Level crossing removals progressing

On Thursday the state government announced two more level crossings in their first term batch of 20: Scoresby Rd and Mountain Hwy, either side of Bayswater station. This provides some interesting challenges due to the adjacent train maintenance facility, which presumably can’t be moved. The press release notes:

They [the crossings] will be removed through a combination of lowering the rail line and raising Mountain Hwy and Scoresby Rd, which will enable trains to continue to access the maintenance yard between the crossings.

With these two, they’ve now started work on 19 of the 20 pledged:

  • Gardiner and St Albans (both initiated by the former Coalition government)
  • three on the Frankston line (Ormond was initiated by the Coalition) — more about these below
  • Blackburn and Heatherdale
  • Furlong Road, St Albans
  • the nine between Caulfield and Dandenong
  • the two at Bayswater

So they only need to fund and start work on one more and they’ll be hitting their first term target… though of course for economy they should be trying to continue to group the crossings where possible.

Bentleigh level crossing

Ormond-Mckinnon-Bentleigh aka North-Mckinnon-Centre

My local crossings are continuing apace.

The project timetable has been altered — the major works will now take place in mid-2016, instead of in the January 2017 holidays. Obviously this has implications in terms of the number of people travelling, especially students for 3 of the 5 weeks — though bear in mind most people are back at work by mid-January, so perhaps the main difference is the presence of students.

Obviously how well this goes depends on how well replacement bus services are run. More on this below.

Saving Dorothy

For residents north of Ormond and those who use the E.E.Gunn reserve, the project team has confirmed that the Dorothy Avenue underpass will retain access for cars:

Following detailed design, and extensive community consultation, we can now happily confirm that the Dorothy Avenue underpass in Ormond will remain open to pedestrians, cyclists and cars following completion of the level crossing removal works.

Through the detailed design process, the rail gradient has been improved to allow the necessary clearance for pedestrians, cyclists and cars. — October update

Apparently they sought and got dispensation for the usual (for freight trains) maximum 2% gradient between North Road and Dorothy Avenue. It’s closer to 2.5% (the normal limit for suburban trains), but this has been ruled okay for freight for short distances.

The result is that the works won’t need to touch the overpass at all. One team member described this as “Saving Dorothy”, which to me sounds like it could be a sequel to The Wizard Of Oz.

It’s good that this was achievable, and I think this makes sense — if it were closed, every time there was an event at the reserve, there’d have been a lot more traffic in the surrounding streets. And given North Road won’t have its level crossing, the number of rat-runners should reduce.

Train alterations

As I flagged in this blog post, Frankston express trains will stop all stations from mid-November. PTV were very slow at loading the timetable, but it’s there (at least for the first week) now.

A handful of trains won’t run each day, but most will. This is perhaps understandable given longer running times, but may result in crowding.

As now, some trains will run direct, some via the Loop. (I’m writing this on a train. I can overhear someone on the phone claiming they will all run direct and he’ll have to change for the Loop with heaps of other people. He’s in for a pleasant surprise.)

PTV has a brochure about service changes, though there are multiple errors in the map (they show the old 626 route, and show tram 64 curtailed at North Road). Confusingly it also has the Sandringham line shown in grey — blue would make more sense, since it’ll still be running. The car parks are in the wrong positions, as well.

I’m told a new version will be out shortly; hopefully it fixes these problems.

Bustitution

After the taster of bus replacement services a couple of weekends ago, the arrangements are being reviewed. Bus stop locations are being reconsidered — some apparently were put in without much time available. Sounds like many will move closer to the main road intersections, which was the main problem with them.

They’re saying that during the peak of replacement services, some 100 buses will be deployed between Caulfield and Moorabbin, with 75 normally in service, and 25 on standby. That should be quite a sight to see, but it indicates the scale of moving the usual Frankston line peak loads, and how many cars a rail line keeps off the roads in peak hour.

Instead of express and stopping buses, all buses will stop on demand (eg press the buzzer for your station). I think this makes sense — it will speed up loading and despatch considerably — just fill and despatch the buses as people arrive — and prevent passenger confusion. When I sampled it, the express buses were only seconds faster than the stopping buses.

