Next Tuesday’s state budget is probably the last chance the government has to fund Southland station as promised and have work well underway by the time the next election comes around.
Given a string of seats along the Frankston line swung on public transport issues, if it doesn’t get funding, I reckon there’ll be some nervous local Coalition MPs.
I won’t recount the recent history again, but let’s assume for a moment that the Coalition’s $13 million costing for the station was too low. And let’s assume that Labor’s $45 million was too high (as it included moving the existing bus interchange, which I still think is not a priority). What if for argument’s sake, the real cost was going to be, say, $30 million?
And how would that $30 million, which would benefit people right along the Frankston line corridor, compare to the various road projects that have been funded recently?
A quick skim of the Vicroads web site, excluding public transport projects such as grade separations and tram and bus lanes, shows the following, mostly relatively minor, projects:
- Stud Road widening — $12.7m
- Yarra Glen truck bypass — $15m
- Tullamarine Freeway safety barriers — $4.8m
- Cooper Street, Epping widening — $7.5m
- Plenty Road, South Morang widening — $21.8m
- Clyde Road, Berwick upgrade — $55.6m
- Dingley Arterial, Keysborough — $74.6m
- Dingley Arterial, Moorabbin — $155.7m
- Hallam Road, Hampton Park widening — $38m
- Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road widening — $49m
- Pound Road, Dandenong widening — $36.8m
I’ve also excluded another $170 million of various road upgrade projects announced yesterday — apparently mostly repairs to deteriorating country road surfaces, rather than road expansion.
Now, I’m not saying that specific projects on the above list should not have been funded — I don’t know enough about them — for all I know, some might be bringing genuinely needed safety improvements, for example. (The Dingley Arterial, however, in my view is just a continuation of past rampant freeway building in the misguided belief that it’ll fix traffic congestion.)
Nor am I saying that PT has received no funding since the election.
But the projects above, which have been funded and commenced with relatively little fuss, and many of which I suspect weren’t even in the Coalition’s election manifesto, add up to $471 million — or more than fifteen times the cost of Southland station.
You have to hand it to the roads guys. While the marginal seats that gave the Coalition the last election keep waiting for Southland station, road funding keeps rolling on.
Southland station makes sense. The rail line runs adjacent to the west side of the centre. It’s the kind of destination midway along the line which can boost patronage (eg get people out of cars) without putting pressure on peak hour services.
It’s too close to Highett/Cheltenham! — no, it’d be about 1.2km to Highett, and 1.1km to Cheltenham, making the spacing similar to inner-city line sections, and in fact wider than the Ormond to Moorabbin section.
Parking would be a problem — no, not if Westfield applies parking limits (as long as 4-6 hours) and properly enforces them. Commuters should not be able to park at Southland.
It would kill Highett and/or Cheltenham and their shopping centres — no, because they would maintain their commuter car parks and bus connections, as well as considerable walk-up patronage. Southland would be primarily for inbound passengers, and those within walking distance for whom it is more convenient.
The other stations are close enough for people to walk — the nearest to Southland is Cheltenham, more than ten minutes walk away. People don’t live in railway stations — they’ve already made the effort to get on the train at their journey origin. Make them walk another ten minutes at their destination and they won’t do it. They don’t do it. Barely anybody catches the train to Southland now.
People can use the connecting buses — there are a number of buses, all fairly infrequent — hopelessly so on the busiest (weekend) shopping days, in fact it’s common to see the bus terminus completely devoid of buses. None of them are coordinated to connect with trains. At Cheltenham they depart from several different bus stops. Again, this is why few people catch the train to Southland.
Before the election
Both major parties promised to build Southland station. The Labor pledge was for a $45 million station, apparently including moving the existing bus terminus — which I’d argue is unnecessary, because almost all the bus routes involved intersect the Frankston line at other stations.
The Coalition policy was, in their exact words:
The $13 million Southland Railway Station on the Frankston line between Highett and Cheltenham will feature two platforms and ramps and lifts for full-time access by commuters with a disability, senior citizens, mothers with prams and children with bicycles.
