Mr Lezala also took a swipe at the State Government for failing to invest properly in signalling.
“We have new signalling systems here … with no redundancy in them so when we get a thunderstorm it fails – brand new systems – because we didn’t have enough money to build redundancy in,” he told a Metro breakfast.
“I think Treasury need to take that one, actually, because you get what you pay for.”
This might help explain why the trend for cancellations (or to be precise, percentage of the timetable not delivered) is up, not down.
For all the noise the government has made about investing in upgraded rail infrastructure, it’s still common to see disruptions due to signal, track, points failures. If Lezala is right, we’re getting a lot of new equipment which isn’t being installed with the required redundancy to ensure it’s really reliable.
Parkiteer is a good programme… from my observations, more and more people are using it for secure bike parking at stations.
But how many errors can you spot in this bike cage map that has been appearing in MX for the past few weeks?
“Glen Waverly” spelt wrong
“Glen Waverly” in the wrong spot — it’s actually north of the Dandenong line
Cranbourne/Pakenham lines have been strung together
Ditto Belgrave/Lilydale lines
Leaving out the Williamstown, Upfield and Alamein lines presumably isn’t a mistake, but reflects that they have no bike cages
Two Caulfield stations! — however this is a problem that even Metlink/PTV has had for some time; if you use their station/stop search, you’ll find two Caulfields:
Any other errors?
Below the map the logos of the organisations running Parkiteer are shown. Bicycle Network Victoria runs the show, but the Metro logo is also listed… I’m surprised they didn’t check the map of their train network was accurate.
The Siemens train seats are notorious for showing the dirt.
At one stage a multi-coloured design similar to the Comeng fleet seats was tried, but now Metro have introduced a new design which is supposedly more vandalproof (and uses their corporate design, not Connex’s).
It’s on one 3-car Siemens set so far (for the gunzels, it’s 831M-2566T-832M).
Intriguingly, as some on Facebook noted, stations that don’t get electric trains such as Rockbank and Somerville have been included in the station names shown in the design. (Somerville at least gets the Stony Point trains, which is strictly speaking a Metro service, even though it’s run using V/Line sprinters. Rockbank only gets V/Line Ballarat line trains.)
But anyway, hopefully this new design will do a better job of staying clean and hiding the dirt.
This is the kind of thing PTV and/or Metro really should promote a bit more, to let people know they’re actually acknowledging the problem, and to gather feedback.
Metro was already having a bad Monday morning peak with the inner part of the Sandringham line suspended due to a maintenance train derailing overnight. Things didn’t improve when at about 7:15 the outer section of the Cranbourne line also went down, and it just got worse when at 8:10 a train caused an overhead power fault at Caulfield. By 8:40, they were evacuating that train and others, as these snaps I grabbed from a passing Frankston line train show:
They weren’t the best pictures, but thanks to Twitter, what they did do was alert journalists that there was a major disruption emerging at Caulfield. The second pic got picked up by The Age, though far better was a pic and video shot by Gavin Tan on Twitter:
Now, the maintenance train derailing on the Sandringham line could be just bad luck. Metro are pointing at vandalism for the Caulfield problem. And the Cranbourne issue (which seemed to recur on Monday afternoon)? We don’t know.
But it all underscores just how fragile and troubleprone the rail network continues to be.
The political fallout
While Metro might be the operator, it’s the level of investment, and the level of scrutiny of the operator that must ensure a good outcome. And that’s the government’s job.
The last state election was won and lost on public transport — both sides said so.
Not everybody uses the trains, but everybody knows somebody that uses the trains. In the 2010 election campaign, they were a powerful symbol of a government failing to deliver.
Will history repeat in 2014?
- Update Wednesday: Pic also published by Leader
Sorry, I meant to post this ages ago.
I went along to the official opening of Lynbrook station in April; there was a big turn out from the community, including local councillors and a couple of MPs, as well as media. And a sausage sizzle!
I had an interesting talk to the architect, who said they’d been mindful of making it fit into the surrounds, to make it feel safe by including lots of open spaces and good sightlines, and to make it resistant to vandalism, by using almost no smooth surfaces. This latter point is quite clever. In contrast, Westall is all flat grey surfaces – I’m amazed it’s kept so clean.
