Flinders St platform 11 would provide much-needed capacity – alas, they’re building a cafe instead

Regular passengers using Flinders Street Station will have noticed that while the platforms are numbered from 1 to 14, there’s no platform 11.

It’s not a Harry Potter scenario with a hidden platform. There used to be a platform 11, the twin of 10, facing the river, and commonly used by St Kilda and Port Melbourne trains until 1987 when they were converted to tram lines. But its track was removed — I assume when the pedestrian subway was extended to the river to meet the pedestrian bridge to Southgate, which opened in 1992.

Platform 10 at Flinders Street

Today, trains to Newport (Werribee and Williamstown and Altona Loop/Laverton, to be precise) depart from platform 10 on weekdays.

Problem with this is that one platform isn’t enough during peak hours, and the trains depart from either 10, 12, 9 or 8, which are mostly quite some distance apart. Passengers tell stories of rushing from one to the other in chaos. If only there were another platform adjacent platform 10…

So could they re-instate 11? It would require some changes to the river-side subway entrance, part of which is where the track would be, but most of the rest of the old track alignment appears to be intact.

Flinders St Station, river entrance

Remains of platform 11 at Flinders Street

But don’t all trains to Newport come through from the east?

Mostly, but not all, at least not during peak hour — a quick skim through the Working Timetable found the the 17:11 and 17:55 Flinders Street to Werribee services both come from Werribee (each followed by a Laverton service a few minutes later from platform 12 or 8/9), and this might increase when Regional Rail Link starts to allow yet more Newport trains. Any trains terminating from the west could easily run into 11 and reverse.

Even so, some trains from the east heading west would be able to run via 13 through to 11, if an effort was made to put Sandringham trains on 12 (which indeed would have more capacity for them if not used by any Newport trains).

Imagine that, Newport train users — all your peak hour trains from adjacent platforms 10 and 11! That would make life a lot easier for peak-hour passengers.

Alas, it seems someone has decided to build a bar or a cafe or something on the site instead.

Coming soon at Flinders Street platform 11

Other missing platforms

Flinders Street used to have platforms 15 and 16, part of the old Princes Bridge station for Clifton Hill trains, now replaced by Federation Square. But of course that didn’t cause a gap in the numbering.

Box Hill has no platform 1. There’s a placeholder that was used during works, then put aside for future use when the station was moved underground in the 1980s.

Any other stations that are missing platforms?

Edit 15/11/2013: Added pic of the river entrance.

Flinders Street redevelopment – why do none of the designs respect the existing building?

Yesterday designs for the redevelopment of Flinders Street Station were released. You can look at them in detail and even vote on them at voteflindersst.com.au — though the vote won’t actually determine the design used, only “influence” it.

Having had a look through all of the designs last night, I think my problem with all most of them is that the only heritage features they’ve left intact are the main building (some also leave the platform canopies)… and even the building they’ve completely overwhelmed with new structures.

Flinders Street station design: Zaha Hadid Architecture and BVN Architecture

Flinders Street Station design: Ashton Raggatt McDougall

The criteria includes the question “Does it respect the history of this iconic building?” In my view, they don’t, except from the northern side. The view from the south, and from within the station itself, is obliterated.

It’s like they’ve decided to preserve the facade for the benefit only of passing tourists. The people who actually use the station, us lowly passengers, will get the same kind of lifeless colourless experience that we get currently on the main concourse, but throughout the rest of the station as well, while from the river the old building will be barely visible.

Concourse, Flinders Street Station

I am not convinced that the problems of the current station (particularly the pinch points such as in the subways, and limited accessibility) can’t be solved with a design that better preserves the heritage values of the whole station, not just a small part of it.

And I wonder if the expense and disruption of a full revamp is really justified at present. It’s not like Spencer Street/Southern Cross, where the place was a dump with no architectural merit, and could be legitimately entirely rebuilt into something more impressive and functional (though debate continues on this).

Flinders Street Station - original design

Here’s what I think I’d do with Flinders Street Station:

Finish the original plan: particularly, build the all-over station roof that was originally planned. This would provide a real benefit to passengers in terms of weather coverage, but preserve the overall heritage feel of the station, and keep the main building visible from the river.

