Some photos from July 2004

Another in my series of old photos from ten years ago

In 2004 the situation with crowded trains hadn’t really hit as a big political problem, which is why it took until 2006 for the government to decide not to scrap all the Hitachi trains after all, but expand the fleet. It was certainly occurring at that point however, and I snapped this photo one morning at Richmond. I was particularly pleased with it — it conveys the sense of frustration from passengers really well.
Crowded train, Richmond, July 2004
[Another pic from that same morning]

At Southbank there used to be a regular display from a group called Chalk Circle… one day I found that had this image of The Goodies.
The Goodies, chalk art at Melbourne Southbank, July 2004
[Original blog post]

They’re a common hazard now, but chuggers were around even back then:
Chuggers at Southbank, July 2004

The view looking west along the Yarra. Despite it being almost 20 years since trains ran over the Sandridge bridge, it still looked like a rail bridge. It’s only in recent years that it’s been fully renovated and made available to the public again.
Looking west along the Yarra, July 2004

Jeremy using the computer at home (see another view here). Note the floppy drive. In the foreground is a Harry Potter DVD — I’d ordered it from Amazon UK because in Australia at the time you couldn’t buy the widescreen version.
Jeremy using the computer, July 2004

By way of a bulk sale of their Summertown CD, my mate Tony organised a private concert in his house of Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier. [Original blog post]
Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier, July 2004

A day at OzComicCon

We went to OzComicCon for the first time on Sunday. Here are some photos.

It was at the Exhibition Buildings, and pretty much filled the space, both upstairs and downstairs, plus a couple of big tents outside, one of which included the main stage. Parts of it got quite crowded, and it was kind of amusing to see people dressed up as the most hideous and frightening monsters in the many universes portrayed, slowly carefully moving around, and saying “excuse me” and “sorry” if they bumped into anybody.
OzComicon 2014

Unfortunately we couldn’t look inside this thing to see if it is actually bigger on the inside. It was very realistic though — we got chatting with the bloke who ran the company that makes them, who has had inside access to the Doctor Who production facilities to help make the replicas as accurate as possible.
Daniel with a Police Box, at OzComicon 2014

A minor disagreement.
Disagreement with a Dalek at OzComicon 2014

A lot of OzComicon people went next door into the Museum to use the cafe when the in-venue food vendors got overwhelmed. I wonder what the museum vendors thought of some of the costumes. As you can see, it appears Prince Oberyn is alive and well.
Prince Oberyn, at OzComicon 2014

Don’t blink! This lady had one little kid nervous. He hid, and kept asking his mum “Is it gone?” — he’d obviously forgotten the cardinal rule to keep watching the statue, and not blink. His mum would reply that the statue wasn’t an It, but a She.
Weeping Angel, at OzComicon 2014

High on the cuteness factor: With his dad was this mini-Matt Smith.
Mini Matt Smith at OzComicon 2014

Arthur Darvill (Rory from Doctor Who) seemed to enjoy himself during his Q+A session, and told a few good anecdotes. He’s also quite a good singer, and got a guitar out and sung Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”. We had queued for about half an hour to get good seats — the queue rapidly grew. The only complaint I’d have is the audio quality where we were sitting meant we really had to concentrate to understand what he was saying.
Arthur Darvill (Rory from Doctor Who) at OzComicon 2014

Hey, who turned out the lights?
Vashta Nerada, from Doctor Who, at OzComicon 2014

In amongst all these people, we found Wally.
Where's Wally at OzComicon 2014

All in all, we had a good time. We didn’t go for the autograph and photo sessions, but enjoyed looking around at the stalls and costumes. Amongst the various characters from many, many different franchises, Jeremy counted 41 Matt Smith Doctors, but my surprise was we also spotted a William Hartnell Doctor — sorry, no pic.

Before home video

In the days before home video, we had to resort to other means to re-live movies and TV shows.

Novelisations of productions were common. I knew people who had hundreds of Doctor Who novelisations — virtually every story had a book published. I had perhaps a dozen.

WarGames book coverOther books made it into publication — scripts, programme guides, and spin-off material. Of course these are still common, but perhaps only for specific “cult” titles that the makers think will sell really well.