Construction of the station will feature:
- a two-bay bus interchange;
- an enclosed waiting room on at least one platform;
- closed-circuit TV monitoring on both platforms;
- a secure Parkiteer bicycle cage on the city-bound platform;
- tactile paving on both platforms; and
- a designated drop-off and pick-up area.
– Press release: Coalition to rebuild the basics of Vic public transport network, 14/11/2010
After the election
So, what’s happened since the election? Some of the references found in a trawl of Hansard…
Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder, 21/12/2010:
I thank the member for her question in relation to the Southland railway station. As the member will be aware, there was a great deal of discussion within the broader community as to the cost and configuration of railway stations under the former Labor government. In particular the member would be aware that a consultant had a look at this particular station and costed it in the order of $10 million to $13 million.
In relation to Southland and other railway stations, I have given my department instructions to go back and look at the functionality and design of some of these stations, because under the previous government they were completely and totally out of control. There were no cost pressures put on the department to come up with functional designs that met the community’s expectations. That is what we are doing. That is the path we are going to go down. We want to make sure that we get value for money. The consultant’s report said it all. It was provided to the previous Labor government, but it did not know how to control costs.
Local newspaper, 12/1/2011:
Mr Mulder denied the project had been shelved, but would not provide any construction details.
“The Coalition Government is currently finalising the timetable for building the new Southland railway station,” Mr Mulder said.
“This commitment remains an important part of the government’s public transport initiatives. Further announcements will be made in due course.” Former Labor public transport minster and now government scrutiny spokesman Martin Pakula said this failure was one of several Liberal back-pedalling moves.
Mr Pakula said the $13 million was never a creditable budget for the station – the ALP projected it would cost $45 million – and was a bogus election promise. “Fixing the problems is harder than just putting together a press release,” he said.
Member for Bentleigh Elizabeth Miller, April 2011:
During the election campaign I made a commitment to my electorate of Bentleigh to see a railway station built at Southland shopping centre. This is a piece of infrastructure that is long overdue, which is symbolic of the previous Labor government’s inability to provide for our growing community. I ask the minister to provide an update on this commitment and on when my electorate can expect construction of this railway station to commence.
Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder, in response to the above, 7/4/2011:
I am delighted to inform the house that the Department of Transport has already undertaken a concept development study into the proposed Southland railway station and in the next couple of weeks the department expects to recommend that it move to the next step, which includes a concept design for the station plus scoping and costing. The issue of scoping and costing points to the difference between the new coalition government in Victoria and the former Labor government.
Member for Bentleigh Elizabeth Miller, talking about the state budget, 26/5/2011:
Some $700 000 has been allocated to begin planning for the railway station proposed for Southland, which will mean fewer cars on the road and increased patronage on public transport. Of course increased accessibility will mean more trade for retailers. This is an example of a project that has actually been thought through by a government and will produce benefits in the variety of ways which I have just outlined.
We are a responsible government. This is an important project that will seriously improve access to Southland shopping centre. Given its importance, it is critical to ensure that we get it right — and get it right we will. We will have a measured, rational study into what is required, so we are not going to waste the money. We will set out a defined, clear plan and get it right, and the people of Bentleigh and the residents around that shopping precinct will all benefit. The previous Labor government’s record of cost blow-outs exposed the fact that it did not adequately plan projects, and we are determined that this will not happen under a Baillieu government.
Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder, 25/10/2011:
I also understand from the feedback I am getting from the department that the planning and design work is going well. The coalition government’s station user panel is also assisting the Department of Transport in the development of these proposals. Given that we had so many disasters with railway station developments under the former Labor government we felt it was important to put in place a station user panel. We do not want similar issues with the projects we embark on.
We therefore have a very strong panel to inform design and look at issues in relation to functionality around stations.
