Southland station: now expected to open 2017

I remember when Labor and the Coalition both pledged to build Southland station.

It was 2010. I told my kids, who were excited. They were 15 and 12 at the time, just the ages when they were looking forward to exploring the city and suburbs on their own, going to places like Southland with friends.

This train will not stop at Southland station. Because there still isn't one yet. #SpringSt

Of course it was the Coalition who won the 2010 election. In 2012 I looked back at progress — at the time, not much. By 2013 a little bit of detail of the plans had emerged — for a basic station. No matter, said I — the fancy amenity can all come later. The important thing is just to get it built.

Toilets? Not that important. There are some in the centre on the ground floor, about 150 metres (or one train length) away.

Bus interchange? Not that important — almost all the bus routes that serve Southland already intersect the Frankston line at other stations.

In fact given that one could reasonably expect Westfield to expand the centre towards, up to and perhaps over the railway station once it’s clear it’s bringing more punters, much of any facilities provided would be likely to be replaced anyway.

Even with the bare-bones design, it took until 2014 for full funding to be provided in the state budget, with expected opening in 2016.

When I quizzed her about it last year, then-MP for Bentleigh Elizabeth Miller told me that construction would start in early 2015. At that point, the only progress had been a few banners unfurled at the site.

This week she noted that she had been the MP when the funding came through. Yes well, that’s good, but perhaps if that had happened in 2012 instead of 2014, and the station completed before the 2014 election, she might have held onto her seat. Nearby Carrum, Mordialloc and Frankston might have also stayed with the Coalition. The problem was, between 2012 and 2014, the Coalition was so fixated on the East West Link that they dropped the ball on even relatively cheap public transport promises like this. Such as contrast.

The news this week is that PTV is running consultation sessions (19th March 5:30-8:30pm, Cheltenham Community Centre and 21st March 9am-2pm at Southland) — and that toilets are back in scope.

They’re also wanting to know community views on an entrance via Tulip Grove, on the other side of the railway line. It seems someone at PTV had their wits about them when they spotted a property in the street had come up for sale, and bought it, to be used for construction — no compulsory acquisition required. I think it’d be good to provide permanent station access as well, with parking restrictions in the street to prevent shoppers parking there — but it makes sense to ask the locals what they think.

(I’m guessing it was number 60 Tulip Grove — that seems to have sold mid-last-year.)

But they’re now saying the station is expected to open in 2017.

By that time Southland Station is built, my kids will be 22 and 19, both old enough to drive — though at current trajectories of interest, I’m not assuming that they will be driving. That’s another story of course, but fundamentally if we’re hoping fewer people drive in the future, they will need other, viable options to get around.

With appalling bus services and very inconvenient train access, it’s hardly surprising that Southland remains so car-dependent, and it’s a battle every weekend to find a spot to park. The sooner the station opens the better.

PS: I understand the station is not planned to be Premium (fulltime staffed), despite the presence of public toilets. This is likely to be the first of this type of station, and will probably mean an Exeloo-type installation. Additionally Hallam station, also not Premium, was the subject of an election promise for toilets, so is likely to get an Exeloo. Presumably this type of automated self-cleaning toilet is an option for other stations as well, both staffed and unstaffed.

Update 8/3/2015: Comments from some local residents have prompted me to dig out a site plan I came across last year. It’s from 2013, so may have been revised, but hopefully is indicative of the current plan. No doubt we’ll hear more at the consultation sessions.

Southland station: Concept development diagram, Option 4 (March 2013)

It’s hard to see here — click here to see it bigger.

Update 11/3/2015: PTV has published more details, and plans and artist impressions on their web site.

As per the comments, the plan has changed a bit from the above diagram, with the platforms moved further south along the line.

Southland plan - published by PTV 11/3/2015

It’s worth noting that the intent is not to reposition the tracks. This is apparently difficult/expensive due to the nearby bridge over Bay Road. This rules out an island platform for the station.

Quicker to wait for the hourly bus, or walk?

Last weekend I tried an experiment, for a PTUA video

In the highly marginal electorate of Bentleigh, having just missed the bus, is it quicker to wait for the next service, or walk to Southland?

Given walking speeds and a five kilometre distance, perhaps the answer (at least for reasonably fit, able-bodied people) is obvious…

More frequent weekend buses is easy. Most of the bus fleet sits around in depots all weekend. As with more frequent off-peak and weekend trains and trams, the only costs would be fuel, maintenance and drivers.

