For the first time in many years, I caught the last train home last night.
So was it the dark, dingy, delayed and dangerous experience many assume it is? No.
The train ride itself? Peacefully quiet. Along the way, at South Yarra and Ormond, the PSOs on duty could be seen intently studying those inside, looking for any trouble, but they found none.
It’ll be interesting to see if, as the Coalition predicted at least at one stage, the PSO deployment results in more people using trains at night, as perceptions of safety improve.
Fact is, the only niggles on this particular train ride were the long wait (after about 10:30pm it’s half an hour between trains on most lines; I’d got there at about 11:55, so had to wait until 12:15) and the amount of litter in the carriage, which was noticeable though not out of control… neither of these issues will be fixed by PSOs, of course.
On alighting at Bentleigh to walk home, the station assistant was knocking off as the train departed.
And those of us leaving the train there walked off into the darkness.
PS. Saturday, for those who didn’t get the post title reference:
The thump at Glenhuntly made me look up.
Further up the train carriage, passengers were milling around. One of them had taken a fall — tripped in the doorway, it appeared. It was
an old man a senior gentleman. Others helped him up and into a seat.
The train doors had shut and we were starting to move. They conferred, and agreed to use the emergency intercom. One of the ladies went for it.
The driver responded with the business-like demeanour of someone who has responded to too many false-alarms. The lady explained what had happened and asked that an ambulance be called. The driver said he’d get one, to meet the train at Caulfield. A few minutes later this was confirmed by Metro’s Twitter team:
@danielbowen Ambulance has been called to meet train at Caulfield.
— Metro Trains (@metrotrains) June 10, 2013
On arrival at Caulfield, two passengers helped the injured man, who I’m going to guess looked at least in his 70s, and quite dazed, off the train and over to a bench. Intercom lady went up the platform to speak to the driver, who came down to check. We waited, and — since it appeared everything was being handled well — I pondered if I should jump ship and change platforms to another train to get to work.
After a couple of minutes a station staff member approached and went to sit with the man until the ambulance arrived. The train then departed.
Some thoughts on this…
Well done to the numerous passengers who helped him, and the driver and other staffers for getting the ambulance. I hope the gentleman was okay, but it heartens me that people immediately came to his assistance. I would have helped too, but with half-a-dozen closer doing so, didn’t need to.
People sometimes talk about our city getting bigger and that with this we lose our humanity. I don’t think it’s true.
It’s lucky Caulfield is a staffed station. If not, the driver being the only staff member present would have had to have minded the injured man until the ambulance arrived — something I’ve previously seen happen at Gardenvale. In peak hour traffic, who knows how long that might have taken.
Finally, it’s worth noting that some train networks such as Perth are engineered to a high standard, and at most stations don’t have a significant gap or step up into the train. As yet there appears to be no system-wide plan to fix this in Melbourne.
I was pondering awareness of a couple of things, so decided to try a quick online survey. Over about 24 hours it got just over 100 responses… unfortunately unless I pay SurveyMonkey $19 per month, they’ll only tell me about the first 100. I think I’ll just go with those for now. (Some people didn’t respond to questions, which is why the totals add up to 98.)
This seems to show that while most are aware of it, some still aren’t, despite having been available in various forms since April 2005 — over 8 years. At $3.50 for all-day travel in zones 1+2, it’s a bit of a bargain, and while price isn’t everything, where the services are half-decent, it can encourage more people to use PT on weekends.
Secondly, the ten minute services that have been running for about a year:
I didn’t ask where people are from or where they travel, but it seems few are aware that on the three longest & busiest lines there’s now a pretty damn good weekend service frequency.
What these responses say to me is that PTV are still lacking when it comes to promotion.
Cheap fares, and trains every ten minutes on the three busiest lines? They should be promoting the hell out of this.
As I’ve said before, weekend train services are now better than they’ve ever been, but there’s been hardly any promotion, and what there has been has been so vague as to be pointless.
If we’re going to see frequent services on all lines, every day, demonstrable growth in patronage on these first ones needs to be shown. For that to happen, they have to be promoted properly.
PTV is meant to be promoting public transport. They do so, but in promoting these two key messages, they don’t appear to be kicking goals.
A few other good things that are not well promoted
Touch-on Myki at the station then find trains aren’t running? Touch-off again between 30 secs and 15 mins later; you won’t get charged.
No time (or no facility) to top-up your Myki Money? As long it’s 1 cent or more, you can make one trip and top-up later.
The Huntingdale station to Monash Uni 601 shuttle runs every 4 mins 7am-7pm weekdays (then every 12 mins to 9:30pm)
The North Melbourne station to University/Hospital Precinct 401 shuttle runs every 3-6 minutes 6:45am-7:30pm weekdays.
