Southern Cross Station gets Chromed

I was impressed enough by the Google Chrome advertising at suburban railway stations, such as this poster at South Yarra.
Google Chrome advertising at South Yarra Station, Melbourne

Then someone told me Southern Cross Station had also had a Chrome makeover. Sure enough…
Google Chrome advertising at Southern Cross Station, Melbourne

Google Chrome advertising at Southern Cross Station, Melbourne

Apparently this Internet thingummy-wotsit has some money behind it.

(Note the banners along the sides of the upper deck.)

Uh oh

Every time your train is stuck inexplicably in a tunnel, every time a service is cancelled, the experience is not just eroding your quality of life. It is eating away at our city’s global competitiveness.

– Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

A power problem at Southern Cross Station has caused this, this morning:

Metro status

(Somehow I doubt the Craigieburn and Williamstown lines actually have “Good service”)

Update 9:15. I went to the station, quite prepared to turn around and go and work at home if the trains were up the creek. Not too many people were waiting.

Around 8:25 an express came through. Some bloody stupid woman ran in front of it on the level crossing. It missed her by metres. The driver stopped after passing the crossing — I wouldn’t blame him if he’d shut his eyes and wasn’t sure if he’d hit her. Then he kept going.

The 8:31 turned up a minute late, and got a good run into Richmond, where it filled up. Some delays in the tunnel, but arrived at Flagstaff 8 minutes late, not too bad.

Glenhuntly station carpark half empty, Dandenong Road not moving, Alexandra Avenue and Punt Road barely moving — I’m guessing a lot of people avoided the trains (perhaps unnecessarily) due to tales of doom and gloom and drove instead, causing problems there.

Update Wednesday morning: It should be emphasised that while my trip in was relatively, smooth, it’s obvious from reports from around the place that many, many people were severely disrupted. As compensation the government has announced all metropolitan travel (train, tram and bus) is free on Friday. V/Line passengers with a ticket valid yesterday can claim a free travel voucher, and Metropolitan holders of weekly or longer passes can also claim a free ticket (on top of the usual monthly compensation that will most likely apply).

Sending my kids down the mine

(Posted 2nd October. Backdated to the day it happened.)

Originally the plan had been to go to Canberra for 4-5 days, possibly driving up via Lakes Entrance and perhaps back via Kelly country. One of the reasons for wanting to go to Canberra was that I’d been keen to see a display at Old Parliament House: the Living Democracy: Power of the People exhibition, because part of it highlights community organisations, and one of those featured is the one I’m involved with.

However, Kerryn was up in Canberra a few weeks ago, and it turns out that this is nowhere near as interesting as it sounds: merely a logo and blurb on a piece of cardboard in a display case. Oh well.

In any case, school holiday schedule considerations meant the break would have to be cut back, and I ended up with a completely revised plan: Bendigo for just two days. Short and hopefully sweet.

Southern Cross Station

So on Wednesday morning we set out for the station, V/Line tickets to Bendigo in hand. They have a Family Traveller deal which gets you tickets for two kids free with each adult, as long as you travel outside peak hour. And it includes metropolitan travel, which frankly makes it a bargain at $15.80 each way.

According to the V/Line web site, single tickets (of which we had two; they issue separate tickets unless you’re returning on the same day) are meant to be time-stamped by station staff, but both on the way and on the way back nobody seemed to think this was necessary. *shrug* Maybe they’ve realised that allowing only an hour of travel either side of your train trip isn’t very practical, especially when they advise you to allow at least 30 minutes interchange time at Southern Cross to ensure you make your connection.

We got to Southern Cross in plenty of time for the 9:15 to Bendigo, and spent the time observing four promotional people dressed as the Village People, singing YMCA, with a placard nearby dubiously linking this to Hallmark Cards.

The train zoomed out of Melbourne. Given it was a V/Locity train I wondered if we’d reach the full 160 km/h, but it turns out that of the two tracks that go most of the way to Bendigo, only one has been upgraded to 160, and the other only to 130, and the faster line is used for peak direction. So we had to satisfy ourselves with 130 km/h, which still seemed pretty fast from where I was sitting.

In-flight entertainment was courtesy of a family sitting opposite: a lady with her three-year-old girl (“Brooke Livinia! Get back here now!”) and a ten-year-old son (who spent the first part of the trip in a long and presumably smelly session in the toilet, then the rest of the trip trying to teach his sister what seemed to be an impenetrably complicated card game).