The member for Bentleigh will be delighted to hear that Southland station is getting that level of support. The government expects formal community consultation to commence around March. The government will also be seeking input from community members about the design of the station and will work with the station user panel, using the concept design prepared by GHD as a reference point. Many major stakeholders are also giving feedback. I would like to thank the local councils for their interest and work in that regard. I can inform the member for Bentleigh that the Department of Transport will be having further discussions with shopping centre owners Ventana Pty Ltd, the Westfield Group and AMP in relation to this very important project. It is an exciting project which will increase the accessibility of Southland shopping centre and the bulk goods retail stores nearby, not to mention the local light industrial areas.
Lee Tarlamis, upper house member for Southeast Metropolitan, 7/6/2012:
Another commitment that was made before the election was for a train station at Southland. This budget is silent on funding for the $13 million promised at the last election. I recognise that $700 000 has been allocated for planning, but if this promise is to be fulfilled in this term, as postulated by the members for Bentleigh and Mordialloc in the Assembly, money needs to be allocated in the budget to build it. Members of the government have called me a liar for pursuing this issue of funding and the government’s commitment to it, but until it allocates the money we can only assume it is not committed to this project.
Local paper, 13/11/2012:
PLANS for a railway station at Southland (pictured) are still on track, the Transport Minister promises.
State Public Transport Terry Mulder said despite no obvious progression in the past two years, the station would definitely be delivered.
The Coalition in the 2010 election gained power by just one seat – on a platform of improving public transport, especially along the Frankston line. Both parties spruiked a new Bay Rd station as a key policy of their campaigns.
But no physical work has started on the project, designed to improve access to the shopping centre and provide another commuting gateway for Cheltenham residents.
Mr Mulder said things were progressing behind the scenes. “The Southland station project continues to be in planning and development,” he said.
“Public Transport Victoria is working to identify the exact location of a station, indicative station layout and access requirements and connections with local bus routes, roads and surrounding residents and businesses.”
The Age, yesterday, in an article about the marginal seats along the Frankston line:
It is a similar story for Bentleigh’s Elizabeth Miller although somewhat alarmingly one of her big campaign promises – to build a station at Southland for $13 million – will not be honoured in the Baillieu government’s first term.
So there we have it.
In summary, apparently some study work has happened, but little visible progress, no construction funding, and they’ve finally admitted it won’t be delivered during this term of government.
Meanwhile the next section of the Dingley Bypass, a pseudo-freeway from the eastern end of Moorabbin to Dingley Village, is going ahead at a cost of $156 million — or ten times the Southland station pledge.
(I’m not sure how Vicroads gets away with describing it as a new road from Warrigal Road, given the first section already exists as the South Road extension, built only in 2007.)
Vicroads are supremely well-organised, of course. The plans for the Dingley Bypass have been sitting around for decades, and you can be sure it’ll be finished first.
A few years ago they fixed what was probably Melbourne’s most confusing bus route, but plenty of others are still running confusing, spaghetti-like routes around the suburbs. Often your trip from A to B travels via the rest of the alphabet.
A PTUA report out today tries to measure how much buses meander, by comparing the route distance to the quickest possible road route from start to end.
On average, bus routes were 70% longer than the direct alternative …
Some 20% of Melbourne bus routes were so indirect that the route length was more than double the shortest distance by road.
This results in routes which are not only confusing, they are slow to use, and generally infrequent (because more buses are needed to run the route if it is longer than it needs to be). The result is many bus routes are unattractive to those with an option of driving — resulting in under-used buses and increased traffic on the roads.
There is some hope: Smartbus. These have shown that more direct, frequent services are very popular, including in outer-suburban areas often thought to be the exclusive domain of the car.
In the Age story today on the report (and covering some other bus issues), PTV (which has expressed interest in the past about improving bus route efficiency) defends the current position:
…Public Transport Victoria said bus routes had to provide a balancing act between delivering speedy cross-town travel and serving locals on shorter trips.
Ah yes, but the current services aren’t very efficient at serving locals on shorter trips either.
