Despite all-night trains, SoCross Station opens late on Sundays

The Night Network trial, in particular running the trains all night on weekends, isn’t perfect, but has solved a lot of problems.

  • No “last train” that revellers have to rush for
  • No long wait until dawn if you miss the last train (this was said to be an issue contributing to CBD night time violence)
  • Shift workers can get to and from work on Friday and Saturday nights
  • Relieving the load on taxis, meaning an alternative to the long queues
  • The hopelessly late 8am start (first city arrivals) for trains isn’t so much of a problem anymore – you can get to events like fun runs much more easily

But there’s one problem it hasn’t solved: connections to Sunday morning V/Line services.

Take for example the 7:05am from Southern Cross to Seymour and Albury. Before Night Network, you couldn’t catch a Metro train to connect with this service — the first trains arrived about an hour later.

This problem isn’t fixed. Why? Because Southern Cross Station doesn’t open for suburban passengers on Sunday morning until after 7:30am.

The Metro suburban trains run all night, but they don’t stop there.

Southern Cross Station - no Night Trains here

What exactly are Southern Cross Station’s opening hours?

SCS is a privately run station. The contracts are here, but all I could find with regard to operating hours is that they are set by the Southern Cross Station Authority… not what they actually are.

The SCS web site doesn’t have useful information like opening hours. But it does promote their latest parking special offer (!). Supposedly their Lost Property office is open from 6am.

The PTV web site has a detailed page about the station and its facilities and services… but also doesn’t specify opening hours. Ditto the Metro page. V/Line reckons 6am, but as we’ll see, trains don’t stop there that early.

Obviously at least some platforms must open by the time the first trains are due to depart.

What time are the first Sunday morning trains from Southern Cross?

First V/Line Sunday trains out from Southern Cross:

  • Seymour/Albury 7:05
  • Geelong 7:50
  • Traralgon 8:04
  • Ballarat 8:15
  • NSW Trainlink to Sydney 8:30
  • Bendigo 8:36

(From January there will also be a 7am train to Warrnambool.)

There are also morning coaches to Halls Gap at 8:15 and to Nhill/Horsham at 8:15, from the coach terminal, which is also where Night Coach services depart at 2am to regional destinations. (You can’t connect to those via Metro train either.)

Southern Cross Station - Night Coaches sign

First Sunday morning Metro trains to stop at Southern Cross

These times haven’t changed with Night Network. From 1am until these times, suburban trains run direct into Flinders Street, and those lines that do run via Southern Cross all night (Werribee, Sunbury, Craigieburn, Upfield) don’t stop there.

  • Belgrave/Lilydale/Alamein 7:39
  • Sunbury 7:42
  • Werribee/Williamstown 7:50
  • South Morang 7:51
  • Frankston 7:52
  • Upfield 8:06
  • Sandringham 8:05
  • Craigieburn 8:15
  • Hurstbridge 8:01
  • Cranbourne/Pakenham 8:02
  • Glen Waverley 8:02

Journey planner confusion

The PTV Journey Planner appears to want at least a 15 minute connection to V/Line services, so if you ask it to plot out a journey from Sandringham to Ballarat on a Sunday morning, it tells you to catch a 7am train from Sandringham, arriving 7:30 at Flinders Street, then catch another Metro train to Footscray arriving at 7:50, and change there for your Ballarat train at 8:23.

In contrast Google Maps says you can catch the 7:30 train from Sandringham, getting to Southern Cross at 8:05, changing to the same Ballarat train leaving there at 8:15. You just saved 30 minutes and one change of train by using Google instead of PTV.

That’s just one example. If you wanted to catch the first train to Geelong (7:50) there are similar challenges coming from most of the Metro lines.

Southern Cross Station - Night Network promo

Other alternatives

If you’re trying to get to Southern Cross but your Metro train skips it, you have to change services somewhere else, and either walk or catch a Night Bus or Night Tram through the CBD to make the connection.

The most obvious connection point would be Flinders Street, but none of the Night Trams connect from there to Southern Cross. (That’s the same in daytime too, but obviously there are lots of trains for that trip during the day, so it’s easy.)

You can use the 941, 942 or 952 Night Buses from Flinders Street to Southern Cross Coach terminal (about a block from the Bourke Street entrance for trains).

What about… opening Southern Cross earlier?

It’s astounding that as part of Night Network, they organised to run the entire electric Metropolitan train network all night… except for Southern Cross, the second busiest station on the network.

Could it be the private operator wanted a fortune to open it all night? Is this yet another warning sign that PPPs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be?

Or did the government just not get a contract variation organised in time for the trial to begin at the start of 2016?

Note the City Loop underground stations (run by Metro) are also closed during all-night service.

Perhaps it makes sense to funnel all-night travellers into Flinders Street, to centralise things like security and customer service.

