Old photos from December 2007

Here’s another in my series of ten year old photos, this time from December 2007.

Rain at Flinders Street Station. This shot captured a particular problem with the drainage which saw water gushing down past the door of this Hitachi train. Hopefully that issue is long since fixed, or at least being resolved in the current renovation.
Flinders Street Station in the rain, December 2007

Ever wondered what’s inside one of those Information totems in Melbourne’s CBD? The answer back then was, not much. Also notable: the Port Phillip Arcade, recently demolished to make way for the Metro tunnel, and the old tram stop, pre-platform superstop.
Information totem outside Flinders Street Station, December 2007

The bike path alongside the railway line between Ormond and McKinnon. Grade separation in this section has put much of the rail line below street level, though just here is a spot where it comes back up to get over the Murray Road drain. I think I took this photo to illustrate the poor council habit of trimming trees to a height that was fine for walkers, but useless for cyclists. They’ve done far better more recently.
Bike path between Ormond and McKinnon stations, December 2007

Definitely not resolved yet: speed restrictions at the Glenhuntly level crossing mean that trains, even expresses, have to slow down to a crawl.
Glenhuntly station train speed restriction, December 2007

This photo was documenting fuel prices of the time. For a while the Peak Oil theory has contended that as oil became harder to find and extract, petrol prices would skyrocket. For whatever reason, that hasn’t happened yet — prices are much the same nowadays. In fact petrol is cheaper in real terms: $1.439 in 2007 dollars was $1.78 in 2016.
Petrol prices, December 2007

Monty Python’s Spamalot at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. At some stage I took my sons along. It wasn’t entirely suitable for children, but I recall they enjoyed it.
Spamalot at Her Majesty's Theatre, December 2007

Christmas morning at the newly completed Southern Cross Station. V/Line and other operators were offering free services, but with very limited services. I’m not even sure if they took bookings or just expected everyone to turn up. This is the departure for Shepparton. Free rides are a nice gesture, but when demand is so heavy, it has to be managed. (Perhaps for V/Line a gold coin donation to charity is more appropriate?)
Crowding on the train to Shepparton, Southern Cross Station, Christmas Day 2007

Things were a little calmer on some of the other platforms.
Southern Cross Station, Christmas Day 2007

A little later on Christmas morning, about 10am, pretty quiet at Melbourne’s busiest street corner.
Outside Flinders Street Station, Christmas Day 2007

…and on the concourse at Flinders Street, which is much the same as it was back then.
Flinders Street Station, Christmas Day 2007

…ditto on the platforms.
Flinders Street Station, Christmas Day 2007

I finally got air-con

(To just see transport-related blog posts, you can use this link — which is also on the top navigation menu)

For years I’ve resisted air-conditioning at home.

Partly it was the cost, partly it was that I really wanted to pursue passive cooling as much as I could — measures that used little or no energy.

To that end, three rooms have ceiling fans, three more have standing fans. The three rooms with the biggest windows have external blinds.

And there’s insulation in the roof. (I haven’t yet explored options for wall insulation or double-glazing, which I suppose I should, especially given it’s a weatherboard house.)

All this helps the house stay cool… to an extent. It’s much cooler than outside on the really hot days, and much better than it used to be, but it still gets up to an uncomfortable 30ish degrees indoors on 35+ days.

This summer I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get an air-conditioner, which will cool the livingroom and adjacent areas.

Split system air-conditioner

Part of what got me over the line was that I finally found an air-conditioning company willing to publish useful information for prospective buyers, rather than making you ring them up and have the sales pitch blasted at you. Thanks Current Force Electrics.

For ages I’d been looking for a rough indication of how much it might cost, and no other company’s web site publishes that type of information. It’s like window shopping but there’s no prices in the window. I don’t know about you, but it puts me off.

Current Force also have useful information helping you work out capacity you need for a particular space, and they clearly explain some of the types of installations, with regard to positioning the outdoor unit. They also do quotes by email, by getting you to send in photos of the space.

I’ve ended up with a 5 KW (cooling) / 6 KW (heating) Fujitsu model, which should be plenty of power for the space, given the other measures already in place.

They installed it on Thursday. It took about 90 minutes. Since then, the weather has been cool, but it’s expected to reach 36 degrees on Wednesday, so air-conditioning will make a big difference to the indoor temperature — and to my power bills, no doubt.

A future house upgrade might be solar power to help offset the additional power, if I can figure out where on my smallish roof it should go.

I’d also potentially consider smaller air-conditioner units in the bedrooms.

My sense is the fans are usually adequate at night — in fact I’m going to get the ceiling fan from the livingroom moved into a bedroom.