The way the state budget has been framed in terms of transport was almost inevitable: the East-West motorway (stage 1) vs the Metro Rail Tunnel, with the motorway winning this round.
While they are quite different projects, serving (mostly) different markets and (attempting to be) solving different problems, I thought it might be interesting to look at them side-by-side them, based on known facts and some slightly shaky estimates, and using some doubtful metrics to compare.
|Project||Metro rail tunnel||East-west motorway tunnel (stage 1)|
|Where||South Kensington to South Yarra||Clifton Hill to Flemington|
|Estimated cost||$5-9 billion||$6-8 billion [cite]|
|Length||9 km [cite]||8 km [cite]|
|Cost per km||$0.56 – 1 billion per km||$0.75 – 1 billion per km|
|Theoretical capacity per hour||30 trains
x 1000 people per train
x 2 directions
= 60,000 [cite]
x 2000 vehicles per hour
x 1.2 people per vehicle
x 2 directions
(or some capacity for freight)
|Approx cost per person capacity per hour||$83,000 – $150,000 per person||$416,000 – $555,000 per person|
|Stations/interchanges||Arden (North Melbourne)
(Unfortunately it appears the tunnel will not include an interchange station at South Yarra.)
Flemington Road citybound
|Main trips/destinations served
(excluding future extensions)
St Kilda Road
Tram connections to inner suburbs
|Between Eastlink/Eastern freeway corridors and:
CBD and University/hospital precinct via Flemington Road
|Construction funding||Zilch so far, only planning money
|$0.293 billion from the state government
(about 4% of total cost, though it’s suspected some of this is planning money)
As I said, they are different projects serving different markets, and probably shouldn’t be directly compared like this. But there are some points to be made by doing so.
For both, reaching the theoretical capacity depends on removing other bottlenecks, and making sure feeder routes (whether PT or road) are completely optimised. But if you can do it, even the huge cost of underground rail is still many many times cheaper for the capacity brought than underground roads.
The government is talking of the road in terms of “city-shaping”. The problem is it’s city-shaping towards more car dependence, with all its problems and inefficiencies. As some have pointed out, the Eastern Freeway already gets clogged in the Box Hill area — inducing more traffic (motorists heading west from Clifton Hill) is not going to help this; nor is it going to help motorists heading south down Hoddle Street towards the inner-city.
If they were serious about ensuring the efficient movement of the city’s growing population, they’d be investing heavily in the most efficient mode, and helping more people get around more often leaving the car at home (or even ditching one of the cars in their household).
That would be city-shaping, in a good way.
- Marcus Wong recently wrote up an excellent summary of what’s known about the Metro rail tunnel
9am: updated with higher $9b rail tunnel cost estimate.
The Frankston line is to get upgrades worth $100 million — signalling changes to allow X’Trapolis trains to run, more shelter at stations, better CCTV, and better passenger information, including about connecting buses and trams.
The Premier, Public Transport Minister, local (Coalition) MPs, heads of PTV and Metro and even the Mayor of Glen Eira were at Bentleigh station this morning for an announcement.
I heard it was happening, so decided to ambush the press conference and listen in. (Just like old times.)
The press release details what’s included:
“Frankston line passengers will also benefit from improvements to station lighting, the installation of extra CCTV cameras, the extension of station platform canopies to provide more weather protection, additional myki readers and disability access improvements.
“Frankston line stations will also have new passenger information screens installed which display real time updates for trains, trams and buses, providing improved information for commuters as they arrive at stations.
“The Coalition Government’s doubling in train frequencies to every 10 minutes during the day on weekends on the Dandenong, Frankston and Ringwood lines has been successful, and now it is time to roll out further improvements,” Mr Mulder said.
This all sounds pretty good.
In fact, it sounds like precisely the sort of upgrade which should be carried out on lines across the network.
Along with the ten minute trains now seen on the line every day, a good amount of shelter, good lighting and CCTV and real time connection information is not unreasonable to expect on all our rail lines.
I had a quick chat to Andrew Lezala from Metro — it seems the acceleration of the X’trapolis and Siemens trains are similar, so they’d like to predominantly run those on the Frankston line, and tweak the timetable to match.
Presumably this means Comeng trains will go elsewhere — and it would also mean the Williamstown and Werribee lines will also get X’trapolises, since most Frankston trains through-route to there.
What wasn’t announced?
More services — we’ve already seen ten minute services every day on the line during off-peak (though few people know about them) — better than any other line in Melbourne, so I think it’s fair enough to let that be for now. But peak could do with a boost to cope with crowding and a clean-up of peak shoulder would help too.