I thought they were going all bogan on me when the mum started ranting to the boy about how his father shouldn’t have “borrowed” ten dollars off him. But we got chatting later; they were doing a similar thing to us — a 2-day break in Castlemaine, sans motor vehicle, and they’d be riding the Maldon stream train.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo

We got into Bendigo a bit after 11am and went and found the hotel. I’d booked one on View Street, which looked to be reasonably central to things, and had a room available with three beds. Despite the theoretical check-in time being 1pm, they were happy to let us into the room early, and we dropped the bags and things before heading out again.

Rosalind Park is closeby, so we went and climbed the old mining tower thingy there that now serves as a lookout. Back onto View Street for some lunch, then we walked along MacKenzie Street past the awe-inspiringly huge Sacred Heart Cathedral, noting the gargoyles looking down at us. We snuck a peek inside, though a sign warned there was a service going on.

Central Deborah mine, Bendigo

A little further along the highway we got to the Central Deborah mine, where I’d booked us in for a 2pm tour. We were a bit early, so got to look around the museum and so on beforehand.

The “Mine Experience” tour was fabulous. After donning hard hats with torches, we went down in a cage to 60 metres down (the equivalent of 20 storeys) and got shown around one of the levels of the mine. Having to wear the hats and tramp about in the dark just added to the experience, making it all terrifically atmospheric, and Bob our guide was excellent, and knew how to keep the group entertained as well as informed. I can’t recommend this tour enough; the kids loved it and so did I; it was great.

Down the mine

Back on the surface we got onto the vintage tram (it stops outside and they do combined tickets which include the mine tour and two days of riding the tram — perfect for us — $73 all up for the three of us). As in days of yore, the model we caught had no doors in the middle section, and we sat there enjoying the fresh air. The tram took us back through the city centre, with an automated voice recording describing the sights along the way. There was a short stop at the tram depot/museum, and we planned to visit it properly the next day.

We took the tram to the end of the line, then back a little way to Lake Weeroona. (For some reason at some places the tram only stops in one direction.) I’d read there was an Adventure Playground there, though it was a little underwhelming.

The tram conductor had warned us we had been on the last tram, but we had a plan. Bendigo’s bus network is reasonably fathomable (unlike, say, Geelong’s used to be, and partly still is), and thanks to the miracle of technology, it’s very easy to check bus times on the Metlink Mobile site — well at least it was as soon as I worked out that Bendigo is in their “Lodden – Mallee” category. Hmm. Still, simply noting the route number (8) on a nearby bus stop, and checking the times, we were able to know that there was a bus back to the centre of town every half-hour, and when it left.

The bus was dead on time, and I dug out my Myki ticket from Geelong which still had $3.20 on it, which worked like a charm (though the scanners were a tad slow), and got two 2-hour short-term tickets costing $1 each for the kids. Easy.

Back in central Bendigo, we went and found some pizza for dinner, and while we munched I tried to determine where the nearest supermarket was. Being the age of technology, rather than just ask one of the waiters, I tried White Pages online on my phone, and found there was a Coles just a couple of minutes walk away, where we picked up some bananas to eat later.

Back to the hotel, we put our feet up. I tuned into the Hey Hey It’s Saturday reunion, which I might blog about separately later. Eventually it was bed time, and we dozed off, a good day’s exploring behind us.

Still impressive

I don’t agree with the name change, but I do think the renovated Southern Cross Station is impressive.

Compare this picture from about a year ago to how it looks today (yep, there is a massive tram stop in front of it, seen here with a massive tram, so it’s a bit harder to see everything):

Southern Cross Station, seen from Spencer Street

And here’s the view from inside:

Inside Southern Cross Station

(Click on either of the pictures to see them in full, unencumbered by the web page navigation.)

Marita was on the train at platform 2, heading to her parents’ for the day. Although there’s a sign for platform 1, it would appear you have to walk a good distance further north to get to it.

Impressive

It may be costing $700 million, and it may be causing untold confusion and inconvenience while it’s being built, and the new name might be silly… but damn, that rolly roof is impressive.

Spencer Street/Southern Cross Station under construction

Click here to see it bigger (and unencumbered by the blog navigation)

(Yeah, there’s a slight glitch in the picture where a taxi was moving.)

Mind you, I’m still wondering why they put the roof on first before doing all the work below it. Won’t the roof get in the way of the cranes?