A few details have come out about the next lot of Metro train timetables, and there’s some big changes for some lines, as the process of completely re-writing them continues.
Here is a summary based on some notes I saw the other day, and my initial thoughts. My assumption is these notes apply on weekdays only. If there are queries, leave a comment, but note that the full timetables have not yet been made available, and any incorrect information here is probably caused by my misinterpretation as I summarised.
Timing adjustments to reflect current timings; trips up to 3 mins longer (eg Frankston line)
Hmm, perhaps there really is no end in sight to the Siemens brake issue, which means speed restrictions approaching stations with a level crossing. I’m also told the Comeng trains can’t keep up with the timetable in peak hours due to heavy loads. Maybe us passengers need to go on diets.
Big changes to (most of) the Northern Group will wait for Sunbury electrification (expected 2012). Changes for Clifton Hill will wait for South Morang (expected late 2012).
Fair enough, that makes sense, particularly as South Morang includes a bunch of other upgrades to make both Clifton Hill lines run better.
Frankston — current peak pattern to be extended for longer. Off-peak all trains will run direct to Flinders St/Sthn Cross. Minor infrastructure changes to improve things eg Frankston platform extension to cater for terminating trains from City and Stony Point simultaneously
Extending the peak pattern makes sense. At the moment they have this neat pattern which (to the observer) appears quite efficient and consistent, but varies and disappears during the peak shoulder period. Off-peak all running direct to Flinders St — well, people will need to get used to that, but at least the confusing half-and-half pattern now will be made more consistent. It would help if the Dandenong line was a matching 10-minute frequency, so plenty of loop trains were available, but the notes don’t say if that’s happening. Which I’m guessing means it’s not.
Werribee – complete re-write of the timetable. Trains from Werribee every 11 mins in peak, running direct Laverton to Newport (allowing 3 more trains in peak). Laverton to City via Altona Loop trains every 22 mins in peak. Williamstown to City every 22 mins in peak.
Aye carumba! Re-write for consistency is good. More frequent trains from Werribee is good (the current 4-20 minute gaps are bound to lead to overcrowding on some trains), and all running via the direct line is good.
But trains for Altona/Westona and Williamstown every 22 minutes in peak? Seriously? A long wait between trains, and how’s anybody meant to remember that timetable? Is that the best they could do, after spending $92.6 million on the Laverton rail upgrade? Obviously it’s linked to the Werribee trains running every 11 minutes, but surely they could have tweaked/upgraded the signalling to make it an even 20/10 minutes.
Werribee off-peak: no loop (all direct, then to Frankston). Werribee to Laverton reduced to every 20 mins, all express via direct line. Laverton to Newport via Altona Loop shuttle every 20 mins. Williamstown – off-peak trains every 20 mins all the way to Flinders St (eg combined with Werribee, every 10 mins Newport to City)
OK. The Altona/Westona people aren’t going to like it, but it does make sense for their trains to be the shuttles instead of Williamstown, because Williamstown has double-track, so delays are less likely to cascade. This also fixes the inconsistent 4-16 minute gaps in off-peak now between Newport and the City.
But halving frequencies between Laverton and Werribee? Why on earth did they give them 10ish minute frequencies in 2009, if only to take them away again? And what happened to the idea of the whole network having frequent services all day? I know operationally it’s a little difficult at Newport, but I suppose I’m surprised they’re back-pedalling on this.
Sandringham – fully separated from Caulfield loop. Services upped to every 8 mins in peak
Ringwood, Blackburn, Box Hill stopper trains to run to City Loop in AM. Additional Blackburn to City services during off-peak (implied to be full interpeak). PM will run direct from Flinders St
Alamein to run to City Loop in AM; direct from FSS in PM. Implied to be some extra off-peak services (into city), but not certain.
Glen Waverley to run direct to FSS in AM; around loop in PM. Frequency upgraded to average 7.5 mins.
Okay, I see what they’re doing here. Ringwood line stoppers and Alameins will use the loop in the morning, but not in the afternoon. Glen Waverley will use the loop in the afternoon, but not in the morning. Arguably this means all those passengers will be treated equally, each having to change trains once a day, but of course it’s confusing, and this kind of change will probably mean everybody’s unhappy…
I’m told it’s apparently being done to get around issues with Metrol, involving the handover between two controllers as trains move between sectors, which can cause delays. Another case of a weakness in the infrastructure?
Will it work?
So why are they doing all this? To better fit the extra services possible with the bigger fleet, and even out loads, and improve reliability. All admirable goals. The question will be whether or not it works.
And the complexity for passengers — some dealing with odd frequencies like every 22 minutes, and some will need to change trains on the way to work but not the way home, or vice versa — surely will lead to some confusion.