Much has been made of Metro’s scheduled cancellations over the next two days to try and deal with extreme heat — in particular they’re citing speed restrictions on the faster part of the network, which will have speed restrictions. It’ll be interesting to see if they can stick to this plan, or if the whole thing (to coin a phrase) comes of the rails tonight. Hopefully the upgrade work done to the Comeng fleet in recent years will mean their air-conditioning doesn’t fail on random units like it used to.
But more impact is likely to be felt with the mass cancellation of up to half of all services on some lines for most of the next month.
Some of the cuts are due to the Regional Rail Link project, for instance buses replacing trains on parts of the Sunbury line.
But many other lines completely independent from RRL will see big cuts, by as much as 50% of services for most of the day.
For instance on many lines (such as Sandringham, Werribee, Craigieburn) peak services will be cut by half, to every 15-20 minutes.
To an extent I can understand reduced peak services in the week or two after Christmas, when many people are on holiday. Longer waits would be annoying, but capacity would better match demand.
Mind the gap (between services)
The last time they had a reduced peak timetable due to major works, it was a 10 minute service on the busy Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston lines (eg those lines that normally have a mix of stopping and express trains), stopping all stations. That made sense as it kept waiting times down to a minimum.
This time they’ve decided they want some express trains, which cuts travel time but extends platform waiting times (in the heat, oh joy), and makes for a more complex timetable, with much bigger impacts if there’s an unplanned cancellation.
This hacking up of the timetable rather than a full temporary re-write leads to some nasty quirks…
On the South Morang line, there’s a long gap of 50 minutes from South Morang station to the city from 3:49pm to 4:39pm (though the rest of the line has a train between those times).
On the Dandenong line, next week some busy stations such as Carnegie in morning peak will have gaps varying wildly between 2 minutes (8:11am-8:13am) and 26 minutes (7:09am-7:35am).
On the Sandringham line, there are trains every 15 minutes most of the day (including peak) but gaps of 20 minutes in the afternoon, and one gap of 28 minutes in the early evening.
On the Frankston line the weekday off-peak ten minute service will be cut to every twenty minutes from next week until late-January — but it will be kept on weekends and public holidays, including Christmas Day.
…So on Christmas Day, when almost nothing’s open, and almost nobody is working, the there’ll be a Frankston line train every 10 minutes for most of the day, but on the two days before — both working days, and busy CBD shopping days — most stations will only get a train every 18-20 minutes, including in peak hour.
If someone would like to explain the logic of that one to me, I’d be delighted.
Reduced until Australia Day
The reduced timetables go until Australia Day, but happily, many of the peak services return in early January (resolving most of the above issues) — otherwise you can bet there would have been mass crowding from mid-January when most people are back at work. Maybe there still will be.
The partial pay off for these disruptions will be upgraded infrastructure… hopefully substantial progress will be made on the Regional Rail Link and other projects such as the Mitcham grade separation during these few weeks.
Update Friday 20/12/2013 — Commenter gxh identified a huge 39 minute gap for inner-suburban Armadale, Toorak and Hawksburn in the morning peak, thanks to several stopping trains in a row being cancelled for the full five weeks. Yowsers.
Update Sunday 22/12/2013: After some dialogue with Metro on Twitter, they’ve quietly modified the timetable to have a train from the Frankston line stop and plug that particular gap.
It’s still a 19-20 minute gap, but that’s better than 39!
Update Monday 6/1/2014 — despite the change above still being shown in Metro’s PDF timetables, from my observations this morning, the alteration hasn’t actually been made. Staff at Bentleigh and making remote PA announcements, the green button, and the timetable posters all referred to the train in question as still running express Malvern to South Yarra, so the 39 minute gap remains.
And the clincher? The driver evidently hadn’t been told of an alteration; the train did indeed run express.
The PDF on the Metro web site still shows the train altered to stop and fill the gap. The PTV web site shows it running express.
Update Monday 6/1/2014 afternoon — Metro says it didn’t stop in error, but it will stop tomorrow.
@danielbowen that's correct. We've identified the cause of the error and will make every effort to ensure it doesn't happen tomorrow AM
— Metro Trains (@metrotrains) January 6, 2014
Update Friday 10/1/2014 — Turns out this particular train is suffering from bad overcrowding due to the cancellations around it. See: Summer timetables = planned train crowding (See a problem? Get the evidence)