#EWLink’s real cost to Victorians: Could easily be $10b for stage 1

This article by The Age’s Josh Gordon last week raises a really good point about the East West Link Stage 1 that needs to be remembered:

The up-front cost of $2 billion contributed by the State is not the total actual cost to Victorians.

It’s also not the construction cost — long thought to be upwards of $6 billion, but now finalised at $6.8 billion.

The consortium building it provides $3.3 billion. The Federal Government (which, remember, refuses to fund urban public transport) is providing $1.5 billion. The state is providing $2 billion.

East West Link: eastern section, western gateway in Royal Park

But the consortium doesn’t do this stuff out of the goodness of its heart; it needs to make its money back, plus a profit.

The state has to pay Availability Payments to the consortium for 25 years. We don’t yet know how much they are because the Business Case has been kept secret, but Josh Gordon “conservatively” speculates that it could be $200 to $300 million annually, but it could be more. That means the Availability Payments would add up to be something in the range of $5 billion to $7.5 billion — a tidy profit to the consortium for a $3.3 billion up-front outlay (though they’d also be paying maintenance costs during that time).

The cost to the state would be offset by the tolls. Again, we don’t know how much they will be or how much income they will bring in. Even if the business case was public, estimates for toll roads are notoriously inaccurate, with many Australian toll roads taking years to get to anywhere near their “steady state” volume of traffic and income levels.

And tolls may extend well beyond the contract period of course.

So remember: when the state government says it’s costing $2 billion, it’s actually costing us a great deal more than that:

$2 billion initially from the State
+ $1.5 billion from the Feds (from taxpayers around Australia)
+ perhaps around $6.5 billion (maybe more, maybe less) in Availability Payments and tolls paid by motorists
+ more in toll money if they continue after that.

That $2 billion road is actually something like a $10 billion road, for 5.5 kilometres. And that’s just, the eastern section, stage 1. — for a road which is unlikely to have any lasting impact on traffic congestion.

Google Streetview car up close

Last night this Google Streetview car was cruising along William Street outside Flagstaff station. The driver waved back as I took the photo.

It’ll be interesting to see how long the photos it was (well, may have been) gathering take to get online. Last time it was over a year, but from what I hear they’re getting much faster these days — perhaps a matter of weeks.

Google Streetview car, William St, Melbourne

Olympic Doughnuts: new sign hopefully less trademark-infringing

As has been noted before, Olympic Doughnuts survived the rebuild of Footscray station.

Olympic Doughnuts

This was apparently so important that the Premier made special mention of it when the new facility opened:

The other area that I’ll make a brief comment on is I was out at Footscray this morning as part of the Regional Rail project. And one of the feedbacks we got from the Footscray community and the people who use Footscray Station was the enormous popularity of a local institution there: Olympic Doughnuts. And the feedback was, ‘Make changes to the station, but make sure you keep the Olympic Doughnuts and the man with the Olympic Doughnuts.’ So the Regional Rail team facilitated a new and more appropriate facility for Olympic Doughnuts to stay on the forecourt of the Footscray Station.

I finally got to partake in one of their jammy delights on Friday.

Somebody must have decided (possibly because government was involved in providing the new booth) that the old trademark-defying logo (the Olympic rings, upside-down) had to be adapted into something else. They came up with something quite neat.

Here’s the old logo:
Footscray doughnut van, 2007

Here’s the new:
Olympic Doughnuts

The new logo incorporates the Olympic rings, but in a less trademark-infringing way. The iconic dolphin, still used as the jam dispenser, is featured prominently. The date of establishment, 1979, is also worked into it.

Well done, whoever came up with this!

Shame the rest of the area is currently so windswept and desolate. Perhaps there is more development coming.

(Eagle-eyed customers may note that in the rear of the shop, behind a half-open door, the old sign is still sitting at the back.)

Deer Park PSOs

This is Deer Park station. (Superb pic snapped a few years ago by my friend Tony.)

Deer Park station (pic by Tony Malloy)

And this is the new pod for Protective Services Officers at Deer Park station.

Deer Park station

According to the official list, PSOs are now deployed there.

Marcus Wong’s PSO tracking spreadsheet says they started there on July 1st.

Deer Park of course is one of the stations that gets the least frequent train services in Melbourne. It’s served by V/Line’s Ballarat line trains, and about every second service runs express through the station.

Given PSOs are only on duty after 6pm, they’ll see very few trains and people compared to their cousins at Metro stations.

People: The official PTV station stats don’t include the V/Line stations, but the unofficial stats I got a couple of years ago had a figure of 79 boardings at Deer Park every weekday, the fourth-lowest in Melbourne. It’s probably reasonable to assume that many of them board at the station in the morning, and come back and alight there in the evening.

Trains: The station is adjacent to the fast-growing suburb of Derrimut, but the few people using the station is reflective of the small number of trains stopping there.

After 6pm:

  • Weekdays from the city: 6:08pm, 6:28pm, 7:47pm, 8:45pm, 10:15pm and 11:45pm (Friday only)
  • Weekdays to the city: 7:08pm, 8:25pm, 10:18pm
  • Saturdays from the city: 7:33pm, 9:08pm, 10:33pm and 12:08am
  • Saturdays to the city: 7:05pm, 8:11pm, 10:10pm
  • Sundays from the city: 7:33pm, 9:08pm, 10:33pm
  • Sundays to the city: 7:05pm, 8:11pm, 10:11pm

The PSOs are professionals of course. But gee it must be dull waiting up to an hour and a half between trains, and seeing barely any people pass through the station.