Grade separation — North Road grade separation is coming along (though is not quite “delivered” yet, as a flyer from the local member recently claimed), but no others on this line are proposed at present. The Premier and Minister had caught the train to Bentleigh, and when I had a chat with him, the Premier noted the extremely slow speed over the Glenhuntly train/tram crossing. I think he may have made noises about improving it, but I’m assuming this does not amount to a promise to grade separate!
Southland station — One of the journos asked about Southland. Terry Mulder said that because it involves building on land owned by the shopping centre, they are in negotiations over that. He seemed to also say that it would happen soon, without giving a firm time line, but it did say it would definitely happen.
Station staff — Nup. They’re still pushing the PSOs policy, even though much crime happens before 6pm, and many stations see little or nothing happen.
Connections — The upgrade will include real time information about connections, but of course one of the things lacking is the frequency of those connecting services. Passengers in Glenhuntly are lucky enough to have trams every 10-15 minutes every day, but those relying on buses see mostly hourly weekend services, and some (such as the Bentleigh to Brighton end of the 703) don’t run on Sundays.
The gunzel version
X’Traps to replace Comengs on the Franga line! Get photos!!
When will things start to happen
It’s hard not to see that this package of upgrade works is aimed squarely at the row of marginal seats along the Frankston line. As such I’d be surprised if some of the more visible changes don’t start to happen in the next 12 months, well in time for the election in November 2014.
With trains every ten minutes, better realtime information and station shelters, enhanced CCTV, more reliable services… sounds like just the sort of thing that should be rolled-out across the rail network.
But $100 million is also a lot of money. For instance, yesterday it was announced that a new high school in the Mernda/Doreen area would be built… costing $11.5 million. Some are pointing out that $100 million would pay for duplication on some of the single-line sections of other lines, which would make a huge difference to reliability.
A lot of the unfortunate jellybean characters are depicted around CBD railway stations at the moment as part of Metro’s Dumb Ways To Die campaign. I was amused at the placement of this one:
…but this one is even better. (Only a short video — don’t bother with the sound; it adds nothing.)
Perhaps I’m easily amused, but that did make me laugh. Very clever.
“We spoke to Infrastructure Australia and their advice was that the most pressing road priority in Melbourne was the east-west link,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Frankston on Thursday.
“Now the Commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”
– The Age
Perhaps the Federal Coalition has no history of funding urban rail, but the Commonwealth most certainly does.
Several urban rail projects are currently being built with Commonwealth funding:
Moreton Bay rail link (Qld) — $742m from the Commonwealth, $300m plus land from the Queensland government, and $105m from the local council.
Regional Rail Link (Vic) — which despite its name, is entirely within Melbourne, and will serve two new suburban stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale. $3.225 billion from the Commonwealth government, and about a billion from the state.
Perth City Link — is a sinking of one rail line in inner-city Perth, with $236 million of Commonwealth funding for rail infrastructure.
Not heavy rail, but certainly urban: the Gold Coast light rail project includes Commonwealth funding.
In recent times, other projects have gained Commonwealth funding. In Victoria alone there’s been $95 million from the Feds for inner-Melbourne rail freight upgrades, $30 million for level crossing upgrades (some in regional areas, some metropolitan), and $40 million for planning work for the Metro rail tunnel… with rumours today that the tunnel will get more funding, presumably if Federal Labor is re-elected.
Going back a few years, Melbourne’s Cranbourne line was upgraded and electrified in the 90s with money from the Commonwealth’s Building Better Cities scheme.
Commonwealth funding was also used for the “4D” double-deck development train.
These are just the projects I found during a quick search around on Google last night. No doubt there are others.
Despite what Abbott thinks, the real distinction (which is more relevant to PT than to roads) is that the Commonwealth gives once-off funding. What they don’t generally do is recurrent funding — required to actually run public transport, but also required to maintain roads — in fact people often forget that the rough cost of roads maintenance is about 1% of the construction cost per year.
The Commonwealth can fund what they like
It might be convention for conservatives not to fund urban rail, but there’s no reason they can’t. It’s entirely up to them.
I think all but the most car-centric person would see that in modern growing cities, you can’t move everybody around by road — that rail, particularly in inner-city areas, is much more efficient.
Unfortunately unlike some of his Liberal colleagues (and unlike conservatives in such places as the UK), Tony Abbott does appear to be the most car-centric person.
It comes down to this: if you want more people on public transport, provide more public transport. If you want more people on the roads, build more roads. Abbott is clearly backing the latter.
In the 21st century, with car use waning and urban public transport booming, this is a regressive stance, and should make people think twice about voting for the Coalition in September.
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.