For example, to get from Moorabbin (the area around the shops/station) to Southland, a distance of 3km (or about 5 minutes in a car), your choices are:
- Bus 823, a bus direct down the highway taking 8 minutes, but it only runs once an hour on weekdays, and not at all on weekends
- Bus 811/812, which goes via the industrial areas of Moorabbin, taking between 15 and 22 minutes (at least it runs every day, though only every 30 minutes on weekdays, and only hourly on weekends)
- Bus 825, via Sandringham, Black Rock and Mentone, and taking 40 minutes (also runs every day; every 20 minutes on weekdays, but only hourly on weekends)
- Or catch the train to Cheltenham (since as yet there is no Southland station), then walk for 15 minutes, or choose from one of half-a-dozen buses, departing from numerous different stops, and none of them timed to meet the train
No wonder most people drive.
I don’t have a proper blog post for you, so here’s a few pictures from the last week or so.
If you were looking for Myer’s Lonsdale Street store, it’s gone — almost all of it except the facade.
(When I was a kid, we often went into the City on a Friday night, had dinner at the Coles cafeteria in Bourke Street, then made our way up through the back of Myer to level 6, where the toy department was, before heading to Lonsdale Street to catch the 602 bus home.)
Great to see Yarra Trams continuing its removal of mystery “phantom” route numbers. This “67a” (that’s “a” for altered) was diverted during the Queen’s visit.
Darth Maul in a playful mood at EB Games, Southland.
I’m very pleased. After years of pressure, both major parties have pledged to build Southland station. The Liberals promised it last week, and yesterday the ALP came to the party. (As recently as last week, I ran into ALP’s Rob Hudson at Bentleigh station and he said he was pushing for it. At the time I’m not sure I believed anything would come of it.)
Southland was extended in the late-1990s across the highway to the railway line. It’s plainly ridiculous that such a major suburban destination should not have a railway station. While I’ve done it, Cheltenham station is too far for most people to walk (remember, they’ve had to walk to the station from home already, and the buses from the station to the centre depart from several different stops, making even their combined services unusable.
The local buses from nearby suburbs are hopeless. There are no Smartbuses; while the 600/922/923 runs reasonably frequently (due to the historical accident of it being a descendant of the Sandringham to Black Rock tram, and yes, it’s a bus route with three different numbers — ain’t it marvellous?) most of the others are hourly at weekends — the busiest shopping days. The result of course is chaos in the carparks.
So it’ll be good to see the station will finally be built.
A 2004 government study indicated the cost should be $10-14 million. The Libs pledge has come out at $13 million. Labor’s is at a whopping $45 million, which includes a full relocation of the bus interchange (some genius decided when it was built ten years ago that it shouldn’t be near a future station) — whereas the Libs’ only includes two bus bays, and presumably would have most buses either bypassing the station, or stopping briefly there on the way through. This would not necessarily be a problem, as all but one bus route connects with the Frankston line elsewhere.
And cruicially, it’s just the kind of intermediate trip generator that the Frankston line needs. These suburban destinations help a lot because there’s plenty of capacity on trains in and out of Southland at most times of day, meaning a lot more people can use PT for their trips without adding to pressure on overcrowded services.
- The PTUA put out its election scorecard on Wednesday. It’s been updated to take into account the latest pledges, but of the big three, the Greens still lead with an A, the Coalition on a B (largely due to these two parties’ pledges to introduce an independent public transport authority to better plan, manage and coordinate the network) and Labor on a C.
- Meanwhile the Democrats have leapt head-first into the chasm of irrelevancy by pledging to build maglev trains. Ian tells me there’s a maglev carriage for sale in Birmingham, from the former airport terminal connector line — maybe they can buy that one to start them off.
Over the years, my taste in clothing (as well as other things such as food) has improved immeasurably. Various influences – in particular certain girlfriends – have led me to try and take a little more care of my appearance. I’m not quite up to the standard proffered by The Age recently of the "Metrosexual", but I don’t enjoy looking like a slob. Even if I still do look like a slob sometimes. It’s a gradual progression, as the clothes budget becomes available, and more importantly, as I get inspiration and figure out what it is I want.
