The morning crush at Town Hall's number 3 platform is one of Sydney's worst. Tens of thousands of commuters shuffle off trains from the city's west, colliding with thousands more boarding services for the north shore and Macquarie Park.
On Monday, the experience was even more disorientating than normal as RailCorp began trials of a new marshalling system to shepherd, cajole, and corral the crowds through a cramped platform as quickly as possible.
RailCorp test new marshalling system
RAW VISION: RailCorp trial "train marshals" at Town Hall station in hopes to keep trains on schedule and to improve safety.
Getting off the train, occasionally befuddled commuters confronted at least one orange-bibbed RailCorp employee per door, herding them to the nearest exit.
With arms outstretched, those staff also held back commuters who wanted to board until the doors were clear. And as soon as the doors were open for about 40 seconds, RailCorp's marshals then tried to prevent new passengers getting on and delaying the train.
By the look of it, it is an effective, if costly, way to reduce the time trains at Platform 3 spend at the station. For those getting off, the marshals guaranteed a pretty smooth passage to the stairs.
But not all commuters were impressed, particularly those galled at bossy and officious marshals, or blocked from getting on their morning service.
"I think it is a bit of overkill," said Eric, who works for a pharmaceutical company at Macquarie Park.
"I just missed my train because they wouldn't let me on – so now I'm going to have a smoke to wait 15 minutes for another one," he said.
The point of the marshal trial, to take place over the next month, is to try to reduce "dwell time" that trains spend at the station.
If RailCorp can reduce the dwell from between two and three minutes to closer to a minute, it may be able to run more trains on the line.
More trains, as the morning crowds demonstrate, are desperately needed.
The chief operating officer at RailCorp, Tony Eid, said preventing people from boarding trains (who risked delaying the service) was something that Sydney commuters would take time to get used to.
I just missed my train because they wouldn't let me on – so now I'm going to have a smoke to wait 15 minutes for another one.
"For the first time we are managing this as a major event," Mr Eid said. "We have to trial something."
To run the trial, RailCorp hired 16 extra part-time marshals. For the next two weeks there will be at least one marshal per carriage door. For two weeks after that there will be one marshal per carriage.
Mr Eid said RailCorp would probably end up with somewhere in the middle of the two staffing levels. He would not say how much the measures cost.
Peter Lomax, who works at an IT company at North Ryde, was another commuter blocked from getting on his first train.
"This wouldn't happen in London, that's for sure," Mr Lomax, recently arrived from the UK, said.
"Trains would wait for people to get on."
But Vincent Laudat, a student on his way to Beecroft, did not seem to mind. "It could be a good idea," Mr Laudat said.
Natalie Forsdike, travelling to North Sydney, resented being herded into the allotted area for waiting passengers.
"I think it is ridiculous," Ms Forsdike said.
"She's just told me to move half a metre either way," an exasperated Ms Forsdike said, gesturing to one of the new marshals.
If the trial works, it will help RailCorp run at least 20 trains an hour on the Western line and on the North Shore line. It currently struggles to run 17 trains an hour through the line.
For most commuters boarding trains at Town Hall's platform three, missing the first service is not a big problem.
But if someone wants to go to any station on the Epping to Chatswood line, which is served by only one in four trains at the platform, missing a train is more of an issue.
Mr Eid said RailCorp was considering running more trains on the Epping to Chatswood line to alleviate this concern.