So, a new train timetable starts in June, shaking up the Frankston line in particular, but also the Dandenong line and minor tweaks on some of the other lines.
About a year ago I remarked that the Frankston line was using a timetable from the 90s, and little had changed in 15 years.
Looking again at the times from Glenhuntly (my old station) into the city, let’s update the comparison:
So for the stations between
Highett Patterson and Glenhuntly, we’ll have the same number of trains as at present (though Bentleigh loses a couple of expresses). Whereas currently some run express Malvern/Caulfield to South Yarra, from June they’ll all stop all stations to the city.
The benefit? They’re more evenly spaced between 7:30 and 8:30, with no ridiculous 16 minute gap between 8:05 and 8:21. The current timetable, from mid-2009, added an 8:09 direct to Flinders St, but this didn’t do the job properly, because being so close after the 8:05, it carries very few people, while the 8:21 is still packed. It’s the uneven gaps between trains that cause some trains to be over-crowded and late, and others to be lightly loaded.
Is it enough trains overall to relieve the crowding? I guess we’ll see.
The bigger change
The bigger change is almost all the Frankston express trains (which are in addition to those above, because they don’t stop Highett to Glenhuntly inclusive) will run direct to Flinders St, not via the loop. This is to reduce congestion in the Caulfield loop tunnel, and allow some extra Dandenong line trains in.
One reason they’ve done this is because in the evening, the current pattern causes overcrowding on the Dandenong trains. This is because Frankston expresses need to leave just before stoppers, so each express can arrive at Caulfield just behind the previous stopper, so they can then overtake on the extra track between Caulfield and Moorabbin.
So at the moment because all the Frankston trains need to be run consecutively in the loop, this means you get a gap of 6-8 minutes between Dandenong trains, then 2-3 in a row. Again, uneven frequencies mean some Dandenong trains are much more crowded than others.
This change should fix that. But it means people from beyond Cheltenham who are headed for the loop will have to choose whether they get an all stations train to the loop, or get an express but change to/from the loop. Obviously many of them may be able to walk from Flinders Street instead.
Bearing in mind of course that Flinders Street isn’t some godforsaken backwater; it’s actually the most popular station.
There’s been a shakeup of stopping patterns on the Dandenong line to simplify things. It carries about double the number of passengers of the Frankston line overall — some of the Metro publicity which I can’t find online says 91,000 per day on the Dandy line vs 43,000 Frankston.
Because of this the Dandy trains will get to run express through the MATHS stations most of the time (with most Frankston trains outside peak stopping instead). And all their trains will run via the loop.
So will the times will be evened out? As I wrote recently, frequencies at Carnegie are currently very uneven.
Hmmmm. A bit better. Still some big gaps though. More changes might be needed.
Hurstbridge gets some extra trains (as far as Eltham, at least) after the evening peak. Be nice to see this on the other lines too; the shutdown to half-hourly trains after 7pm is pretty hopeless, and does nothing to help spread peak loads around.
Alamein/Blackburn trains will move from platform 6 back to platform 4 in peak. This means Sydenham/Craigieburn/Upfield trains will all squeeze onto platform 5, which may seem counterproductive. Apparently it’s to avoid the Alamein/Blackburn trains clashing with the Dandenong trains on 6/7, which makes sense, but they’ll have to get better at keeping platform 5 running smoothly. At least unlike a few years ago, the Werribees are over on 10.
Coolaroo station on the Craigieburn line will open, so some of that line’s times will be adjusted.
Minor tweaks on the other lines means it’s worth checking the timetable to see if your train times have changed.
What still needs doing?
All sorts of things — and they’re flagging another change later in the year concentrating on the north/western lines.
Peak is still going to be a problem on a lot of lines, with overcrowding and delays. As the rest of the 38 trains arrive, hopefully they’ll help relieve some of the pressure.
The Laverton upgrade should be finished soon, which’ll mean more Werribee trains.
Off-peak, evening, weekend frequencies all need fixing. This only needs more drivers and maintenance staff. Apparently the maintenance facilities are almost at capacity, but this’ll be relieved when a new one comes online at Craigieburn in 2011. Werribee has its 6 trains per hour between the peaks, and this is where the other lines need to get to, seven days-a-week.
Operational stuff like the driver changeover at Flinders Street needs to improve to keep trains pumping through.
At some stage I wonder if they’re going to change the loop around a bit. The midday reversal is confusing, and means you can’t get between certain stations at some times of day.
And clearly feeder buses need to get better so more people can get to stations without driving and hunting for a spot in crowded car parks. (Hopeless for anybody travelling after morning peak.)
In the longer term, what have they got planned? The map below is from the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan (the section “Priority 2: Linking rural, regional and metro Victoria”). Unfortunately most of it’s in monochrome to highlight the Regional Rail Link project, but if you follow the metro lines around you’ll see what they’ve got in mind.
Going more-or-less clockwise:
- Werribee, Laverton and Williamstown to Southern Cross and Flinders Street direct, then through to Frankston
- Sunbury (Sydenham), Craigieburn and Upfield to the City Loop
- South Morang and Hurstbridge to the City Loop
- Lilydale, Belgrave and Glen Waverley to the City Loop
- Blackburn and Alamein to Flinders Street direct
- Dandenong (Pakenham/Cranbourne) to the City Loop
- Sandringham to Flinders Street direct
Peeking much further into the future, this map shows what’s in mind if/when they build the new rail tunnel under Swanston Street. Essentially the same as above, except that Sunbury/Sydenham will feed into the tunnel, then out to Pakenham and Cranbourne. Werribee, Laverton and Williamstown will feed into Flinders Street direct then through to Westall. Frankston will go back into the loop.
Update 7th June — See new post