LONG-TIME rail traveller Christian Dupressoir, of Valley Heights, has travelled on the Penrith-Blue Mountains line for more than 50 years.
He has seen many changes and been involved in two historic train accidents — the 1977 Granville and 1999 Glenbrook disasters. "I lived in Springwood and attended Penrith High School in the 1960s," he said. "I went to high school in Strathfield, then to Sydney University and to work as a chemist in Sydney. There were fewer trains back then but I don't think travel time has improved."
Until the early 1970s commuters could book seats on the inter-urban trains.
Mr Dupressoir said people on the trains often got to know each other better because they would travel at the same times in the same places each day.
"Because the journey was long, about an hour and a half, it gave you more time to socialise. I often did work on the train for school and uni and, later, for my job. You could smoke on trains then, although not in all carriages."
Doors and windows were also all manually operated.
Mr Dupressoir said one advantage of that was whenever the train was delayed, passengers could open windows for fresh air. "But it used to be a problem in winter because someone would always leave the door or windows open!"
His biggest problem occurred when the Granville railway bridge collapsed on the train in 1977.
Eighty-three people were killed.
"I was in the third carriage — which the bridge fell on," he said. "When I left the carriage I saw the bridge had come down and people were pinned under it. I wasn't hurt and I didn't know anyone who was hurt or killed. But it was terrible. After Granville, for some time, every time the train swayed a bit I'd suddenly sit up."
His fears were partly realised when he experienced his second train accident at Glenbrook, when the suburban service crashed into the back of the Indian Pacific in 1999.
Seven people died.
Despite these experiences he is still a committed rail commuter. "I still think it's safer travelling by train than by car. The Blue Mountains-Penrith line is vital. And if we can get more cars off the roads it'll be a good thing for our environment, too."