There used to be realtime train information displayed on the Smartbus sign outside Bentleigh station (as there is at many other Smartbus stops near railway stations around Melbourne).
The information was provided partly for the benefit of bus drivers, so they could see if a train was imminent, and if so wait for passengers (though it was never clear if they’d been instructed to wait a bit longer if they were due to depart).
But of course, the information was useful to the general public as well — the countdown timer was a prompt you might need to walk faster to catch your train… and it’d be good advertising for the frequent (ten minutes or better) we now get every day on the Frankston line.
About a year and a half ago in February 2011, around the time of the last fatal accident at Bentleigh station’s level crossing, the train information on the sign was turned-off.
Last year it was also the case that some other similar signs elsewhere in Melbourne didn’t properly work, though others continue to work fine.
It was switched-off because the Department of Transport believed the information on it was sometimes wrong (though I don’t actually recall spotting any glaring errors on it). A notice was placed at the stop explaining why.
…months flew by…
Just in the past few weeks, there’s finally been progress. What progress, you ask?
A new notice! With the Metlink logo replaced by a PTV logo! Hooray!
In all seriousness, I’ve checked — they’re still working on a solution, but they don’t want to use the old apparently dodgy data feed (I think it may have been provided by insane monkeys hidden away in some basement underneath Flinders Street, pressing and listening to green buttons before bashing the information into keyboards to display on the screen).
Instead they’re going to switch to a shiny new rocket-powered, laser-guided data feed that apparently also feeds the information provided on the platforms — in this case, the green button, I guess.
(I hope this doesn’t mean it’s waiting for the repeatedly delayed Metrol upgrade project to be completed.)
And there’ll be another improvement: it used to be that after the last bus had gone, the entire sign switched itself off, even though trains keep running for several hours afterwards each night. I’m told that when the sign is working again, the train times will still be displayed when buses have finished for the night.
When this will all happen, however, is unclear.
And so, we wait.