The Frankston line is to get upgrades worth $100 million — signalling changes to allow X’Trapolis trains to run, more shelter at stations, better CCTV, and better passenger information, including about connecting buses and trams.
The Premier, Public Transport Minister, local (Coalition) MPs, heads of PTV and Metro and even the Mayor of Glen Eira were at Bentleigh station this morning for an announcement.
I heard it was happening, so decided to ambush the press conference and listen in. (Just like old times.)
The press release details what’s included:
“Frankston line passengers will also benefit from improvements to station lighting, the installation of extra CCTV cameras, the extension of station platform canopies to provide more weather protection, additional myki readers and disability access improvements.
“Frankston line stations will also have new passenger information screens installed which display real time updates for trains, trams and buses, providing improved information for commuters as they arrive at stations.
“The Coalition Government’s doubling in train frequencies to every 10 minutes during the day on weekends on the Dandenong, Frankston and Ringwood lines has been successful, and now it is time to roll out further improvements,” Mr Mulder said.
This all sounds pretty good.
In fact, it sounds like precisely the sort of upgrade which should be carried out on lines across the network.
Along with the ten minute trains now seen on the line every day, a good amount of shelter, good lighting and CCTV and real time connection information is not unreasonable to expect on all our rail lines.
I had a quick chat to Andrew Lezala from Metro — it seems the acceleration of the X’trapolis and Siemens trains are similar, so they’d like to predominantly run those on the Frankston line, and tweak the timetable to match.
Presumably this means Comeng trains will go elsewhere — and it would also mean the Williamstown and Werribee lines will also get X’trapolises, since most Frankston trains through-route to there.
What wasn’t announced?
More services — we’ve already seen ten minute services every day on the line during off-peak (though few people know about them) — better than any other line in Melbourne, so I think it’s fair enough to let that be for now. But peak could do with a boost to cope with crowding and a clean-up of peak shoulder would help too.
Grade separation — North Road grade separation is coming along (though is not quite “delivered” yet, as a flyer from the local member recently claimed), but no others on this line are proposed at present. The Premier and Minister had caught the train to Bentleigh, and when I had a chat with him, the Premier noted the extremely slow speed over the Glenhuntly train/tram crossing. I think he may have made noises about improving it, but I’m assuming this does not amount to a promise to grade separate!
Southland station — One of the journos asked about Southland. Terry Mulder said that because it involves building on land owned by the shopping centre, they are in negotiations over that. He seemed to also say that it would happen soon, without giving a firm time line, but it did say it would definitely happen.
Station staff — Nup. They’re still pushing the PSOs policy, even though much crime happens before 6pm, and many stations see little or nothing happen.
Connections — The upgrade will include real time information about connections, but of course one of the things lacking is the frequency of those connecting services. Passengers in Glenhuntly are lucky enough to have trams every 10-15 minutes every day, but those relying on buses see mostly hourly weekend services, and some (such as the Bentleigh to Brighton end of the 703) don’t run on Sundays.
The gunzel version
X’Traps to replace Comengs on the Franga line! Get photos!!
When will things start to happen
It’s hard not to see that this package of upgrade works is aimed squarely at the row of marginal seats along the Frankston line. As such I’d be surprised if some of the more visible changes don’t start to happen in the next 12 months, well in time for the election in November 2014.
With trains every ten minutes, better realtime information and station shelters, enhanced CCTV, more reliable services… sounds like just the sort of thing that should be rolled-out across the rail network.
But $100 million is also a lot of money. For instance, yesterday it was announced that a new high school in the Mernda/Doreen area would be built… costing $11.5 million. Some are pointing out that $100 million would pay for duplication on some of the single-line sections of other lines, which would make a huge difference to reliability.
It was house maintenance week this week. I took a couple of days off to do some de-cluttering and get some people in.
Hard rubbish got rid of two old mattresses, three former recycle bins, a big plank of wood, an old fan and two disused old bicycles. Amusingly, between putting stuff out/booking the collection and having it picked up, one bike disappeared, then came back, then the second went.
On Tuesday I got my ducts cleaned. (Note: This is not a euphemism.)
On Wednesday it was the pest controllers, as part of my self-declared War On Cockroaches. The guy sprayed inside and out, and we evacuated for a while to let the fumes dissipate — into the city for some lunch, a walk around, and some photography.
Of course, the most exciting news this week in the ‘hood has been the opening of the new Aldi store in downtown Bentleigh (in the old IGA site). Wednesday was opening day, and it was packed with people hunting down $10 kettles and toasters, and $89 Android tablets.
I must admit I was tempted by the latter. But in the end I decided not to buy it, for three reasons:  the check-out queues were really long,  although it’s cheap, a review reckoned this model of tablet has poor Wifi reception (and in fact the reviewer ended up returning it due to poor battery life), and perhaps most importantly,  I’d just spent days de-cluttering the house, and buying something I didn’t really need would be a backward step,
And after all, there’ll be other cheap tablets. Wait a few months and there’ll be a better one for the same price.
YEARS ago, it might have been strange to think the fortunes of a government could rest on a suburban railway line.
That was before the last Victorian election, when the Frankston train line became a potent symbol of the Brumby government’s transport woes: overcrowded carriages, ageing infrastructure, myki cost blowouts.
Labor hardheads call it the Frankston Train Wreck – that fateful polling day in 2010 when voters in the sandbelt seats of Frankston, Carrum, Mordialloc, and Bentleigh helped install the Baillieu government with a cautionary tale: a bad transport system loses votes; the pledge of a good one is a game-changer.
If you were an MP in one of these seats… the most marginal seat in the state in fact (and the one that ultimately decided the election), halfway through your term, and it was widely recognised that what swung voters was dissatisfaction with public transport, yet those at the top of the parliamentary tree were prioritising roads instead (contrary to their election promises), and there was continuing speculation that public transport having been your ticket to victory last time might be your downfall next time, what would you do?
