Is Australia in danger of being swamped by 24-hour time?

24-hour time is common in Europe, and in the airline industry, and the military.

Internally, many industries use 24-hour time, but publicly 12-hour time is dominant in Australia.

I have seen 24-hour time used at cafes. Perhaps they were run by Europeans; perhaps it was an attempt to seem more European.

V/Line uses 24-hour time in most cases, including on their public timetables — they switched back in 2000. Other public transport operators in Victoria use 12-hour time in public.

Except… at the brand new Metro stations… where somehow, they’ve used both on the handy new screens.

As you can see, train departure times are in 12-hour time. But the current time is in 24-hour time. Ingenious!

Bentleigh station - new Passenger Information Display on platform

(Note that in the background, there’s a standalone LED clock showing… 12-hour time.)

Both formats have their advantages. 12-hour is more commonly known, though 24-hour is less ambiguous. But wouldn’t it be better to choose one or the other?

I’d love to know how this happened. Is it some devious plan to get people gradually used to 24-hour time?

Or did someone just not think about how gloriously inconsistent this is?

Update: I’m told it was an error, and the displays will be updated shortly to consistently show 12-hour time.

Update 7pm:

You can judge a station by its cover

Yesterday’s horrific accident at Surrey Hills is a reminder of the many benefits of level crossing removal (though that one is not on the list).

With our local crossing at Bentleigh gone, it’s rather wonderful that the angst of further accidents is gone, and crowds no longer get stuck at the railway gates every second day…

Another benefit is that train users get a brand new shiny station.

But with the wet weather this week we’re able to judge how well that new station deals with the rain.

Bentleigh station concourse entrance

The entrance is pretty good – shelter along the street is reasonably well aligned with the nearby shops. In fact it’s very pleasing to have the station as an integrated part of the streetscape, rather than breaking it up as it used to.

While before there was a long uncovered walkway into the station, now you walk straight into the concourse, and there’s continuous cover down the steps (or in the lift) down to the platform.

And then it falls down.

Bentleigh station in the rain, view from concourse

Bentleigh station in the rain

At McKinnon and Ormond the sections of platform closest to the entrance are under the road, providing a fair degree of cover. There’s more shelter down the platform, though it’s not continuous; there are substantial gaps.

However at Bentleigh, the only cover close to the stairs/lift is fairly small.

There’s a lot more cover at the northern end of the platform, but the only way to get there is to brave a long section of uncovered platform, or the even longer uncovered ramp from the concourse — which in dry conditions is very useful for spreading people along the platform, by the way, far more useful than at the other stations where the ramp doubles back.

So you have the old effect of many people huddling near the entrance from the rain, and thus concentrating on just one or two carriages of a six carriage train — not much better than the old station.

Bentleigh station in the rain

Bentleigh station, June 2015

(All this applies to platforms 1 and 2, which are the most commonly used. Platform 3 seems to have slightly less cover, but nowhere near as many people use it.)

Bentleigh station, view from concourse

Coverage

Even where the platforms are covered, modern designs mean there’s a gap between the edge of the roof and the train when it arrives. If it’s pouring with rain at the time, you’re still going to get wet.

Bentleigh station in the rain

Why not cover the platforms completely?

If you’re rebuilding the station anyway, it would only be an incremental cost to have rain cover right along the platform.

The benefits are obvious — by providing shelter and shade all the way along, it encourages crowds to spread along the platform, decreasing boarding times, and more evenly distributing people along the train.

It may also help with PM peak alighting times, as in heavy rain, people don’t pause in the train doorway to find their umbrella. It would also reduce the instances of people running on slippery surfaces to avoid the rain.

It’s helped at Richmond, where full platform shelters were retrofitted (at a cost of $7.28 million), and is provided at our busiest stations Southern Cross and Flinders Street.

Granted, no suburban station is that busy, but if the benefits are numerous and the cost is minimal, then why not?

  • PTUA called for all-over platform cover on the Dandenong line “sky rail” stations — as well as for all to be upgraded to Premium status

Roller coaster rail?

On Tuesday the Level Crossing Removal Authority put out a whole raft of information on options for removal of crossings on the southern end of the Frankston line. If you have any interest at all, particularly if you’re a local, they’re definitely worth a look.