I decided during the week that I was in dire need of a new jacket for work. The old ones aren’t exactly falling to bits, but they’ve started to take on that kind of scruffy look that means I don’t feel very comfortable wearing them. I don’t want to look like a scruff. I want to be under the delusion that I’m well-dressed. Particularly at work. I’m meant to be a successful urban IT professional, and I should look it, too.
I am the world’s worst clothes shopper. If I don’t have inspiration, the sheer stamina required to put up with my endless umming and ahhing is monumental. It’s a trip I should do alone. After looking all week for inspiration from the people at work, the people on the train, the people walking around the city, but not finding anything, I had taken a look around some city shops on Friday after work. Nothing had grabbed me, but inspiration came later from watching The Sopranos
that night (I’d taped it on Monday). I found myself watching and thinking – hey, you know that’s a nice jacket that (sadistic maniac) Ralph is wearing. Something like that might be good.
So with that little nugget of inspiration, I went shopping on Saturday afternoon. A little retail therapy after the auction to get over the minor disappointment about not getting the house.
Where should I go? Some of the jackets I had seen in DJs in the city had been quite good, if a trifle on the expensive side. But I couldn’t be bothered going to the city, could I? Instead I got in the car and drove to Chadstone. Ah, Chadstone, a hundred thousand square metres of shops, and never a parking spot free, and buses only every hour on Saturdays. I drove around and around for what seemed an age, but was probably about five minutes, and eventually found a spot. But could I find a jacket that I liked? No. Hmmm. 2:30pm. Remembering that I wouldn’t have time the next day to go shopping, I drove to Southland.
Ah, Southland. Not quite as big as Chadstone, but just as annoying to find a parking spot in. No, more annoying. I tried on the eastern half initially. I drove around and around, watching as the other cars I saw started to look more and more familiar. They were driving around in much the same circles as I was. Ah! A spot! There! No, damn, it’s for parents with prams. I wish I still had that old pram in the back of the car.
Also on the train into the city – two blokes and a washing machine.
I drove out of the car park and considered looking for somewhere to park in a nearby street. But instead I drove over to the newer western part of the centre. Up the ramp to the top, and I immediately found a spot. The last spot, it appeared, as other cars continued to circle up there. Then I looked around the shops. Saw various jackets, and almost considered thinking about buying one in DJs, but decided No. It really wouldn’t do. It was not quite what I wanted. Fussy bastard, aren’t I?
It was 3:30pm. Hey, what about the ones I had seen in the city at DJs? On sale until tomorrow? They didn’t seem to have the same ones at Southland and Chadstone. Yeah, they’re nice. What time do they close? I drove home, and checked. 6pm. Plenty of time. So I jumped on the train, and half an hour later, with no parking hassles whatsoever, I was in DJs in the city looking at their jackets, and miracle of miracles, I found one I liked. No, really liked. On sale, though still almost stupidly expensive. No matter, I bought it anyway. It’s totally lovely, and I’ll feel and look great (well, apart from the recurring acne, why am I still getting that at 32 years old?!) tomorrow morning when I go to work. Retail therapy works!
I came home, then headed out to the supermarket looking for food. I settled on the ingredients for enchiladas for dinner. Good stuff. And as I was leaving through the checkout, the bloke behind me saw my cloth bag and by golly decided he’d ask the checkout chick to put his groceries into his backpack. Obviously with recent debate, the whole plastic bag thing is increasing in peoples’ consciousness.
I ate enchiladas and dug out a video of Earthshock to watch. Ahhhh… relaxation.
So the lesson for me in all of this? In clothes, look for inspiration everywhere. Once it’s found, go shop. Make sure the credit card is cleared and ready for action. And don’t bother looking in the suburban shopping centres – go for the city – it’s got it all and more.
Hey… you know… I need some new ties…