But one argument for fitting out the bedrooms with split system units that can both cool and heat is to phase-out use of my old gas central heating in the winter — doing this job with green power (preferably roof-top solar) instead of gas is more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly, and quite possibly cheaper as well.

And if overall temperatures keep rising, it’s probably inevitable that passive cooling just won’t cut it anymore.

Why shut down trains in December? Because there’s something even bigger coming in January

For the past five days — from 8:30pm last Thursday, to last night (Tuesday) — the Belgrave, Lilydale, Alamein and Glen Waverley lines were replaced by buses between the city and Camberwell/Darling.

Thankfully it’s over now. But it was a huge disruption, affecting passengers on a full quarter of the network.

PTV station boarding figures from 2014 indicate the affected stations have 113,700 boardings per weekday. Assuming most of those passengers travel into the area where trains weren’t running, and most make a return trip, we’re probably talking about more than 200,000 trips per weekday impacted.

The effects have been felt right across the eastern suburbs:

  • Long queues of passengers at Parliament and Camberwell, and long queues of buses in nearby streets
  • Extra passengers on tram routes in the area, including 70, 75, 109, 72 — to the point where many have been unable to board along the route — and to a lesser extent 5, 6, 3
  • Extra passengers on buses in the area, including 906, 907, 302 and 304, prompting some extra buses, but from what I hear, nowhere near enough
  • Extra passengers on nearby train lines including Cranbourne/Pakenham and Frankston
  • More private vehicles on the roads, slowing down buses and trams, as well as clogging up the Eastern Freeway

For those who braved the train replacement buses, there have been long delays, both at interchange hubs such as Camberwell, and on the buses themselves, which have been caught in traffic. On Friday there was the additional challenge of the weather.

Rail upgrade works are important; everyone knows they need to happen. And there are lots on at the moment, with level crossing removals, and plenty of other projects bubbling along.

Why in December?

The number one question people have been asking is:

Why such a big shutdown in December? Why not January, when there are fewer people travelling?

It’s because… there’s something even bigger coming in January.

Nothing’s been officially announced yet, but I’ve been told several times (and it wasn’t flagged as confidential) that major works will shut down the entire Caulfield group in early January.

Caveat: The details I have are sketchy, and the details may have changed, or I could be totally wrong in what I’ve heard. So take this with a grain of salt:

My understanding is that from the 2nd to the 7th 9th of January, all Cranbourne, Pakenham and Frankston trains will terminate at Moorabbin and Westall Caulfield (or possibly even Oakleigh, according to my scribbled notes), and my assumption is that Sandringham trains will terminate at Elsternwick.

Update 7/12/2017: Corrected the above, as official information has now been published. See the bottom of this post.

The entire inner-city section of those lines will be replaced by buses — though they may get creative and bus some people over to other lines, just as they’ve done with parts of the Glen Waverley line recently. You’d hope they’d put extra trains on other lines, and co-ordinate with authorities managing roads, trams and buses as well… given the past few days.

The affected stations on these lines to be closed account for 165,880 122,830 boardings per weekday, about 45% 8% more than the Burnley group of lines.

Trust me when I say that as a Frankston passenger, this is not going to be fun. Maybe I should book some annual leave?

Rail works, Patterson station, July 2016

Why don’t they give us longer notice?

Some of these projects are years in planning. It beats me why authorities don’t flag them further in advance more than a couple of weeks.

Even now, as people continue to ask why the Burnley group works didn’t wait until January, they don’t have an answer to share.

If people had more notice, some of them might be able to plan leave from work, to make things easier for themselves.

Workplaces might be able to adjust shift times, or organise car pooling or working from home.

At the very least people might be able to understand the context of the overall works plan, and why some projects are scheduled at particular times.

It’s perfectly possible to give 2-3 months notice… because it’s been done before.

Back in 2012, then-public transport minister Terry Mulder made the decision to flag major works up to 3 months in advance.

As you can see thanks to the Web Archive, this Department of Transport page from March 2012 listed major works up to the end of May.

This didn’t last long. As I recall, within six months, they were back to flagging works only a couple of weeks in advance, though Yarra Trams has a list that includes some advance changes, and sometimes the Level Crossing Removal Authority gives longer notice of major shutdowns.

Publicising major works well in advance wouldn’t help everybody, but it would help some. And the more people who can plan their holidays or travel around those disruptions, the better for everybody.

Update 7/12/2017 – Official info released

The day after this blog was published, Metro and PTV largely confirmed the January closure, though the details have changed a bit along the way.

