30 November 2022

Spilt Milk public transport issues now 'learnings' for future large events

| Lottie Twyford
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Spilt Milk festival

Spilt Milk revellers had a great day, but they didn’t all have a great journey home. Photo: File.

Debate over Canberra’s public transport capacity is continuing in the wake of the Spilt Milk festival, which attracted a crowd of about 45,000 to Exhibition Park on the weekend.

Thousands of festival attendees were forced to walk home after public transport systems quickly reached capacity.

But the ACT Government says Saturday’s Spilt Milk festival was successful and had provided them with learnings for future large-scale events, which it hopes to see more of.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Transport Minister Chris Steel defended the Territory’s public transport system and its capacity to manage crowds.

It had been reported that light rail services were stopped completely but Mr Steel said this was a mischaracterisation and they were merely suspended for 20 minutes.

This was due to large numbers of people deciding to ignore safety barriers and walk on the light rail corridor instead, the Transport Minister said.

Chris Steel

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said the event was successful but there were some learnings for next time. Photo: ACT Government.

“A large number of people decided they didn’t want to line up for the buses or light rail and instead decided they would walk to the city – given it is a relatively short distance from the city – in order to potentially go to the nightclubs down there and continue their recreational activities,” he said.

“The fact is, they did disrupt the light rail line and the buses.

“There’s always things the festival organisers can learn, particularly around crowd management. I appreciate some of the people in those crowds didn’t want to wait, but the lines weren’t that long. People who did wait got on a light rail and got on a bus and got to their destination.”

A spokesperson for the Government has also confirmed the presence of 50 additional Q City buses and additional Transport Canberra bus services were put on to help people travel from the city to areas such as Tuggeranong.

Opposition spokesperson for transport Mark Parton has obtained a video of revellers being directed to get off the light rail and walk instead.

He asked Mr Steel why people were asked to do this and what the point of light rail was if it wasn’t able to “cope” with major events.

But Mr Steel said the event had been a “successful one” and overall 25,000 people had been moved to and from the event on light rail.

He noted that all passengers were cleared from EPIC by 12:20 am, which he thought was “pretty good” considering the size of the crowd.

“There will be learnings for next time … as to what we can do to stop people from walking on the tracks which is obviously an unsafe practice,” Mr Steel said.

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Region has spoken to a number of festivalgoers, one of whom somewhat disputes the Government’s recount.

She said she was told public transport services were at full capacity and she and her friends instead walked to Dickson, caught a bus from there to the city and then got a $213 Uber to her home in Belconnen.

It was ultimately a three-hour journey back.

Other festivalgoers told Region they anticipated light rail capacity problems and so made the decision to leave the event early.

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Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra Ryan Hemsley said it was difficult to know what happened exactly on Saturday night as there were so many conflicting reports.

But he’s clear on one thing – Canberra’s public transport network must be able to cope with large crowds as the city grows.

Mr Hemsley is calling on the Government to review what occurred in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I’d question whether this was a driver training matter. For example, you could imagine a Melbourne tram driver might have been better able to handle crowds,” he said.

“It’s definitely raised questions about how we plan for future events and how our systems are designed because ultimately we want people to have good experiences on public transport.

“Cities have been dealing with large crowds since the Colosseum – this is not a new thing – it’s about mitigating that and putting measures in place, including putting enough people on the ground explaining what’s happening so people don’t get confused.”

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Disgusting to leave so many young adults stranded without transport services. They were told the services had stopped, these young adults were told trams we not longer running They were told they had to walk. They were told it’s a 5 minute walk to the city. Who are these people, this is a disgrace.

ChrisinTurner4:42 pm 01 Dec 22

Trams must always have back-up buses available. Imagine if a tram had broken down.

I’d have thought whatever lessons there were from this should have been learnt from numerous previous events over the years.

Also, can anyone who uses “learnings” in any statement, document or whatever, be immediately fired.

Capital Retro9:36 pm 30 Nov 22

“Kick” is probably the operative word.

Who is going to provide the crowd control and deal with the Ice-heads at TCH ED?

HiddenDragon8:27 pm 30 Nov 22

Yet another example of this clueless government being surprised by the utterly predictable – and then trying to talk their way out of it with intelligence-insulting spin.

I am sure this insignificant light rail incident will give those anti-Labor forces plenty of ammunition. These naysayers, always angry at the government have not disappointed. Their comments say it all. One just has to look at the increasingly bitter Jeremy Hanson and his Facebook page, simply gloating! It must be all of those election losses!! The Spilt Milk Festival has had input from many health professionals and organisations over the years, committed to its ongoing success. These professionals are dedicated to the safety of our young festival goers and reducing the potential harm from illicit drug use. Despite the government’s best endeavours and previous attempts at implementing a pill testing trial, the Liberals and Jeremy Hanson’s efforts to sabotage and stymie the festival have failed. The light rail incident was minor incident in the great scheme of things and the government will learn from it. The event was a huge success, not only for participants but for the pill testing trial leading up to it in saving lives.

swaggieswaggie9:46 pm 30 Nov 22

Jack, one can imagine the saliva & spittle drooling from your chin as you hammered two fingered onto the keyboard in a rabid frenzy of indignation so I’ll break it to you gently…. No one is criticising the festival, it was a success and no one is criticizing a pill trial either. Any criticism is aimed at the operators of the light rail who proved utterly useless at providing the service they are paid to provide. Can I suggest you take a sedative and relax.

Ha Ha swaggieswaggie judging by your comments in this thread I think it is you who is drooling saliva and spittle as you hammer down on your keyboard. Not to mention all that derogatory and unfair criticism directed towards public servants just doing their jobs. I’ll break it to you gently, maybe it is you who should take a sedative and relax!

swaggieswaggie5:30 pm 30 Nov 22

And the clowns who run this toy train couldn’t even run the westbound leg to the Gunghalin stop to/from from Well Station Drive stop utilising the crossover tracks there. Plenty of people just wanted to get to Gungahlin from Nullarbor and Well Station and there were nothing like the crowds further down outside EPIC so no excuse. These clowns need to issue a public explanation of why they were so unprepared and so incompetent. We already know Steel is incompetent so we don’t need him fronting up.

Scott Anthony2:49 pm 30 Nov 22

What a pathetic excuse, Not learnings, its Failings, Canberra has held large events for decades so there is no excuse for not organising detours for the closed roads or having adequate transport available for public safety…. typical Labor Greens fiasco, trying to absolve themselves of responsibility despite being in government for 20 years and still can’t do the basics….. Why build more tram when the current tram is a pathetic red boondoggle that wasted Billions of taxpayers money..!

There is learning and lessons, but not ‘learnings’ until fairly recently. It is a word adopted by the corporate sector to attempt to sound clever and despite it being incorrect, many in the public sector and some politicians have taken it on too. I never understand why the public sector adopts corporate fads that make no sense, but it just keeps happening.

The first time I heard ‘learnings’, I assumed the person was poorly educated and felt sorry for them. Now I realise that it has become just like sheep conforming to the crowd sounds. Although it sounds ridiculous, it has become so common that people think it is normal and it may just be added to the dictionary. It really is hilarious!

People hear things from someone they like / admire, automatically assuming this person must be correct and so they copy them. It really is hilarious!

You have just described one way language evolves. I think it is quite fascinating.

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