There’s intense interest in the new train timetable, which technically started today, but has its first actual changes tomorrow. The level of interest should be a reminder to politicians that public transport is still very much a live issue.
It should (hopefully) bring some genuine benefits in helping to fix punctuality and overcrowding.
There are some genuine cases where people at individual stations are disadvantaged. Altona (off-peak they’ll have to change up to twice to reach some CBD stations), Werribee (off-peak frequency halved for some stations), Frankston line travel times longer (they really need to fix the damn Siemens train brake problems once and for all),
less fewer peak-hour trains to Laburnum, Camberwell, Glenferrie, and some others.
The change for the Glen Waverley line is that in the mornings, their trains won’t run through the City Loop. I’m afraid, however, I find it a little difficult to join in the outrage.
1. Flinders Street is not some godforsaken backwater. It’s Melbourne’s busiest (most popular) station, with 37% of patronage — and I would argue it’s only that low because of Loop operating patterns, which has it as (mostly) the CBD station with the longest travel time to/from the suburbs.
It’s the best station for serving much of the south and central parts of the CBD. It’s also closest to the Arts Precinct and St Kilda Road. People changing to trams to places like Melbourne Uni will probably find it makes little difference, because exiting Flinders Street is much quicker than getting through Melbourne Central’s maze-like exit.
2. Those who do have to change from Glen Waverley trains to Loop services have a simple walk across the platform at Richmond, onto another train that runs about every three minutes in peak. It’s an easier change of trains than any other anywhere in Melbourne.
Even outside peak hour, there will be 12 trains per hour from Richmond into the City Loop until lunchtime (most on the platform across from where the Glen Waverley trains arrive). I would expect that to go up to 14 when the Dandenong line switches to every 10 minutes, a change which is hopefully coming before too long.
3. Glen Waverley trains will still run through the Loop after lunchtime, so no difference to afternoon patterns.
4. The change is to avoid conflicts at Burnley, and also between Richmond and Flinders Street. It’s not only allowing more frequent Glen Waverley trains, but (hopefully) will actually fix some of the punctuality problems.
5. Sandringham passengers have been changing to and from the Loop for fifteen years, under far less ideal conditions than will be inflicted on Glen Waverley passengers. They may not like it, but the line is busier than ever, and the semi-independence of the line now allows a train every 7-8 minutes in peak.
Changing trains is not evil
The City Loop’s four tracks are a bottleneck, while the ten tracks into Flinders Street (from the east — another four from the west) are underused. Given Flinders Street’s central location, I absolutely support having some trains bypass the Loop to allow more services, to fix conflicts/punctuality, and reduce overcrowding. We need more trains on the tracks, and this is how to do it.
People might not like it, but changing services is not evil. It’s a necessity in many bigger cities around the world, because not every train can go to every destination. This is described in more detail in this article: Why “transferring” can be good for you, and good for your city.
The question always must be: will the waiting time be short? Will the other service have the capacity? And is it as convenient as possible? Unlike for many other passengers around Melbourne, for Glen Waverley to City Loop, the answer is Yes, Yes (most probably), and Yes.