Open up the southern end of the Degraves Street subway, providing an additional exit to the river, helping relieve the most congested part of the Elizabeth Street subway (perhaps this exercise could also re-open platform 11, providing more peak capacity for trains to the busy Werribee line — at least when they’re not through-routed from the east).

Elizabeth Street subway, Flinders Street Station

In the long term another north-south crossing through the station is probably needed, but in the short term, one idea worth consideration is to remove the dividing fence in the Elizabeth Street subway, making the entire subway a paid area — at present a third of the space is wasted, and often the Paid area is much more crowded than the non-paid.

If it were all paid area, those passing through could use a Myki to get in and out — the 15 minute “change of mind” rule built into Myki would mean they won’t get charged a fare if not catching a train, and as we know, the vast majority of people in the CBD use public transport to get there, and would have a Myki.

This would also allow them to re-open the western-most steps (or was it a ramp?) from the subway to platform 10, and build extra entrances and extensions to other platforms to allow longer trains. Anybody without a Myki can walk to Swanston or Queen Streets.

Renovate the main concourse into something less colourless. The passenger flows aren’t actually too bad now that most of the stuff in it has been cleared out and the fare gates have been moved around.

Re-align tracks and support structures to enable widening of platforms adjacent to where old centre goods lines have been removed (for instance, platform 5, which is a pressure point for the western suburbs lines).

Comeng trains at the platforms, Flinders Street Station

Completely restore the main building. It could be used for railways/PTV admin, or perhaps they could go with the plan for using it for community groups. (One thing’s for sure: I’m sick of reading moaning articles about the state of the ballroom. It was impressive in its heyday, and by all means fix it up, but is of no consequence whatsoever to passengers wanting a functional station and a reliable train service.)

Likewise, a new plaza or buildings could be constructed on the western side of the station and connect into that side of it — but shouldn’t so grossly overshadow the old building as the proposals do. This is not really a station/public transport issue, it’s a broader picture land-use and planning issue.

Outside the station, obviously the Federation Square tram stop needs expanding, and moving it to the western side of Swanston Street (as in one proposal) would have real benefits.

Making the southern end of Elizabeth Street a pedestrian plaza would improve things too, and might enable a Degraves Street-style entrance (with ramps to make it accessible from that side) straight into the Elizabeth Street subway, so people can bypass the traffic lights.

A pedestrian scramble crossing outside St Paul’s is warranted, as well as re-alignment of Flinders Street (the street) heading west from the station to provide a wider footpath on the northern side, at the expense of a traffic lane on the southern side.

See, plenty of smaller upgrades that are actually affordable in the short term and that would make a big difference to users… without waiting for a hugely expensive redevelopment which might never happen due to lack of funds.

And I tell you what — they’d better not propose renaming the station.

White tracks

Near Flinders Street Station, some tracks have been painted white.

White tracks near Flinders Street station

White tracks near Flinders Street station

Looks odd, doesn’t it. Apparently it’s to reduce heat, and thus reduce the possibility of track buckling and other problems.

Update: See this web page: Solacoat/Coolshield Reducing Temperature of Railway Tracks

Merry Christmas

Flinders Street: Merry Christmas

I don’t care if it’s the same lot of decorations as last year — I like ‘em. They look rather good at night.

And you know what? Their location helps cement Flinders Street Station’s cultural importance to our city — perhaps never moreso than now, with public transport patronage increasing, and rail patronage in particular hitting record highs.

We had our family Christmas lunch early — on Saturday — because a bunch of us won’t be in town on Christmas day.

Hope all the readers of my blog have a very Merry Christmas.

Daniel’s theory of paving: The better it looks, the slipperier it is.

I reckon the better a paving surface looks, the slipperier it is, particularly in the wet.

Asphalt: ugly, but grips well, even in the wet.

Tiles (as platforms at Flinders Street station have been converted to, but thankfully not ramps) and blue-stone (increasingly common on CBD streets) look nicer, but are more slippery.

And some types of tactiles (bumps, for the vision-impaired) often aren’t that great in terms of grip either.

Flinders Street station ramp

Agree? Disagree? Is it my shoes?