Apparently overall the main road route has been well-received, as it’s much more efficient, though there are some concerns about those with mobility challenges getting from the station. Some kind of on-demand taxi service is being considered.

They’re also working on more traffic light green time for buses (particularly a problem southbound at North and South Roads) and temporary clear ways.

Some traders are worried about the reduction in activity around the stations during this time. This hasn’t been very apparent on weekends, but I suppose weekdays are a different story.

Level crossing removal works near Ormond

New stations coming soon

A few other design issues are moving towards a conclusion, for instance the Murray Road issue and whether a south side entrance can be provided at Ormond Station (hopefully at least for platforms 1 and 2 — platform 3 isn’t nearly as important, as under normal circumstances it is barely used, and providing it may be difficult due to the local streetscape).

It’s great to see this project progressing. For locals, remember to stay up to date via the official web site.

Update

Honestly, sometimes I despair. No wonder the bloke on the train thought there will be barely any Loop services during the level crossing works — this poster (snapped by Andrew at Mckinnon this morning) purports to show the modified timetable. What it instead shows is just the modified express trains. This means about half the services are missing — almost all the Loop trains.

Incorrect Frankston line works timetable seen at Mckinnon Station

You just wonder sometimes if anybody checks this stuff before it goes out.

I’ve passed this back to the project team to get it fixed.

Update 10pm — another, similar poster seen at Flagstaff at 6pm implies Frankston line trains won’t run through the Loop during peak.

Incorrect poster for altered Frankston line services during level crossing removals

I’m told the Mckinnon poster has been removed already… not sure about other stations.

In some ways this issue isn’t new — I’ve seen other notifications in the past that focus solely on the additional/altered/removed services. But passengers don’t think like that. They need to see the changes in context. Displaying timetables like this which only show half the services is just pointless and misleading.

Update 9/11/2015 — Metro continues to display these misleading posters — they’ve appeared at more stations and online over the weekend. I’ve heard multiple reports of people (including Metro staff) reading them and concluding that they show the train timetable whereas they actually show just the altered services.

After all, if it looks like a timetable, it must be a timetable, right?

Apart from missing all the short services originating from Carrum, Mordialloc, Cheltenham and Moorabbin, it doesn’t even show all the trains departing from Frankston: the 7:07 and the 7:30 aren’t shown, because they’re not altered.

And just to underscore the lack of thought that went into this, the fine print at the bottom adds this irrelevancy: the disclaimer about bicycles, surfboards and dogs not being permitted on buses. What buses?!

As I said: useless and misleading.

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13 Replies to “Level crossing removals progressing”

  1. A taxi service was used for mobility impaired people as part of the grade separation at Mitcham. During the bustitution a taxi was permanently stationed at both Ringwood and Blackburn to transport any disabled passengers. It worked well as far as I could tell. It is possible that there could be issues with numbers at times as a train can officially carry up to four wheelchairs whereas a taxi can take two at most. Interestingly, under the regulations that were in force when Laburnum was grade separated an extra bus had to be provided specifically for wheelchairs and bikes.

  2. I am also surprised there are not bustitutions between the Sandringham line and Moorabbin, rather implementing it to Caulfield. Maybe easier with the amount of tracks available? City loop access? I am sure extra services on the Sandringham line is possible though.

  3. @Daniel, I’ve asked about that in the past – Moorabbin to Caulfield is 7.6 km (14 mins, Google reckons), whereas Moorabbin to Brighton Beach is 4.5 km (8 mins).

    Metro believes the Sandringham line (both trains and track I guess) doesn’t have the capacity to do it. And of course you’d still need to service Moorabbin to Caulfield anyway. No doubt it’s easier to run additional trains into Caulfield.

  4. Re: confusing timetable alterations

    The integration between Metro and PTV’s information on planned works could also be much improved.

    For example, currently listed on Metro’s website:

    “While we undertake track upgrades, buses will replace trains between Burnley and Darling stations on Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 November.”

    Only after visiting PTV’s website (ignoring Metro’s instructions to give PTV a call instead, with no direct link provided) do you discover that these disruptions are after ~8PM on each of the nights listed only.

