The PTV Night Network (formerly known as Homesafe) kind of sort of started on New Years Eve, with trains, all trams and the new Night Buses running for the first time.
For the rest of the weekend, trains, six tram routes and the Night Buses will run, meaning by the end of Sunday, many routes will have had service for 93 hours straight since Wednesday morning.
New Years Eve
It seems to have gone mostly okay, but disruptions to St Kilda trams and parts of the Frankston line suspended due to someone hit by a train at Mentone (and also a Glenhuntly level crossing fault) caused delays at times. There was also an incident between Footscray and Newport around 6:30pm which caused delays.
Pakenham train, approx 2:35am — this carriage is not completely full, but close to it (and I don’t know the context eg this might be after it’s emptied-out somewhat)
Source: James Clark
It also seems the hourly trains after 2am may be insufficient to deal with NYE crowds on the busiest/longest lines. An hour’s wait is never good, especially when it results in heavy crowding (or even people left behind), and there was at least one case of a service being cut short due to a faulty train, presumably leaving a two hour gap between trains.
Also notable was the lack of disruptions due to heat. There were no mass cancellations as seen during summer 2008-2009 — the upgrades since then to tracks, equipment and trains (including upgrading Comeng air-conditioning which used to be so problematic) seems to have solved this. Something I noticed which I hadn’t seen before was the use of water sprays on tracks on the city viaduct.
Of course whenever big crowds are present, there are some delays — and New Years Eve got around half a million people into central Melbourne alone.
Overall it seems to have gone fairly well — reflective of ten years experience since all-night New Years Eve services became a regular event in Melbourne. (See: How Melbourne got all-night NYE services)
So NYE was effectively Night Network but with (almost) all the trams running, and more trains before 2am.
Routes 78 and 82 finished an hour earlier than the usual Saturday times, which is ridiculous. No doubt there’s some clause in the contracts which says this is the way it is when NYE falls between Sunday and Thursday, but it makes no sense from a passenger point of view. Ideally those routes would run all night (it’s common to see people waiting in vain for them), but if not, they should at least run until the usual Saturday time. Yarra Trams’ slogan is “Think like a passenger”… hmmm!
Night Network starts
Night Network proper starts tonight. And without wanting to pre-empt the public reaction, here are some notes:
The old Nightrider network has been scrapped in favour of new Night Bus routes, which seek to complement the train network rather than duplicate it. This is good.
Some Night Bus routes depart from the CBD every half-hour. Other routes depart from suburban stations once an hour, timed to meet trains at at least one stop… though it’s unclear how bus drivers will know that the relevant train has arrived and/or if they will wait if it’s delayed.
There’s some concern about some of the Night Bus services and their roundabout routes, with some trips taking far longer on Night services than during the day. (The opposite is also true in some cases.)
Night Tram routes are precisely those pledged by Labor for the 2014 election. This obviously has us in the curious position of transport policy having been determined by the ALP’s policy wonks rather than by PTV, the independent body that’s meant to do transport planning in this state. But that’s political reality I guess.
Most signage has gone up, with quite striking moon symbols and maps and timetables added to relevant bus and tram stops. (I spotted one suburban bus stop today with only temporary signage.)
The moon symbols are also shown in printed timetables against the new services. But there’s some confusion as the pre-existing (since 2006) post-midnight services are shown with a different designation to the Night services, even though they are effectively the same thing. That is, as far as I can make out, they run on exactly the same nights. Like the problem with NYE trams, this indicates to someone not “thinking like a passenger”. Ditto you have to turn the page to see times after 3am.
The maps leave something to be desired. For some reason they’ve sought to emphasise the cross streets at many stops, which in some cases are quite obscure, rather than the major nearby feature (which is the reason for there being a stop there in the first place). Examples on the 979 route which runs through Bentleigh include: “Bent Street” instead of Bentleigh station (not clear why they haven’t used the stops closer to the station; possibly due to level crossing works), and “Wards Grove” instead of Moorabbin Hospital. I had to look up where Wards Grove was. But hey, I’ve only lived in the area for ten years.
These are just niggles though. Overall the network looks good, a big step forward with the only major sticking point being the hourly trains.
Yes, hourly trains will cope with the loads. But the danger is they won’t be frequent enough to attract lots of users. We’ll see. I suppose that’s one reason it’s a trial — I’m hopeful they’ll realise that the standing costs of running the train system (operations and security staff) mean the incremental cost of more trains is only minor.
Notably, other cities with 24-hour trains tend to run them more frequently, typically at least every 15-20 minutes. London’s Night Tube, expected to start later in 2016, will run trains mostly every 8-10 minutes. This is because they’ve grown night travel demand over many years via a very extensive night bus network, and are switching to trains now because capacity requires it.
We’ve jumped that progression and gone straight to all-night trains, but on a low frequency. We’ll see how people react. Hopefully they’re willing to actively check timetables and use the service.
I tend to agree with those who say it’ll have a profound effect on Melbourne’s night culture. It’s going to be fascinating to see how it goes.
- Update 8/1/2016: The Age reports that preliminary Myki data shows around 10,000 people used the additional services on the first weekend; about three times the number that used the previous Nightrider service over a weekend in October — so it seems things are off to a good start.