I used to have the script for The Singing Detective. At home I still have two books from The Goodies, which have a wealth of quite amusing material. I didn’t bought them, but acquired them both from the primary school library during clear-outs.

Some people would record TV shows onto audio tape. About a hundred 1960s Doctor Who stories are still lost — but audio recordings exist for every single one. (It’s perhaps a sign of the priorities of big bureaucracies like the BBC that paperwork exists for all the stories, despite the actual stories having been thrown out.)

In the 80s before I had saved up for a VCR, I recorded some stuff onto audio… from memory by just putting a tape recorder close to the TV, though I may have later rigged up a cord connecting the two directly. The Young Ones was an example — I had most episodes on cassette, and listened to them regularly for a while.

One of the movies I bought the novelisation of back in the day was WarGames, which as I’ve written about before, was very influential on me. As I recall it follows the movie script closely, but has a few extra titbits: such as that after the movie ends, David gets a summer job doing computer work at NORAD, and his school is convinced to buy some computers to teach computer studies to the students.

I don’t know what happened to my copy of the book. Presumably I got rid of it during a house move at some point. So in the best traditions of nostalgia, when I got curious and looked on eBay the other week, I found a copy for under $10, and bought it again.

I still love the movie. I bought the 25th anniversary Blu-ray release recently as well — it looks great in high-definition. I’ll probably re-read the book at some stage. It’s only 220 pages — it’ll be a pretty quick read I’m sure.

Nowadays, people can record anything off TV easily using cheap technology, and perhaps every major TV show and movie is released on DVD and/or Blu-ray, and (eventually) repeated ad infinitum on one of the many TV channels. No wonder novelisations have mostly disappeared, and few people record audio off the TV anymore.

  • Ever wondered about the term “Wardriving“, meaning to look for open Wifi networks while driving? It’s derived from “War dialling“, meaning to ring lots of phone numbers looking for computers answering… the word came from the movie.)
  • Speaking of scripts, there are over 80 made freely (and legally) available for download here: Go Into The Story

Melbourne Rail Link: has it been properly planned?

As I’ve written already, both the Metro Rail Tunnel and the Melbourne Rail Link provide similar benefits in terms of rail capacity in the central part of Melbourne’s rail network. In those terms, they are roughly equivalent.

But MRL does have problems. For example, I think it connects the wrong lines.

Connecting lines

Both MRL and the Metro Rail Tunnel (I’m going to abbreviate it as MRT, in lieu of another convenient acronym) create an extra track pair through the city, connecting two existing lines together, freeing up capacity elsewhere. The whole idea is to isolate rail lines, to let them run independently.

MRT does it by connecting the Sunbury and Dandenong lines through a tunnel via Domain and Parkville, creating a cross-city connection.

MRL does it by connecting the Frankston and Ringwood lines through a tunnel via Montague and the City Loop, creating a connection from the south to the east, via north and west of the CBD.

Such a connection has obvious impacts on passenger movements. Let’s look at one example: Richmond.

Interchange at Richmond

Does anybody want to take the long way around?

Richmond is a major interchange, but isn’t significant as a destination at peak hour. It is during big events in the sporting precinct. As such the handling of big crowds is a huge issue, to the point where special measures are often in place to deal with the large numbers of people, particularly just after events conclude.

The current trip from South Yarra to Richmond is 2 minutes. Via MRL it could easily be 15 minutes or more. And remember, it doesn’t just affect the Frankston line — it also affects passengers at the MATH stations (Malvern, Armadale, Toorak, Hawksburn), who in the future are likely to not have Dandenong line trains stopping at their stations.

A trip from Malvern to Richmond is currently 8-11 minutes, depending on stopping patterns. Via MRL it’ll be around 21-24 minutes or more.

So then, what is the consequence of this?

Is this extra travel time enough to prompt large numbers of people to try and change to another train to avoid going all the way around?

At times of big sporting events, when the train system is trying to shift the bulk of a 100,000-strong crowd out of the MCG, will the Dandenong and Sandringham lines be completely swamped by Frankston line people trying to get home as quickly as possible?

Will people who are actually trying to make a connection from the south to the east be happy to take the 15 minute detour (say, students heading to Swinburne in Hawthorn), or will they also want to use the other lines to cut their travel time? What effect on dwell times (and thus, track capacity) would there be from large numbers of people changing trains at Richmond and South Yarra?