But at the very least, trains should stop a little earlier at Southern Cross on Sundays to make connections to V/Line, and access to Docklands and the western end of the CBD easier.

Even if it’s too hard to divert direct trains from the southeast/east/northeast through the station, the north/western lines already running through Southern Cross should stop there after 6am, when supposedly the station is open.

  • From Werribee/Williamstown approx 6:48, 7:29. To Werribee/Williamstown approx 6:12, 7:10
  • From Sunbury approx 6:13, 6:58. To Sunbury approx 6:42
  • From Craigieburn approx 6:25, 7:20am. To Craigieburn approx 6:28, 7:23
  • From Upfield approx 6:45. To Upfield approx 6:57

I really hope Night Network is made permanent, but it does need tweaks to make it more financially sustainable (more about this later), and more useful for passengers.

Old photos from November 2006

Another in my series of photos from ten years ago. I found quite a few this month, and also found one from October 2006 which had been missed, and since added to that post.

The Bentleigh Festival. Obviously this spot looks quite different now with the level crossing gone. PT spotters will also notice the old-style bus stop sign.
Bentleigh Festival 2006

The Bentleigh Festival that year was timed to coincide with rail works on the line, meaning the level crossing in the middle of the precinct wasn’t an issue, except when a works vehicle needed to cross.
Rail works during the Bentleigh Festival, November 2006

A rail replacement bus service on Jasper Road. The “Camille” shop later featured in a Metlink advert.
Rail replacement bus durng the Bentleigh Festival, November 2006

Then Federal Labor MP Simon Crean snapped at the Bentleigh Festival outside then-local state MP Rob Hudson’s office. Simon’s father Frank Crean (1916-2008) was one of four PTUA patrons. It was state election season, so politicians were out and about this month.
Simon Crean at the Bentleigh Festival, November 2006

A bit out of focus. This would have been one of our last photos taken with analogue film, by youngest son Jeremy on school camp, probably on one of those disposable cameras we used to buy for such events. The traditional Puffing Billy photo.
Puffing Billy, November 2006

Ross House, home to the PTUA Office, displaying PTUA campaign materials in the window.
PTUA display at Ross House, November 2006

It wasn’t my idea, but putting a bloke in a Plucka Duck suit was an attempt to get some PTUA publicity in the run up to the state election. The sign says “Don’t duck better public transport”.
PTUA Duck at Flinders Street, November 2006

Tram on Swanston Street advertising the then-new XBox 360.
Swanston Street, Melbourne, November 2006

From a rally in Royal Park, organised by one of the local community groups. This bloke was guiding then Greens leader Bob Brown around Melbourne, to and from engagements, and also spoke. It is of course current (May 2015 onwards) Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
Richard Di Natale speaking at Royal Park in November 2006

Also speaking that day, in the brilliant way that he always did, was the late, great Paul Mees.
Paul Mees speaking at Royal Park in November 2006

Victorian State Election day, 25th November 2006.
2006 Victorian State Election

The rest of the photos are from our Sydney holiday that month:

Sydney Tram Museum.
Sydney Tram Museum, November 2006

The Sydney monorail, since decommissioned.
Sydney Monorail, November 2006

A younger looking me, at Milsons Point railway station.
Daniel in Sydney, November 2006

Sydney has just a few buses. This is new Circular Quay. I assume the opening of the George Street light rail in a couple of years will cut the number of buses coming into the CBD… they’re really going to need to fix fare integration before then.
Sydney, near Circular Quay, November 2006

Circular Quay railway station. At the time it seemed old-fashioned to have platform staff with flags, but Melbourne deployed platform staff in the following years at busy CBD stations.
Sydney, Circular Quay Station, November 2006

Perhaps my favourite shot of Sydney, at Taronga Zoo.
Sydney Taronga Zoo, November 2006

Sydney skyline, also from the Zoo.
Sydney November 2006

Circular Quay ferry terminal. Familiar looking fare gates – the same model was used with Metcard.
Sydney - Circular Quay, November 2006

How do I pay the electrician?

A couple of years ago I got a ceiling fan fitted in the kitchen.

The electrician was pleasant, competent, and did a good job.

He said he’d send me an invoice. He never did. A couple of months later I emailed him and asked him to send it. He acknowledged the email and said he’d send it. He never did.

A couple of weeks ago I got a ceiling fan fitting in one of the bedrooms.

The electrician was pleasant, competent, and did a good job.

He said his boss would send me an invoice. He hasn’t so far. A week ago I emailed him and asked him to send it. No response.

I don’t seem to have this problem with other tradies. Plumbers and painters seem only too keen to bill me.

I want to pay for the work they did.

Some questions spring to mind:

How do electricians stay in business if they’re so disorganised?

Is it just me?

When do my obligations cease? How many times do I have to remind them to take my money?

Update: I realised the second electrician sent me a quote before the work commenced, which included bank deposit details. It’s not an invoice, but if I don’t get an invoice, I can just pay that amount.