Labor has pledged to re-route this bus — the 822 — onto the main roads, which would help with travel times. But it’s not clear if that would include other network changes in the area, or more frequent services — this is one of many bus routes which is still less frequent in peak hour and on Saturday mornings than it was 25 years ago.

Thanks to Jeremy for help with the camera.

“People should be able to choose their mode of travel”

“RACV has a very clear view that people should be able to choose their mode of travel and not be confronted by artificial policy directions that constrain particular modes of travel…

— RACV spokesman Dave Jones, Herald Sun 9/12/2013

Yes, it’d be awful if artificial policy directions prevented people choosing their travel mode.

Policy directions such as transport provision skewed almost entirely in favour of cars, resulting in a failure to provide most suburbs with fast frequent public transport services.

Decades of building roads at almost any cost, but in many areas a lack of safe convenient walking and cycling routes.

Sixty years of policies which give many Melburnians little choice but to drive their cars.

Yes, that’d be no good.

(RACV was actually railing against efforts by Yarra Council to reduce the number of cars on inner-city roads.)

Traffic heading into Southland on a Saturday morning

It’s not hard to see the effect of the transport policies of the last half-century. At Southland on the weekend, motorists circled the car park looking for spaces. The alternative – mostly hourly buses – is no alternative whatsoever.

Frankston line – has train punctuality really improved? Well yes, but…

I noted this tweet from my local state MP, boasting of improved punctuality on the Frankston line since she and the Coalition came to power in November 2010:

But are these two figures really showing an improvement? Tony Smith on Twitter replied, pointing out that two data points aren’t a trend. (And I think he wants me to run for parliament.)

Funny thing is, my records show punctuality was actually lower than Ms Miller quoted in November 2010 — at just 73.5% (arrivals within 5 minutes). I suspect she was looking at the November 2011 figure.

Here’s the period in question on a graph, with a trend line added.

Frankston line punctuality

So yes, the trend is up.

But there’s a problem with the Coalition claiming credit for it. The biggest boost in punctuality in mid-2011 was when a timetable re-write was introduced, separating out most weekday services from the Dandenong line. It also cut the myriad of stopping patterns. But that timetable was largely prepared while Labor was still in power.

The other relevant changes during the Coalition’s term (apart from very welcome boosts in weekend frequency) were timetable tweaks providing a longer running time on the line (in some cases leaving multimillion dollar trains sitting idle waiting for the timetable to catch up), and Metro’s new habit of skipping stations (either bypassing them completely by running direct instead of via the Loop, or running express where scheduled to stop) to catch up time.

Metro would claim that this is to keep trains in position by ensuring one service delay doesn’t cascade into the next, but on occasions they have been found to be doing this where it didn’t make operational sense — such as this example, where an evening shoulder-peak train was altered to stop at just a handful of stations, despite plenty of trains being available for its return run.

Train altered to skip 9 of its 15 stops

Network-wide the punctuality trend is also up, though it’s less pronounced:

metro-punc

So overall, there’s no denying the punctuality stats have improved since November 2010.

But what about…

But what about a graph of that other big election promise for the Frankston line?

Frankston line - Southland station

Not so impressive. Today’s Age reports some progress, but with no station now expected until 2016/17, and a question mark over the facilities it will provide, clearly there’s a way to go.

Photos from ten years ago – September 2003

By September 2003, I was using the digital camera a little more.

Yum yum yum — doughnuts at the Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market, 2003

One for the gunzels — trains in the yards outside Spencer Street Station (click here to see it bigger)
Trains outside Spencer Street, 2003

Here’s one showing the old Spencer Street building… I think those who complain about the new station have forgotten just how dumpy it was (though the subway was very handy).
Spencer Street Station, 2003

A better view of one of the platforms. You can see in the background they’re building the Collins Street bridge.
Spencer Street Station, 2003

Here’s a Siemens train at Murrumbeena, in its original colours. Not very appealing.
Siemens train showing original livery, 2003

Those who catch Eastern Freeway buses might remember how crowded the old Swanston Street stop used to get at peak times.
Lonsdale Street main bus stop at Swanston Street, 2003

Later in the evening, the central entrance to Flinders Street Station — often left unstaffed.
Flinders Street, centre entrance, 2003

Me in the garden in the rented house in Carnegie, trying to keep the lawn under control.
Mowing the garden in Carnegie, 2003

Down in Cheltenham, Southland Station, without its station then… and that still hasn’t changed.
Southland - no station, 2003