This notice has appeared on the Metro web site: Buses replace trains: Flinders Street – Moorabbin & Westall, Tuesday 2 January – Tuesday 9 January 2018 (also on the PTV web site)

and: Buses replace trains: Caulfield – Dandenong, Wednesday 10 January – Thursday 25 January 2018 (all day in the first week, then in sections in evenings only after that — click through for details). (Also on the PTV web site)

It appears the Sandringham line will not be affected, however there will be express buses from Moorabbin to Brighton Beach, meaning many Frankston line passengers will be added to that line. There are also buses from Westall to East Malvern on the Glen Waverley line. Hopefully both lines both get additional services.

Dash it all! Why intersection markings are changing

You may have noticed that some intersection markings, including pedestrian crossings, are changing.

Solid white lines are becoming dashed white lines. Ditto turning lines at intersections.

Intersection near Southland Shopping Centre

This change brings Victorian practice into line with the Australian standard.

NSW (and probably other states) used to have solid lines too, but sometime in the last few decades have switched to dashed.

Until recently, Victoria was the only jurisdiction to still use solid lines, but started switching in November 2015.

I first noticed them in early 2016:

This Vicroads page (since removed, but still available via the Web archive) explains it all.

It says they won’t go around and convert them all, but new lines will be in the new style, so it’ll be a gradual transition.

And it says that when they restoring/repainting part of a solid line (or a set of two solid lines), it’s meant to stay solid. I’ve seen numerous locations where this isn’t the case; whoever has done it has left one solid, one dashed line, or lines that are part solid, part dashed.

Mixed intersection markings, Murrumbeena

I can see how it’d make sense to move to the national standard.

Other changes over time have been more significant. It used to be that right hand turning vehicles had priority over left turners.

This change will mean the crossing looks different from the stop line. It may prevent confused motorists turning and stopping at intersection exits where they see a red light and (currently) a solid line.

And one might fantasise that somehow possibly it might also improve motorist compliance at pedestrian crossings, to kerb the relentless and unchecked practice of vehicles blocking pedestrians.

Though somehow I doubt it.

Bentleigh station isn’t finished

Now that we’ve finished talking about names of yet-to-be-built stations, let’s talk about some recently built ones.

Last Saturday a steam train ran to celebrate a year (and a bit) since the new Bentleigh/McKinnon/Ormond stations re-opened, following level crossing removals.

But while they’ve now been in use for well over a year, the stations aren’t actually finished.

Even leaving aside the controversial Ormond tower, there are numerous little things that haven’t been completed.

The bike cages at Ormond and McKinnon seem to be in use (after some delays), but the one at Bentleigh is suspiciously empty, leading me to believe the issues with its construction are still not resolved — though Bentleigh is listed on the Parkiteer web site.
Bike cage at Bentleigh station

The retail space at Bentleigh and McKinnon hasn’t been leased… it hasn’t even been fitted out! I’m told this is in VicTracks’ hands. This should be a prime location. How much revenue (that could offset the project cost) has been foregone? (Ormond doesn’t have such a space.)
McKinnon station retail space
Retail space at Bentleigh station

The Smartbus signs at Bentleigh still aren’t operational. The eastbound sign hasn’t been fully working since 2011 when the train departure times were switched off. It was removed completely for the level crossing removals, and then put back — but now even the bus times are displayed at present. Its smaller twin (with space for bus times only) for westbound buses doesn’t work either.
Bentleigh station Smartbus sign, not working

The small picnic area between Bentleigh and McKinnon appeared to be completed, and was looking nice, until recently when someone took away the benches. Only the rubbish bin has been left. It’s not clear why, nor if it’s permanent.
Small recreation area between Bentleigh and McKinnon stations

Also of note: some pretty sloppy work that has left drainage problems on platform 3 at Bentleigh…
Bentleigh station platform 3

…and on the south-east side of the bridge.
Footpath opposite Bentleigh station

This is just what I’ve noticed when using the stations. There seems to be a steady stream of workers still doing little jobs — is it maintenance, or are there other things not completed?

The achievements of the level crossing removal project — a massive upgrade that has benefited motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users alike — are to be celebrated.

But with dozens of similar projects underway around Melbourne, it seems to me they need to get better at ensuring everything gets finished so they can draw a line under it and move on.

Update 6/12/2017:

I noticed another thing: despite me asking Metro about it multiple times, the signage at Patterson advising which trains use which platforms at which times, removed during the project, still hasn’t been replaced:

Patterson station entrance

And: Liberal Bentleigh candidate Asher Judah has posted this on Twitter, about the Smartbus sign: