April 29, 2008 | Graham

Brickbats to Queensland Rail and Citizen Journalism

I’ve just walked back to the office from Central Station after standing on a train for 15 minutes and deciding it was more likely that I would arrive at Brunswick Street Station than it would. During the 15 minutes that I was on the train waiting for it to leave all that the railway staff could tell me was that there was a problem at Brunswick Street Station and that the train would be leaving in five minutes, and after five minutes, that it would be leaving when we were advised.
Living in the 21st Century, troubled by the lack of information, and equipped with a 3G phone, I decided to consult the Internet. Nothing that I could find.
50 minutes later I am still no wiser, yet this event, whatever it was, must have been disrupting trains all over the city as the consequences of not being able to go through Brunswick Station shunted their way down the line. This is information that is much more vital to the average Brisbanite than knowing that the Hale Street Bridge will cost $57 more. At least they’re reasonably certain of getting a bridge, whereas who knows whether the trains will get anyone home on time for the evening meal.
Let’s not pick on the ABC, The Courier Mail and The Brisbane Times had nothing whatever about this incident either.
So, while QR has the primary responsibility to keep its customers informed, and didn’t – they must have known what the problem was and been able to make an intelligent guess as to how long it would take to fix – the guardians of the public interest also have a duty to get information out despite the incompetencies of the public service. 100 years ago it might have been good enough to read about it in the next morning’s paper, but today things are much different.
Citizen journalism is said to have come of age when passengers on the trains blown-up by terrorists in London three years ago emailed photos from their mobile phones to the BBC contradicting the official version of events. In Australia we’re still waiting for the media, and perhaps the public, to come of age.

Posted by Graham at 2:46 pm | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Media


  1. So my first question is – did you use your mobile to make a CitJ report to any site regarding a delay of unknown origins to the train system?
    This would be the usual first step with the intent of then prompting further responses with additional information.
    Ideally QR should have provided the info, but I never remember them being particularly informative when I lived in Brissie.

    Comment by Grendel — April 30, 2008 @ 1:38 pm

  2. Observation: You have a 3G phone and use it to access the internet?!!!?? Clearly you have a lot of money. Why are you travelling by train?
    The expectation that the real internet, as opposed to the one you believe exists, or ought to exist, should have instant advisories regarding rail delays on the spur of the moment especially for 3G phone users, simply isn’t realistic. Add to that the fact that you’re dealing with QR and I’d suggest, Graham, that you need to get out & about a little more and actually relate to the so-called ‘guardians of the public internet’ – whomever they happen to be – a little more often then you appear to do.

    Comment by Niall — April 30, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  3. Grendl, one of my points is there is nowhere obvious to report to. When you go looking none of the mainstream media make allowance for this. Not in Brisbane at least. Or if they do, the opportunity is hidden.
    Niall, I experiment with my phone and the Internet. And if I didn’t imagine how the Internet should be, rather than just accepting how it is, then I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing, would I?

    Comment by Graham Young — April 30, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  4. The expectation that the real internet, as opposed to the one you believe exists, or ought to exist, should have instant advisories regarding rail delays on the spur of the moment especially for 3G phone users, simply isn’t realistic.
    Actually, it is thoroughly realistic and could be done right now at almost no charge.
    All QR would need to do is to set up a Twitter account, and use twitterfeed to send RSS updates of delays to the twitter account. Anyone who chose to could get updates about delays on the QR network sent directly to their mobile phone. It wouldn’t even have to be a 3G phone – Twitter sends out SMS updates for free.
    You’d need one person to type a quick message into a computer with quick details of a delay, and have the computer convert that message into an RSS file readable by twitterfeed.

    Comment by David Jackmanson — April 30, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  5. QR Informative? Please!
    I quite agree with Graham, it is quite ridiculous that QR can’t provide some indication of the cause of delays.
    Almost everybody has a Mobile Phone today (and you don’t need to be Rockefeller to use the internet) so that seems like a logical way of disseminating this sort of information.

    Comment by Jack — May 5, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

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