The Opposition’s withering response:

“The controversial ‘Sky Rail’ monstrosity on the Pakenham line has been dumped by Daniel Andrews for a ‘Roller Coaster Rail’ on the Frankston line.

“The Big Dipper belongs at Luna Park, not on the Frankston line.”

David Davis reported in the Herald Sun.

Three things on this:

1. The Big Dipper at Luna Park closed and was demolished in 1988. (The remaining original wooden roller coaster is the Scenic Railway.)

2. Unless there’s an extended section of elevated rail or trench, you do end up with rail lines going up and down like a roller coaster. It’s inevitable.

Extended sections of elevated rail between crossings are clearly not what the Opposition want, because that’s “sky rail”, which they’ve decided is evil (or at least, a chink in the Andrews Government’s political armour).

Extended sections of trench are impossibly complex and expensive and disruptive to build. The longer the trench, the more underground services have to be moved, and this takes a lot of time and money to do properly.

The three level crossings recently grade separated at Ormond-Mckinnon-Bentleigh are in relatively close proximity to each other, but between each, the rail line comes back up to ground level because it wasn’t practical to do it any other way. For instance between Ormond and Mckinnon there’s a massive storm water pipe (at Murray Road) just below ground level, so the rail line goes over it.

As shown in this video, and the top photo (snapped from Bentleigh, looking towards McKinnon), the ups and downs are very visible.

But — despite suspicions from myself and others that it would feel like a roller coaster, it really doesn’t when you’re on the train, thanks to only very slight grades (typically no more than 2%) and the natural topography of the area.

(Heading north out of Ormond is slightly steeper, and is more noticeable. This was done to preserve the Dorothy Avenue underpass, which is also part of the old Rosstown Railway line.)

This sort of thing happens all over the place without anybody noticing — except perhaps the train drivers.

Riding the trains, you might think it’s flat from Caulfield to Malvern… but it’s not:

Looking towards Melbourne, from Caulfield station platform 1

If this is “roller coaster rail”, then we’ve already got it, lots of it.

Finally, something to always keep in mind whenever a politician opens their mouth:

3. This is the Opposition doing what Oppositions do; criticising government no matter what.

In this case the options documents that have been published are a really good step to help locals understand the design decisions to be made, and the trade-offs of each method.

In fact, it’s not hard to argue that this sort of information should have been provided on all the crossings before designs were finalised.

Would the 67 tram benefit from removal of the level crossing?

I was pondering what benefit would the 67 tram gain from the Glenhuntly level crossing being removed?

Well thanks to the 37 day rail shutdown in July, we know.

Looking at punctuality figures for the last 12 months, this tram route achieved its highest figures for the year in July — in fact my little archive of Track Record figures indicates it’s the best result since at least February 2009.

67 tram punctuality

For comparison I’ve included similar routes in the area: trams 3 and 64, which share much of the track with route 67, but don’t have any level crossings, as well as route 72.

Some other observations from the figures:

  • July punctuality was even higher than January, which is traditionally high due to quiet roads during school and university holidays. There was also a 9 day rail shutdown in January.
  • The second-highest figure was June, which included the early part of the rail shutdown (from 25th June) — which also coincided with the school holidays
  • The rail shutdown period resulted in heavier road traffic in the area. Some rail passengers switched to cars. Also notable were truck movements, and also bus movements, intersecting the tram line at Bambra and Grange Roads — this may have affected trams if Vicroads adjusted signal timing to assist buses. All this means tram punctuality might be even better with the crossing removed permanently and trains running.
  • All the tram routes on the graph show a similar pattern — with July 2015 and March 2016 being particular lowlights. It probably reflects the sections they have in common, along St Kilda Road and Swanston Street.
  • In most months, route 64 has the best punctuality figures. Unlike the others, it has dedicated lanes for most of its route, all the way from Melbourne University to the corner of Hawthorn Road in Malvern. It also doesn’t run through any busy shopping centres; just some minor ones. It’s still not outstanding though (peak from last 12 months is 86.7% in January), perhaps reflecting the lack of traffic light priority along the route — something in common with almost all tram routes in Melbourne.
  • The green line along the top is route 67 Timetable Delivered (aka the inverse of cancellations). This didn’t seem to be affected in the same way as punctuality.
  • Route 72 until January included the Gardiner level crossing, since grade separated. As noted in a previous blog post, this has not resulted in a huge uplift in punctuality, but that route suffers severe traffic challenges along parts of its route, particularly in the Camberwell and Prahran shopping centres, arguably worse than the other routes shown. (Burke Road removal does seem to have improved train punctuality.

