Have higher weekend train frequencies resulted in huge traffic jams at level crossings? No.
There was speculation from some quarters that introducing 10 minute train frequencies would result in long traffic queues at level crossings, similar to those seen in many suburbs during peak commuting hours.
I think this was unfounded. Looking around Bentleigh on a recent weekend, it seems no worse than when trains ran half as frequently.
I think there’s a couple of reasons for this:
Less trains than weekday peak hours — this crossing gets 3-4 trains every 9 minutes (counting both directions) in peak; about 23 trains per hour. On weekends it’s about half that.
Less motor vehicle traffic than weekday peak hours, so it’s never going to be as bad as peak.
For a train that stops at the station then goes through the crossing (eg southbound), the gates are down for about 75 seconds. For a train in the other direction, it’s about 45 seconds. So every 10 minutes, assuming the two trains aren’t crossing at the same time, the gates are closed for about 2 minutes, or 20% of the time. This is less than a typical road intersection (about 50%) and much less than an intersection with a major road such as Nepean Highway (probably over 70%).
The other thing is that more frequent train services should, in the longer term, attract more people out of their cars, reducing traffic. It’s a bit hard to tell if this has had any effect yet, or if a north-south railway would ever take a substantial amount of east-west road travel, of course. (This is why Smartbus services also need to be expanded and boosted.)
Perhaps it’s worse at other locations, such as the notorious Murrumbeena Road crossing. But other hotspots I’ve seen such as North Road, Ormond, appear to be managing okay.
There are genuine concerns that roads will clog up if a large number of extra trains are added in peak hours — grade separation is the only long-term full solution to fix that.
But in off-peak hours including weekends and evenings, there should be nothing stopping the government bringing the huge benefits of 10 minute train services to the rest of Melbourne.