I don’t know what the answer to these is, but you’d hope they’ve been looked at.

Flagstaff station, peak hour

Lots of other issues – have they been studied?

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are questions about how they’d build extra platforms at/under South Yarra (something MRT never resolved, and so ruled out).

How will it get under the river? Where will the extra platforms at Southern Cross be? I expect there are solutions to these (including the sewer), but have they been worked out, and costed?

Is Montague, with scads of potential users, really more important than Parkville, which has scads of users now? If the rail tunnel can’t run north-south to relieve St Kilda Road trams, what will be done to help them cope? I can think of lots of potential ideas on that one, but it’s unclear if this has been properly thought about and measured against prospective demand.

All trains not serving all CBD stations is inevitable, but what is the likely passenger demand from the Frankston and Ringwood lines for Flinders Street, and where are those passengers likely to change? Are the Frankston and Ringwood lines likely to be well-matched as far as future passenger/train demand goes? Ditto the other pairs: Sandringham and Newport, Sunbury and Dandenong.

And this is the real problem: the Metro Rail Tunnel project has its faults, but has had years of study (much of it published) done into it, part of a broader network development plan that studied not just where the tunnels would go, not just the number of trains flowing through, but also the effects of different upgrades on where and how passengers travel.

MRL in comparison has come from nowhere. There’s a complete lack of evidence that it’s gone through the kind of thorough study and planning that a multi-billion dollar project should have to get to a point where the State Government is funding it*.

Maybe in the few months since the project materialised, all these questions have been resolved. Maybe. But it doesn’t look like it.

That doesn’t bode well for avoiding cost blow-outs, nor for Melbourne getting the best solution for the billions that will go into it.

  • *The State government might claim MRL is fully funded, but the budget allocations so far are minimal — $40m this year, $50m in 2015-16, $140m in 2016-17, $600m in 2017-18. So around 90% of the cost of it is as-yet unfunded. It could easily slip off the funding radar after a couple of years, in the same way the Metro rail tunnel has.
  • In comparison the East West Link, you know, the road they said before the last election they weren’t even thinking about building, is being pushed along. For instance, the western section has $3.2 billion against it by 2017-18.

Photos: the loveliness of elevated roadways

It’s easy when looking at aerial pictures to see the vast amounts of land taken up by freeway interchanges.

South Melbourne freeway interchange (Google Maps)
(Pic: Google Maps)

What is sometimes forgotten is the impact at ground level from elevated roadways. Here are some snaps from around South Melbourne — which of course being inner-city, has some of the most valuable land in the country.

I suppose there’s a certain grace to the roadway structures themselves, but underneath it’s certainly not pretty.

Car park below Westgate Freeway

Tram line below Westgate Freeway

Beside the Westgate Freeway

Tram stop below Kings Way

It really does seem that the only use for the land underneath roadways is parking — mostly for cars, but some for trucks/hire companies.

Car park below Westgate Freeway

Car park below Westgate Freeway

I only saw one exception: McDonalds seemed to be the only other business willing to be located underneath the freeway.

McDonalds below Westgate Freeway

Of course, elevated railway bridges also have an impact at ground level. But the carrying capacity for the space taken is much higher with rail, and “interchanges” (eg stations) don’t have the huge footprint, as humans alighting trains don’t need the big turning circles found on freeway interchanges.

East West Link

It’s important to note that while some is proposed to be tunnels, a big aspect of East West Link is elevated roadways. Both the western and eastern sections will involve new elevated sections. The Clifton Hill interchange will involve connections up high above the railway line, and the interchange from the eastern section to Citylink includes elevated roads — infamously surrounding the newly built Evo apartments, as well as from a tunnel portal in the middle of Royal Park. The new elevated sections won’t be just at the interchange itself, but also providing an expansion of lanes along the existing Citylink in both directions — north and south.

EWLink interchange to Citylink at Royal Park

That is, of course, if it’s ever built.

I’m told that the expansion will take the northern end of Citylink near Bell Street up to a total of fourteen lanes. Maybe one day we’ll stop pretending that motorways are an efficient form of transport for big cities.