One of the project team told me a void in the platform 1 building is for possible future provision of toilets and booking office (should staff ever be funded), and everything is plumbed ready for that if it ever happens. Planning ahead. (I didn’t check, but I assume there’s already a toilet for PSOs to use once they start duty.)
It also sounds like platform Passenger Information Displays (PIDS) will now be standard on new stations, including unstaffed ones like Lynbrook. Makes me wonder if existing stations will be retro-fitted with this technology. Surely it must come into play at some point, particular given those with hearing difficulties can’t hear the current loudspeaker announcements or “green button”.
He also said there had been considerable challenges building the station, such as moving signalling, re-doing track and overhead, removing the cant on the track, and re-configuring electrical systems to ensure enough power to start trains after a stop. They’re also installing a new substation nearby soon. It all added to the cost and construction time of course; it wasn’t as simple as building a couple of platforms.
Several locals said to me they’d been looking forward to the station opening, and would switch from driving to work to catching the train. Proof, if any is needed, that the provision of useable public transport gets cars off the road.
I’m not about to claim Lynbrook is perfect, but clearly some thought was put into the design, and clearly the locals are pretty pleased it’s opened. Let’s hope it serves them well.
- PTV: Lynbrook station project
- Video update of the project from during construction
- Media release announcing the opening event
Seems the stuff in today’s Age to do with moving train driver changeovers out of Flinders Street is a bit controversial.
I don’t particularly want to discuss it in the myriad of places I’ve seen people (mostly train drivers, I suspect) leave me comments about it, so I’ll do so here instead.
From the article:
Central to the plan is a proposal to ”decentralise drivers” by removing them from their current city hub and basing them at five separate suburban locations. The new hubs would serve as the network’s changeover points.
Drivers have warned the Baillieu government that the plan mimics the failed break-up of the network into two operators – Connex and Bayside – when Melbourne rail was privatised in 1999.
”The initial privatisation of the system which saw it split into two separate operating companies was an absolute disaster, with drivers unqualified to run trains on both sides of the system,” one driver wrote to Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder.
”Metro now intends to go even further down this ridiculous path by dividing the system into five separate divisions. Drivers will be locked into one group … This will lead to constraints on available qualified staff to run the system.”
But Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen backed the proposal to decentralise drivers, saying it would help keep trains moving.
”Removing changeovers from Flinders Street would be an improvement, given the delays there,” Mr Bowen said.
As always with journalism, you need to be wary of paraphrasing. Note the quote. I did not say I agree with splitting the drivers into five groups, and only training them on individual lines/groups of lines. What I did say is that I (and the PTUA) supports moving changeovers out of Flinders Street.
What’s the situation now?
Train drivers may drive on any line on any day, and generally on a mix of lines. In fact there are rules that restrict the number of trips they can take on a single line on one day.
Changeovers occur at Flinders Street, as well as outer-suburban stations.
It’s the driver changeovers at Flinders Street which, as any regular passenger will tell you, are far from unknown.
Apart from the simple act of handing a train over to another driver taking an extra few seconds, drivers coming off other services can be delayed. If one line is suspended, drivers who had been driving inbound trains into the city may get caught up in it, causing delays on other lines on the other side of town.
Metro and the government want to move driver changeovers from Flinders Street. I think this makes sense, to maximise throughput of the busiest station in Melbourne. It’s not just about cutting delays to current operations, it’s also about allowing more trains to run on the current infrastructure, by pushing them straight through, keeping them moving, as per a stop at somewhere like Southern Cross or Melbourne Central.
Other cities around the world already do this. For example, Sydney, London and Paris all have networks designed so that most or all trains from the suburbs, straight through the central city, then out again. This change, combined with the City Loop, would effectively do the same for most lines.
Splitting up the system
This is a related, but separate, issue.
Metro also, it seems, want to completely sectorise the rail system, and have drivers dedicated to specific groups of lines.
There seem to be a number of very good arguments against confining drivers like this (even though this is what many other systems, including London Underground, do). The primary reasons against this include:
- It reduces flexibility. You can no longer move drivers around the network as needed if they aren’t qualified to drive on all lines. Which is not to say that every single driver would be restricted in this way; it would be logical to have at least some who could drive anywhere.
- Safety issues. It’s said that drivers who get too “bored” of a line may get less attentive, creating more issues such as Signals Passed At Danger.