On the bright side, those few people hopefully feel safer. Anecdotal evidence matches a recent survey by UniPollWatch which found 85% of passengers believe PSOs have made the rail network safer, and The Age’s online survey said 77% feel safer.

So from that point of view, the scheme is working. But it’s an expensive policy to have two officers at every station, no matter how busy or quiet. It’s unclear if it’s actually reducing crime, and it’s also unclear if it has increased evening patronage on the rail network — particularly at places like Deer Park with hopelessly infrequent train services.

The officers are rotated around through different stations. Just as well — they’d be bored out of their skulls if they were at quiet stations like Deer Park all the time.

  • From the sounds of it, many locals use the 400 bus to Sunshine, rather than the local train. The bus runs much closer to housing in Derrimut, about every 20 minutes in peak on that part of the route. Only every 40 minutes off-peak and weekends, but that’s heaps better than the trains. No doubt many others drive.
  • When Regional Rail Link opens next year, trains through the station will increase markedly, but it’s unclear if any extra will stop. The possible 2021 V/Line timetables suggested a train every half-hour from Melton during off-peak daytime hours, which would be a vast improvement, though nowhere near the service level of Metro stations a similar distance from the city.
  • PTUA analysis of crime stats from before the PSOs were introduced was based on Metro/Connex data, and didn’t include Deer Park or other V/Line stations, but it did make clear that Melbourne-wide, about half of all reported assaults at stations aren’t after 6pm; they’re during the day.

Photos from last week

The hi fi box was a big hit with my niece (and nephew)
The box is a hit with my neice

Having obtained a government-provided “boarding pass” (they were handed out with some MXs — I missed out but managed to get one via Kev, who saved it for me), I went searching for the airport rail link. Strangely enough it wasn’t listed on the network status board.
Searching for the Airport rail link

A while back I bought some shirts from that Charles Tyrwhitt mob who advertise a lot. Pretty nice shirts, and I’ll probably buy more from them. One thing’s for sure though, they WILL send you promotional catalogues and emails afterwards. You won’t feel neglected.
Charles Tyrwhitt promotional mail

The channel 7 news the night following the Endeavour Hills stabbing. You know things are serious when they’re doing five live crosses for one story.
Live crosses following Endeavour Hills stabbing

Just a bunch of trams rolling down the road? Not quite — if you look closely, they’re going the wrong way, heading north along the southbound track. They were headed by a Yarra Trams car with flashing lights. There was an underground fire at the corner of William Street and Flinders Lane, and Yarra Trams decided to move the trams backwards rather than have them stuck for an indefinite period. For reasons that escape me, this is known in tram circles as running “bang road”, and is rare enough that Marcus Wong shot video of it.
Trams running backwards up William Street

For some months now this signage at Bentleigh station (and others with more than 2 platforms) has been incomplete. Despite repeated queries over several months via Twitter, it hasn’t been fixed. (I’ve been querying Metro, though they apparently need to chat to PTV to get it resolved.)
Incomplete signage, Bentleigh station

Here’s how packed some CBD trams can get — really testing the new E-class trams’ theoretical capacity. Now, how packed will it be from January when free CBD tram rides are introduced? Packed enough, I suspect, that I told a PTV survey person several weeks ago that, in all honesty, the change is likely to reduce my use of CBD trams — remembering that I have a Yearly Myki, so if I opt-out due to increased crowding, my paid rides will have been replaced by freeloaders.
Packed CBD tram

Spotted in Bourke Street one lunchtime.
'Lies' #EWLink

Seddon and Yarraville both have campaigns against paid parking on at the moment. I’ve gotta say, having had the need to drive to both recently, and having spent ages (particularly in Yarraville) looking for parking, I think I’d prefer having a price signal to discourage people from staying longer than necessary and/or to go without their cars (both centres are quite well served by public transport).
No Paid Parking campaign, Seddon

Lois Lane in Yarraville. No sign of Superman. Or Clark Kent, for that matter.
Lois Lane, Yarraville

On the western suburbs train lines, there’s only a service every 40 minutes on Sunday mornings. This is the result: the 10am train from Footscray to the city, packed to the gills. The Show is on, but even after North Melbourne, plenty of people stayed on board going into the CBD. Not every square centimetre of floorspace was occupied, but it’s not good enough when the rail system has plenty of spare capacity, and should be trying to attract extra trips. High time extra trains ran on Sunday mornings.
Werribee line, Sunday morning. Trains 40 minutes apart.

Both South Yarra and Footscray have six platforms. Sadly only one of them has live information on the concourse for all six platforms.
South Yarra station concourse
Footscray station concourse

In the past few days rubbish bins have been removed at Melbourne’s major railway stations. Apparently the transparent design wasn’t considered secure enough. Here’s what they looked like. (I snapped this pic last week to email in to Crikey, whose people had apparently never seen/noticed them. Crikey didn’t use it, but The Age did.)
Transparent rubbish bins, Flagstaff station