  5. When we had the Mitcham bustitution, and the Ringwood one as well, they were indeed supplying a maxi taxi for disabled people at Metro’s expense. That’s not the only consideration though – the bigger issue was parents with prams, and people with dogs or bikes. Most of the buses were old and not low floor, and some such as coaches had no room for prams. And of course bikes and dogs aren’t allowed on buses or taxis. I heard one metro employee tell someone with a dog that his options were call someone to pick him up or walk. One could theorize surfboards would also be an issue on the Frankston line.

  6. On my way in this morning I noticed Level Crossing Project banners up around Fencing at the Melton Highway Level Crossing. Presumably, that means that it will be coming up sooner rather than later. I think that it would be economical to do Calder Park Drive and Holden Road at the same time – a road overpass at Calder Park Drive would be relatively cheap, and Holden Road wouldn’t need to be done at all – it could be redirected around the new stabling facility back to Calder Park Drive. An overpass for Calder Park Drive and the Calder Freeway would probably also be needed to get the most benefits for traffic.

  7. Re Sandringham line capacity, the line itself is fine. The problem is terminating facilities. Sandringham station would probably be capped at one train every 7 minutes or so; Brighton Beach can’t be used anymore because Platform 1 isn’t in service and Platform 3 doesn’t have a signal at the city end; and Elsternwick wouldn’t help.

    If we were looking for creative solutions, we could consider Frankston trains running to Brighton Beach, then empty to/from Sandringham yard instead of the platform – but this would require permanent staffing of Sandringham signal box, and the Abbott St level crossing would be blocked half the time.

    I’ve also heard suggestions to repurpose the interlocking at Brighton Beach so that the signal formerly controlling departures from Platform 1 could be used for departures from Platform 3, but I’m not sure if MTM has anybody qualified in changes to that type of mechanical interlocking anymore.

  8. Bit confused about Dorothy Avenue underpass? Google maps (recently updated) shows an at-grade pedestrian crossing. I don’t see anywhere where cars fan currently trave below the tracks? So what does the Level Crossing Removal Authority mean by cars will continue to be able to travel in this underpass?

  9. Re the information about timetable changes – my Frankston line train driver this morning made a long announcement about the forthcoming changes to the timetable and what works would be done. As part of it, he said that all Frankston line trains would be running direct.

  10. With regular weekend bustitutions here in Sydney, it is interesting to watch their machinations carefully.

    They run ‘all stops” and “limited stops” services, but the choice of which stations that the limited stops services visit, is dictated by the road network, and not by the popularity of those stations.

    Buses are not allowed to stop on the main road near the stations, that would be too inconvenient for cars. So the unfortunate bustitutes are forced to wait long periods for another bus, or walk a long way, or all of the people on the bus have to put up with a 15 minute detour through multiple traffic lights to read one station for a handful of people to get on, or off.

    They seem to keep large numbers of buses “on standby” parked around the corner, and then don’t use them when there are hundreds of people waiting due to some kind of traffic delay miles away preventing the other buses getting back on time.

    Vast amounts of petrochemicals are expended making yellow corflute which is then ineffectually deployed making it all useless. A particular talent is putting important signage at knee level, where it no doubt looks good when they set it up at 5 AM, but as soon as there is more than two people hanging around, nobody can see what is on the sign.

    They seem to employ a person at every bus stop counting the number of people getting on and off, and then seem to get surprised by the number of people coming at different times of the day, when they should have know this because they did exactly the same project three weekends ago.

    You will observe hundreds of people, one after the other, asking the “bus marshall”, whether they should catch the “all stations” bus right now, or wait a while and catch a “limited stops” bus later, which will probably overtake the all-stops bus, if you are going all the way to the other end. Despite their timetables, checklists, stopwatches and walkie-talkies, there is never a good answer to this question. And surely, if so many people need to ask, a prominent and legible sign would be the answer.

    They keep making “improvements” to the management of the operation, which mostly seem to make it worse.

  11. The brick bits of the Dorothy Avenue underpass (not the 1980s concrete bits from the triplication though) are actually the sole actually remnants of the Rosstown railway. The rest is just parkland or buildings where the railways was.

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