You’d always hope that governments aim to minimise spending waste, and part of that is forward planning, so for instance you don’t do upgrades to something that is about to be replaced.
Our local station at Bentleigh has received numerous upgrades over the past year or two. Some are part of the $100 million Bayside Rail Upgrade (initiated by the Coalition in May 2013), some are part of bigger rollouts across the rail network.
But in coming months the station will be completely demolished as part of Labor’s level crossing removal, meaning a lot of wasted money on infrastructure with a very short lifespan.
Other stations such as Mckinnon have also been getting similar upgrades, but for the most part they have wisely not installed lots of new upgrades at Ormond (which the Coalition included in their smaller level crossing removal program announced in August 2014).
What happened when?
Here’s a timeline. This lists just the upgrades at Bentleigh station. Many other stations to be demolished have got similar upgrades — and numerous less visible upgrades have occurred that aren’t at stations.
Coalition Premier Denis Napthine and Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder announce funding for the Bayside Rail Upgrade project at Bentleigh Station. (Yes, I gatecrashed.)
PSOs start duty at Bentleigh.
A “rainbow” status board is installed, one of a handful trialled initially ahead of a wider rollout.
Passenger Information Displays (PIDs) installed on platforms 1/2 — very handy; it provides a countdown timer to the next train without having to use the Green Button, and unlike the Button is usable by those with hearing difficulties.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 7, 2014
Coalition announces funding for Ormond (and 3 other crossings) to be grade separated.
Labor pledges to grade separate the Bentleigh crossing if they are elected in November.
Crime Stoppers display installed
Labor is elected.
At this point, there was no firm timeline for grade separation at Bentleigh, other than sometime in the next 8 years — though the smart money was on it being done before the 2018 election, so it was likely that anything added from now on would have a pretty short lifespan.
Pole and shelter installed for a PID on platform 3 — the PID itself has never turned up, so this structure will eventually be removed having never been used. It’s assumed that some works to wire up the PID were also done. Here it is pictured in February 2016, level crossing construction underway.
Extra Myki readers on platform 3, and widened exit gate — this was a bottleneck for years.
New platform markings and tactiles indicating wheelchair boarding places.
And the level crossing got new pedestrian crossing gates — not sure why these changed. Unlike the old ones, the emergency gate buttons can be pressed from outside, which hardly seems ideal. The “Another train coming” and red man signs disappeared, presumably because they had been part of a trial, were non-standard, and had never been rolled-out elsewhere. Here’s how it looked before:
Additional shelter on platforms 1 and 2 — useful for helping people spread along the platform when it’s wet, though the height of the shelter means rain that’s not strictly vertical still tends to get in.
The state budget provided $2.4 billion in funding for Mckinnon and Bentleigh level crossings to be grade separated at the same time as Ormond (as well as funding for others; a total of 17 crossings in all).
From this point, it may have been wise to pause upgrades at Mckinnon and Bentleigh, but they kept coming.
The Bentleigh level crossing got cross-hatching — even Ormond got this, and since then it appears to have popped up on numerous crossings around the network. One would hope it’s now standard on all level crossings, and not too expensive to implement — though it’s not a cure-all for cars queuing on the crossing.
New CCTV monitor in the station waiting room.
What else got upgraded?
Over the last couple of years, other (less visible) changes included upgrades to power/overhead wiring (not that you’d know it today), signalling, station lighting and CCTV, track, and reprogramming of the level crossings (to cope with faster acceleration of X’trapolis trains) — all of these upgrades have occurred right up and down the Frankston, Williamstown and Werribee lines.
Undoing all that good work
The rest will come down in due course. At Mckinnon, platform 3 has already been demolished — including new fencing from earlier in 2015, and extra Myki readers and PIDs added in the last few years. Bentleigh, Mckinnon and Ormond will all be completely demolished by mid-2016 for rebuilding in their cozy new trench.
Apart from those three stations, in the next couple of years, similar Bayside Rail Upgrade changes will be removed as part of grade separations at Carrum, Bonbeach, Edithvale, Mentone, and Cheltenham. (Plenty of other stations expected to be rebuilt have also had recent upgrades, but perhaps not to the same extent as these along the Frankston line.)
I’m told the extra shelters can be fairly easily moved to other stations, which is good. But what of the other changes?
Some of this gear is pretty expensive. For instance you can’t put a conventional TV screen in a public area. It needs to be industrial-strength, so the same design can go into an unstaffed station. The cables can’t run across the floor, they have to be properly secured.
Some equipment needs to be installed outside train operating hours, so you have to pay the staff overnight penalty rates. Or you might need additional staff as lookouts for safety reasons. Some upgrades, particularly to signalling, track and power, need to be done during a planned train service shut down, costing even more money.
What’s the cost of all this?
How many thousands of dollars worth of improvements, varying from brand new to only a few years old, will be lost during demolition? How many other stations could have had those upgrades instead?
Of course, the timing was such that some of the upgrades happened before it was known when the station would be demolished.
But it underscores that forward planning really isn’t our forte in Victoria. I’m certainly not saying I don’t welcome the level crossing removals — they have a lot of benefits — but it shows how politics intervenes to produce these types of outcomes.
- Previously: the new Footscray station pedestrian bridge was built in 2010, then partially demolished just 3 years later for Regional Rail Link because it wasn’t quite long enough to cater for the extra tracks
- This blog post is referenced in The Age 4/4/2016: ‘Newest, fastest’ trains for Frankston line slow to arrive