Melbourne, Myki and Mayhem

MykiCardI visited Melbourne, capital of Victoria, Australia, and I am having trouble understanding the place.

Having done my research before arriving, I knew that you could no longer pay by cash on the Melbourne public transport system. As Melbourne has quite a good tram system, and because I quite like trams, I knew that I would have to purchase the oddly named Myki card, at a non-refundable cost of $6, and then add some credit to the card in order to be able to use it.

The solution seemed to buy the Myki Visitor Pack, which included the card, a full day’s credit, some discount vouchers and a map of the tram network.

Whilst wandering around Bourke Street, which is one of the city’s main streets, I saw a Visitor Information Centre, so asked the pleasant woman if I could buy some Myki Visitor Packs for myself and my travelling companions.

The lady informed me that they didn’t sell the packs there, which I found very odd given that the booth was supposed to cater for visitors. However, the lady did point out where I could purchase the packs.

Packs collected, we set off for Southern Cross Railway Station, which is Melbourne’s second busiest station. Although there were display boards at the station, none of those outside of the platforms had any information about individual stations. They merely told you which platform to go to for the line you needed to be on.

Visitors don’t normally have much local knowledge about individual stations or branch lines, and although the stations were displayed once you got to the platform, there was no reference material advising which platform to be on in order to catch the train you required.

I am well travelled, and I do like to travel by train, but I have never come across such an unhelpful, and frankly incompetent, system before.

Having finally found the correct platform, all seemed to go ok – except that the Myki electronic tagging machines were difficult to read so hard to ascertain whether or not your ticket had been validated.

After completing our business we took the train to another station, only to find that two of our Myki cards could not be read properly by the Myki machines. At some stations there do not seem to be any staff around to assist passengers.

When I tried to board the last train, unsure as to whether or not I was doing it legally, the door simply closed on me, crushing my arm.

Our final destination was the bayside suburb of Williamstown, where we opted to catch the ferry back to Southbank.

We found the wharf quite easily, as there was a sign there telling us that the ferry departs from that point. This ferry has a schedule which varies, according to the day, but, bizarrely, there is no schedule listed on the sign to inform potential passengers of the next departure, or indeed any departure so you simply don’t know how long you have to wait.

The Victorian Government obviously expects visitors to have ESP because they certainly don’t do what virtually every other public transport system in the world does, which is to provide good, accurate and easy to understand information for locals and visitors alike.

Melbourne is a place worth visiting. What is not worthwhile is the frustration of trying to use a transport system that is difficult to understand.

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