Update 2: He rang me and said he’d been on holiday, but would be sending an invoice. Either that or he reads my blog…

Surprise surprise, expanding the Dingley Bypass caused more traffic

Remember the Dingley Bypass?

The western end was built as the “South Road Extension” as two lanes (one each way) just last decade. It mostly wasn’t dual carriageway, but it was otherwise suspiciously freeway-like. Having appeared in the 1969 freeway plan, it wasn’t difficult to see that it would be expanded.

Dingley Bypass in 2015 (Google Streetview)
(Dingley Arterial 2015 – Google StreetView)

Sure enough in 2010, it was announced it would be expanded to four lanes (two each way).

Fast forward to March 2016 when it opened… and somehow it’s become six lanes (three each way). Classic salami tactics!

Sow roads, grow traffic

So wouldn’t making a road three times as big be likely to lead to problems on the roads it connects to? Why yes.

What a surprise — it seems South Road now has congestion problems:

Vicroads: South Road traffic study

Vicroads: South Road traffic study

Having fed lots more traffic into South Road, what can they do? Currently through Moorabbin it’s six lanes (three each way, but with one taken by parking). They could try and fix this bottleneck by imposing clear ways — effectively expanding traffic capacity by 50% and leaving a long mostly residential stretch of the road as a huge six lane traffic sewer. Eugh.

Making the environment even more hostile to pedestrians, bus/train and bike users sounds like a great way to produce even more traffic. (The intersection of South Road and Warrigal Road is horrible.) And it would probably just move the bottleneck elsewhere. Nepean Highway next for widening, perhaps?

The proposed freeway to remove the bottleneck created by the previous proposed freeway...

Even with no more road expansion, more traffic lights might be needed to help pedestrians and cross traffic now that the road is more congested — especially at the eastern end around the Sandbelt Hotel. (Somewhere I saw an online petition for a pedestrian overpass; I can’t find it just at the moment.)

Meanwhile, the main bus route along there is only every 20 minutes on weekdays (including peak hours, when it no doubt gets stuck in traffic), and every hour at night and on weekends. Most other suburban routes run even less frequently — generally only every 30 minutes on weekdays. No wonder so many people are driving.

I don’t know quite what the solution is. But I do know that free-flowing urban traffic is a myth. At least if there’s a bottleneck now, it’s preventing traffic levels growing even more.

Ways have to be found to move more people around the suburbs them each bringing a two tonne chunk of metal. Expanding road capacity further is the last thing we should be doing.

After years of inaction, great to see progress on Southland station

Last week on Facebook the Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan published this great photo (along with a couple of others) from Southland Station under construction:

Southland station under construction

Over the weekend of 5-6 November when the Frankston line was closed, they put the pedestrian subway into place.

On Facebook the doubters continue to… well, doubt the usefulness of the station, to which I will say (at the risk of repeating myself):

  • Walking from Cheltenham station is too far for most people to want to do. If they’ve already had to get to their origin station, they don’t want another 15 minute walk to Southland.
  • Almost all the buses from Cheltenham (and other connecting stations) are either hopelessly infrequent (especially on weekends), or depart from a myriad of stops, or both. It’s even worse coming back, as only a severe bus nerd would be able to memorise which bus routes go to the station.
  • The government is right not to spend up big trying to provide commuter parking. Just like somewhere such as South Yarra, it’s a destination, with walk-up access in there as a bonus.
  • Many (most?) trips to shopping centres don’t result in people buying more shopping than they can carry (though some enterprising people do take home furniture, televisions and other big items on public transport). In fact a lot of journeys are for service-based spending, such as going to the cinema, banks, appointments.

Anyway, I took a look on Sunday. After so many years of inaction, it’s great to see solid progress on this project.

Southland station under construction November 2016

They seem to be making good use of the property in neighbouring Tulip Grove that was snapped up when it came up for sale, using it for construction access. It probably makes sense for it to provide another station entrance (as well as better access into the shopping centre) for locals, with parking restrictions to prevent park and ride commuters using it — but I guess it’s fair enough to get community views on this.

Southland station under construction November 2016

Some have observed that the station will be pretty bare bones. This impression posted on Facebook by Member for Bentleigh Nick Staikos shows the design. What even is the point of that thing above the entrance?

Plan for Southland Station

It certainly appears the pedestrian access into the centre itself will be less then ideal. (Source: PTV)

Southland station - overarching design (PTV)

But, hey, salami tactics. Just getting the station is the big step forward. Improved access is something to lobby for next.

If Westfield are smart, they’ll move to remodel parts of the car park to provide a more direct pedestrian path. And in the long term I wouldn’t be surprised if they extend the centre building out to meet the station.

Station construction work is likely to continue until December, then take a break over the busy Christmas shopping period, then resume next year, with PTV saying the station due to open in 2017.