual and in her spare time when she isn't writing she sings, dances and acts in musical theatre.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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