We know from route 72 that level crossing removal won’t solve all of a tram route’s punctuality problems, but it does appear that removing the Glenhuntly crossing would help the tram a fair bit. It would also help trains (especially expresses), since they have to slow down when crossing the tram tracks — it’s the slowest single point on the Frankston line.

And of course, level crossing removal also helps pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles — as well as buses (on nearby Neerim Road, which would have to be done as well given its proximity) and motorists.

But to really speed up trams, we still need action on traffic light priority to reduce the red light time affecting trams.

  • Footnote: in the top photo, I broke my own rules about photographing LED displays; need a longer exposure time.
  • Buses along Neerim, North, Mckinnon and Centre Roads would also have been affected (with the latter three permanently benefiting from the project), but we don’t know how much, because no punctuality figures are published for them.
  • Glen Huntly and Neerim Roads aren’t on Labor’s list of 50 crossings to remove by 2022. Personally I hope the community and governments (of both sides) will have got a taste for these projects, and they’ll continue a rolling program of grade separation until all the worst ones, including these, are gone.

A quick look around the new Bentleigh and Ormond stations, opened today

Months after closing for level crossing works, the shiny new Bentleigh and Ormond stations have opened today.

At Bentleigh yesterday, it was still a construction site.
Bentleigh station 28/8/2016

But today the concourse was awash with officials handing out cupcakes, a choir from Sing Australia, train spotters snapping photos, and passengers relieved to have their station back.
Bentleigh station re-opening day
Bentleigh station re-opening day

Bentleigh is the only one of the rebuilt three stations with Premium status, meaning it’s got fulltime staff. Curiously the booking office is adjacent to the bypass gate, but evidently the bypass gate is not designed to be operated from inside the office as seen on some other systems. Maybe that’s an improvement to come.
Bentleigh station ticket office

All three Bentleigh and Mckinnon stations have ramps, lifts and steps down to platform level. The ramps, meeting DDA standards, are pretty long, but some people were using them in preference to the stairs. (Ormond will have two sets of lifts, one on each side of North Road.)
Bentleigh station ramp to platforms 1/2
Bentleigh station platform 1/2

While I was there, the Frankston line’s only X’Trapolis train came past for a visit.
Bentleigh station, an X'Trapolis train pulls into platform 3

At Ormond station, much of the platform area is under North Road, giving it (moreso than Mckinnon) the appearance of an underground station like Box Hill. (I heard both pro-skyrail and pro-trench rail opinions from passers-by.)
Ormond station platform 2
Ormond station looking under North Road

Ormond station: underground, overground

More music and cupcakes at Ormond, but how many cupcakes can one eat in one morning? Works are obviously continuing.
Ormond station works continue on opening day
Ormond station works continue on opening day

It’s great to see these stations re-opened. It was smart thinking to get them functional enough to handle passengers, and then continue with minor works while the stations operate.

Members of the project team that I ran into this morning seemed very pleased with the results, and so they should be.

After three months (Bentleigh) and five months (Ormond) with no trains, the locals seem very pleased to have them back.

And if you’re wondering, the peak hour express trains (and third track) return next week.

  • 1/8/2016: Mckinnon station re-opened
  • 23/5/2016: Station plans for Bentleigh, Mckinnon and Ormond
  • Press release: Ormond And Bentleigh Stations Open Early
    The project manager told me they did indeed originally plan to re-open on the 31st, but decided opening mid-week didn’t make sense, so tried to get enough done to open today instead. It might have cost extra money to bring it forward, but they’ve probably saved on two days of bussing costs. Even when only Ormond and
    Bentleigh had replacement buses, there were quite a few in service at peak times (plus despatch/customer service staff).