On the pro side, it would cut the training required, meaning the recruitment process for new drivers would be quicker.
But I think it’s a really hard issue, with genuine drawbacks.
One way of doing it which would avoid many problems would be to move driver changeovers to the burbs, and have drivers confined to a single line group on a single day, but move them around between groups on different days.
(Gentle hint: if you want your comment to be approved, then unlike some commenting elsewhere online, address the issues, rather than claiming I don’t know what I’m talking about.)
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.
My cousin Justin’s move to Melbourne gives me an opportunity to see the public transport network from the perspective of a brand new user. He’s pretty well travelled, having spent extensive time in Europe recently, mostly based in London, but with plenty of travel to other cities. So he’s used PT systems in many other cities.
Welcome to Myki
On my prompting Justin got a Myki card, topped it up fine, but had problems touching-on the first time. Why? For a start the Metcard readers had sensors that looked like they should accept Myki, but don’t. (They’re the original Metcard X-Press touch-card sensors, rarely used. As an aside, this is why the old Metcard gates know to say “CSC PASS” when a Myki is presented — CSC stands for Contactless SmartCard.)
Secondly, at Moorabbin, where he was boarding, for some reason the Metcard validators are at the top of the ramp, but the Myki readers are at the bottom.
I noticed this is also the case at Elsternwick, where there are signs declaring the ramp to be within the paid ticket area: “Penalties apply for entering beyond this point without a valid ticket.” So are Myki users fare-evading for entering the ramp area, unable to touch-on until reaching the bottom?
Eventually, with the help of a staff member, Justin sorted out where to touch-on.
He reckons Myki is slower at touching than Oyster in London (which he used recently; he didn’t offer an opinion on Perth’s Smartrider.) I’m not surprised to hear that, given I thought Brisbane’s Go Card (which uses the same technology as Oyster) also seemed faster than Myki.
Other than that, and some confusion over whether he needs to touch-off on trams, and precisely how the fares work, it seems to have been pretty smooth sailing.
He’s working across town and was initially staying with my sister, and needed to change from the Frankston line to the Sydenham line. The question arose as to where he should change.
In the mornings coming in on the Frankston line, he might end up on a Loop train, or a direct train. The conclusion was if a Loop train, change at Southern Cross, since in the morning Sydenham trains run via there. If a direct train into Flinders Street, he could change there. Okay.
In the evenings, it’s a LOT more difficult. Thanks to the super-confusing Frankston timetable that operates on weekdays between 4 and 5pm, and also between 6 and 7pm, at times it’s best to go to Flinders Street, but sometimes it’s better to go to Southern Cross.
It’s all got a lot easier now he’s moved onto the
Epping South Morang/Hurstbridge lines. In the mornings, since those trains run clockwise via the Loop all day on weekdays, it’ll be easiest to change at Flinders Street. In the evenings it’ll be quickest to change at Southern Cross.
Being on two lines (eg south of Clifton Hill) also means there’s little need for a timetable, since trains are pretty frequent all day everyday (though due to express running, there are some significant gaps around 7pm on weekdays outbound). He’s also close to a tram and the Hoddle Street Smartbuses.
Justin’s noted that it can be quite confusing at times because some trains on the Frankston line don’t go all the way to Frankston. They are listed on the screens as trains to Mordialloc or Carrum, for instance. This is a serious issue, particularly at stations which don’t have screens listing all the stations served.
In many cities the lines have a name that is independent from the terminii (think of London’s Piccadilly line, which terminates at Heathrow or Uxbridge in the west, and Cockfosters in the north/east, or the numbered lines used in cities such as Rome or Paris) — this is both a good and a bad thing. It relates to the readability of the rail map. Perhaps at the very least, the screens need to identify the Frankston line name even if the train doesn’t go all the way there. At least the screens on central station concourses do so.
Overall he said it was all going well until last Friday, when his morning commute was interrupted by a disruption at Sunshine. He said there was no information provided to passengers on the outbound train. He only knew something was up when a lot of people boarded, apparently believing the train had been diverted to run back into the city.
Eventually he discovered everybody was being kicked off the train, and he managed to find a bus that would take him the rest of the way to work.
Conclusion: much of the time, if you can navigate the train network, it runs pretty well. But there are pitfalls for new users, and it can fall apart pretty rapidly when there’s a major disruption.