Holiday timetables – “Turn up and go” becomes “Turn up and wait”

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.

Holiday timetables

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.

Dumb Ways To Die ad on side of train

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.


Updates

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.

Metro summer timetables 2013-14: 39 minute gap for some inner-suburban stations in peak hour

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.

Metro Trains: Frankston line 2013-14 Summer timetable revised to fill a 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.

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)

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22 thoughts on “Holiday timetables – “Turn up and go” becomes “Turn up and wait”

  1. Another long gap, on weekdays during January, is that there is NO train that stops at Armadale-Toorak-Hawksburn going to the city between 8.29 am and 9.08 am (times at Armadale). Like, a 39 minute interval during peak hour from these inner suburban stations? As you say, if there’s any logic in all this, it’s hard to see.

  2. I go from Beaconsfield to Hawthorn via Richmond everyday to start at 7am, so I have to get the 5:26 from Beaconsfield but the earliest on the summer timetable is 6:30. Means I have to face the Monash. Construction workers go back on the 13th. That 5:26 is standing room only by Richmond.

  3. @gxh, wow, that’s a huge gap.

    @Tom, don’t panic. In the fine print of the altered timetable, it says the changes apply to morning peak only, which they consider to start with 7am arrivals in the city. The trains earlier than that are meant to be the same as normal.

    You can verify this via the PTV web site, which has the full timetable for each day.

  4. *facepalm*

    Newsflash: Pampered fools who normally wait 10 minutes for a train now wait 20.
    Really? Wow, we really are a nation of whingers.

  5. That altered timetable is meant to be used in conjunction with the normal timetable. Cost cutting exercise however I think its causing more confusion for people than it was meant to solve. Speaking to friends i understand that the comeng air cons are failing just as much as before the modifications, though from what i understand the air they pump out during the heat is cooler than it used to be.. so they work better but they still fail just as often.

  6. Today, more problems. The aftermath of yesterday from what I understand.

    Just then on 3aw, the minister said, ‘ it is because trains are out of position’ thanks to the cut back yesterday.

    Oh really. I watched a video on the London Underground, how trains where put out of position on the Victoria Line because of a crime issue at Brixton which closed one of its two platforms. Being a terminal station.

    The main issue for LU, is the ‘maintenance schedule’ was somewhat out of order. I guess the impact is the same for us here.

    LU staff worked around the clock that night to reorganise and resort all the trains at the train depot for the Victoria Line.

    So, why could we not do something similar last night here?

    Ok, we do not have just one depot. So what, there could be quick late night runs to swap a train between depots as required.

    Furthermore, Thursday was scheduled before the event. Why could they not solve the issue of ‘rolling stock positioning’ as part of that?

  7. I doubt they could get away with 50% reduced inter-peak timetables on the Frankston line if Southland station was in operation.

  8. Seems more like ‘Turn up and Not go’, or ‘Turn up, and turn off’

    Having said that, waits of 40 minutes or more on a line such as South Morang in the mid afternoon is just not good enough.

    Seriously, does Metro have anyone with brains when it comes to designing their timetables?

  9. Even when the service hasn’t been cut back on all the days around it, are the 10 minute services really necessary on Christmas Day anyway? Train drivers working that day get paid over $100/hr so it seems like an unnecessary expense for a day with so little demand.

    To think that in London there’s no public transport at all on Christmas Day except for taxis. Closer to home, in Brisbane they only run a very basic hourly train service on each line with limited operating hours.

  10. That comment above is the stupidest thing I’ve read today. So you’re suggesting that they slash services assuming everyone has a car and services won’t be used. Have you actually used a train on Christmas Day ? I can tell you now I had to stand although it was a 3 car train. We need to promote a regular service on Christmas Day. Not only for convenience but to stop people drink DRIVING. Melbourne is no longer a small city mare.

  11. I agree with @James. I expect to be catching PT this Christmas Day, as I usually do, and I expect the trains to be pretty full, as they usually are. If you’ve never caught a train on Christmas Day, you’d be very surprised.

    My main problem is the lack of feeder bus services. I will have a 32 minute wait between bus and train at one changeover point. Even the SmartBus tends not to be very smart on public holidays.

    Agree with @James’s comment about drink driving, too. I always get offered a lift home from the family Christmas gathering, because there are family members who live very near me, but I always politely refuse. I’m the only adult non-drinker in my extended family, and I just feel uncomfortable being driven home by people who’ve been drinking, even if they seem OK to drive. I’d rather take PT.

  12. Maybe it was your influence, Daniel, that got the Armadale-Toorak-Hawksburn gap filled? If so, well done! And credit to Metro, too, for doing something about it. Just the same, I’ll try and avoid travelling at that time if I can, as I reckon the trains could get pretty crowded then, especially as people return to work in the second part of January.

  13. Did you notice that the additional train reaches its destination only 1 minute later, despite 3 additional stops.. Timetable padding exposed!

  14. I can confirm that the train didn’t stop at Hawksburn. It looked like the train was almost ready to stop and then picked up speed at the platform (strange).

    Also strange was that this 8:52 train used to stop regularly at the station though the timetable doesn’t mention it!

    Oh, the irony!

  15. I had the pleasure of arriving 10 seconds late to Flinders St and missed the 19:28 to Cranbourne, stopping all stations (ie. Hughesdale). Due to cancellation of stopping-all-stations Pakenham trains because of the summer timetable, the next train due to stop at Hughesdale was the 19:56 Dandenong, which was delayed by 15 minutes and ran directly from Flinders to Richmond (no city loop).
    I’m glad I don’t work near Parliament station anymore.

    The service between Flinders and Hughesdale is becoming so unreliable that I’ve actually started taking three different trains to get home from Flinders: The Sandringham train from Flinders directly to Richmond / South Yarra, change to whatever the next one going to Caulfield will be (Frankston, Dandenong, Pakenham, Cranbourne, Westall), get off at Caulfield and wait an indefinite period of time for the next stopping-all-stations train from Platform 4.

    Some days I just give up and walk the twenty minuets from Oakleigh station to home.

  16. @Aaron S, that would have been annoying… and no Northern Loop trains to Parliament during the summer timetable, either – they go the other way around, otherwise you might have caught your train at Parliament.

    If you get stuck at Caulfield with a long wait, is the 900 bus any good to you? It goes to Chadstone, so 10 mins walk north of Hughesdale Stn.

  17. Same problem on the Frankston line again today. I wish Metro would make up their mind…either stop or don’t stop…don’t keep changing everyday your goddamn mind!

  18. This latest scam was the most confusing and ridiculous thing I have ever seen. Unnecessary delays, unnecessary waits, conflicting and badly advertised changes etc everywhere. They even made huge mistakes on some of the timetables, for example posting 27-30 Jan as normal services when they were actually Saturday services. They do this regularly on Bank Holidays. This is typical Metro incompetence and unprofessionalism, they have learnt nothing. I hate this company with a vengeance.

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