Maybe you’d issue a seasonal card emphasising some good things about public transport, like free Christmas Day and all-night New Year’s Eve public transport, extra Nightrider services, as well as a new taxi sharing scheme?
Before Bentleigh electorate residents get too excited about the wonderful PT upgrades the government has provided, there is a catch of course.
Free Christmas Day and all-night New Year’s Eve public transport is a nice gesture. All-night services on NYE have been provided since 2004-5 (after the then Labor government was thoroughly embarrassed by the lack of it the year before). It’s probably free on NYE for practical considerations. Free rides on Christmas day probably result in little revenue lost, though many pack onto V/Line trains for free rides to the regions — to full accommodate demand may cost a bit of money. Perhaps instead it should be a token amount for charity, to discourage too many free-loaders?
The extra Nightrider services do indeed boost capacity and cut waiting times, with Frankston-bound buses up to every 15 minutes on Friday and Saturday nights before Christmas. But these run down the Nepean Highway, only within reasonable walking distance of a fraction of the electorate. In extreme cases it might take you well over an hour to walk from a Nightrider stop to a home in the eastern part of the electorate. Arguably what Nightrider really needs is a recasting of the route structure, to better follow the busiest daytime routes (eg rail and tram lines, preferably while not adding too much to travel time) and provide a network that people actually understand.
Taxi sharing is an interesting idea, with a flat rate to share a maxi taxi on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s so new it’s unclear if it’ll really solve the problem — which is a lack of after-midnight mass transit in a busy city, especially on Sunday to Thursday nights.
The flip side of Ms Miller’s card is asking for feedback.
I’ll send mine in. To my mind, the two priorities in transport would have to be bringing the 703 up to proper Smartbus standards, and building Southland station.
I’m very transport-focussed, of course. What non-transport issues need state-level attention in Bentleigh?
One of the chemists in Bentleigh is renovating, and this old signage has been revealed — soon to be covered up with something new. Apparently they used to sell stuff called “film” from a company called “Kodak”.
The windows have also shown up some old ads. Anybody care to estimate how old they might be?
Evidently “Beyond 2000” finished in 1999.
What is cross linked elastin cream, anyway?
The sign on the top of the shop might be a good submission for Our Fading Past.
Spotted at Stanley’s Menswear in Centre Road: UK-made Deer Stalker – a snip at $129.95.
(Apart from sleuthing, I guess you could also use it for stalking deer.)
The new 40 kmh limit now applies along Centre Road in Bentleigh, 7am to 7pm, every day.
This is good news, particularly as earlier this year it appeared the plan was for it not to apply on Sundays — one of the busiest shopping days.
It’s official recognition that the street is not just for the benefit of motorists.
And it’ll improve safety, and help make the neighbourhood more walkable, as well as assisting public transport interchange, for instance for those changing between trains and westbound 703 buses (for whom there is no convenient pedestrian crossing).
Intriguingly, they also seem to have changed the traffic lights at Jasper/Centre Roads to activate the green man automatically — and not just on Saturdays.
That’s a good move too, a positive for pedestrians (previously one could just miss the lights and have to wait longer) — all these changes appear to be a reflection of the VicRoads “SmartRoads” strategy kicking in… it flags this area as prioritising pedestrians and buses.
The Herald Sun reports today that Metro punctuality figures have improved markedly in the last 12 months, including the figure on the Frankston line jumping from 68.4% to 87.1%.
Certainly this is due to some changes in the way the trains are run. The question is, are these changes good, or bad?
Good: Departing platform 2
This means platform 1 is also usually on the left (facing the city). An exception is at Westona, where the trains arrive on the right (I’m guessing it’s perhaps because they’d prefer the driver, in the left of the cab, to have better visibility of the platform).
At my local station Bentleigh, there are three platforms, in the morning using two of them in city-bound direction. It used to be that stopping trains would use platform 1, and express trains would zoom through platform 2, with trains from the city using platform 3.
Reflecting this, almost all the benches on the platform face platform 1.
Last year it changed, with at least two stopping trains using platform 2, and some express trains going through platform 1. Call me slow, but I just figured out why.
It’s because those two services start at Moorabbin two stations away, and are formed by trains from the city that terminate there, then reverse back into the city. Running them on platform 2 (the middle track) means they don’t have to cross two tracks at Moorabbin (from track 3 to track 1), risking delaying other citybound trains.
This may seem like a trivial, inconsequential change, but this sort of thing — making little tweaks to operations to better use the infrastructure capacity available, with only minor impact to passengers — is what we need to see more of.
Bad: Express alterations
In contrast, the widespread alteration of services to run express because they’re late is having a detrimental impact. Metro are claiming it’s rare and “for the greater good”.
It might be understandable if they were only doing it, for instance, to off-peak trains, in order to get trains into position for the peak, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that is not the case.
For instance, on Friday (the morning of The Age’s story on it), the 8:25 from Moorabbin was altered to run express to Caulfield. I saw it fly through Bentleigh at 8:31, which means assuming a minute was gained between Moorabbin and Bentleigh, it was only 2-3 minutes late. It would have arrived at Caulfield early, and all the passengers from Patterson to Glenhuntly had to cram onto the following train.
This particular service has plenty of fat in its schedule anyway — it regularly arrives at South Yarra 2+ minutes early due to excessive timetable padding, so the late change was for no good reason. This is not good customer service from Metro.
Another recent example was the 6pm-ish departure to Frankston, altered to skip most of its stations, as highlighted last month on the PTUA web site and in Friday’s Channel 10 story:
Thus ends today’s Neville Shunt-like train post.