State Budget 2016

Wednesday’s State Budget has a lot of good rail projects funded. It seems the State Government is serious about upgrading the rail network to cope for the future.

Going through the press release and also the Budget Papers (Budget Paper 3 “Service Delivery” has always been my favourite; it has all the juicy stuff in transport), I’ve tried to summarise the new spending below… hopefully I haven’t missed anything, or doubled-up.

Project Cost Notes
City Loop security upgrade $134m Recommendations from the Victorian Ombudsman. By the way, the “platform barriers” are to try and stop people getting into the tunnels, not to stop them falling on the track, which would be almost impossible to implement given non-standard train doors and no automation to ensure trains stop in the right spot.
Ballarat line duplication out to Melton, platforms, stabling $518m Means Caroline Springs has to be modified with an extra platform before it’s even opened! And it’s only duplication, not electrification.
Hurstbridge line duplication Heidelberg to Rosanna $140m In addition to level crossing removal projects
South Morang to Mernda rail extension $588m Great to see this fully funded
28 additional High-Capacity Metro Trains $875m On top of the 37 funded last year. Includes running costs ramping up to $25.4m/year
27 V/Line V/Locity carriages and stabling $280.4m Relieve V/Line overcrowding, especially since RRL opened last year
5 X’Trapolis trains $105m Seems to be a stopgap order while the HCMTs are designed and tendered
V/Line North-East line upgrades $15m An additional carriage to change from 3 x 5 car trains to 4 x 4 car trains; refurbishment of other carriages
V/Line next generation train planning $10m The V/Locity design is great, but well over ten years old
Other upgrades for V/Line $198m  
V/Line major maintenance $141m Seems to be directed at the kind of proactive maintenance intended to prevent a repeat of the wheel wear debacle from earlier this year
1500 commuter car spaces across Melbourne and regional areas $19.9m Not clear if this is included in one of the other buckets. Note the average $13266 cost per space. There are cheaper ways of getting people to stations – without them having to own a car.
Frankston station precinct upgrade $50m  
Metro rail service improvements $35m Additional services, but not detailed precisely what. Hopefully more 10 minute services.
Minor regional rail improvement works $23.6m  
Bendigo and Eaglehawk station improvements $15.8m  
Gippsland line station improvements $9m  
Business case for future improvements for Bendigo, Gippland, Armstrong Creek (Geelong) $7.6m  
Upfield to Somerton upgrade business case $5m Future planning for re-routing Seymour trains via Upfield line, which has more capacity than Craigieburn
Planning for Regional upgrades $5m Linked to imminent release of Regional Network Development Plan
South Geelong to Waurn Ponds duplication business case/detailed design $3m Would help increase train frequencies south of Geelong
Bus improvements $25.2m Numerous local bus improvements, including those pledged in Labor’s 2014 election commitments.
Metro rail tunnel funding $2.9b $2.9b over four years (the “forward estimates” period) with more to come later
Bridge strengthening for E-class trams $1.8m The only extra tram spending I spotted; so insignificant it’s not mentioned in press releases.

V/Line North Melbourne flyover

Worth noting:

  • V/Line gets a handful of extra services on the Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Gippsland lines every day, and three more to Wyndham Vale on weekdays as well. They also get extra services to Shepparton (extension of an existing service everyday) and Warrnambool (Sundays only it appears), and a bunch more services to Geelong on weekends (this might fix the dire hourly service)
  • The Budget Papers have some amusing references to V/Line’s “Classic fleet” of older carriages – the N and Z-class carriages are getting aircon and seating upgrades.
  • There’s continued funding for Melbourne Bike Share ($2.5m per year) and the Westgate Punt ($300,000 per year) — again, not flagged in the press releases. Interestingly the Bike Share seems to be being funded a couple of years at a time.

I’m not going to dwell on the road upgrades, other than to say it’s a relief that the government haven’t sprung a new major road project on the community. One (Western Distributor) is plenty — yet two days later there are already noises about the NorthEast Link. Obviously this is on the agenda for coming years.

In some ways the big surprise is full funding of the Metro Rail Tunnel, assuming the Commonwealth still refuses to provide any funding. I suspected this might happen — yes at $11 billion it’s a huge project, but construction is over 10 years, making it a bit over an average $1 billion per year — it’s within the state’s capabilities, though it probably means other needed projects may not happen during this time if the Feds don’t contribute.

Also somewhat surprising is the large amount of money for V/Line — it’s worth remembering that the regional train network (including the suburban sections of RRL) carry less than a tenth the number of passengers that the metro rail system carries (though over longer distances). But it’s also a natural response to the dire problems the service has had, and also a good strategy to support a vital service in regional Victoria, and better link country towns to Melbourne. Hopefully the investment in V/Line helps bring the service back up to standard, and get more passengers on board.

And plenty of improvements funded on Metro as well, including the logical expansion of the new train fleet to eventually support the entire Cranbourne/Pakenham to Sunbury line when the rail tunnel opens — and of course remembering the already substantial investment in level crossing removal and station rebuilds.

While there’s not much for buses, and even less for trams, but overall it’s good to see so many rail upgrades coming through, including sometimes forgotten but important upgrades like track duplication.

Toxic Custard newsletter Travel

A day in Maldon

A day (and night) in the countryside began by heading out of Melbourne in the car.

I learnt a lesson on the way, somewhere near Sunshine: if you’re going to try and overtake (well, “undertake”) a truck on the left from a standing start, be at the front of the queue at the lights AND have plenty of space. The lane ended sooner than I thought, and the cars in front took off slowly. Thankfully the truck driver was paying attention, and gave me a bit of extra space to merge in.

Anyway from the Western Highway it’s a beautiful drive up to Trentham through the bush. The target was lunch at our friends’ place just south of the township. I’ll put in a plug for them as they’re selling the house: it’s a glorious mudbrick home, with a lovely walled garden and a tower! You’ve always wanted a tower, haven’t you! There’s even a sundial or two.

View from the tower, Trentham

The garden, Trentham

From there we headed north, up through the town, then via Dayesford to Maldon to stay the night in a B+B/French restaurant called the Rendezvous, in the old Eaglehawk hotel. The owners of that are also selling up. After settling in, we had a walk around the town.

Old Eaglehawk Hotel, Maldon

A small collection of engines in the station yard.
Railway yard at Maldon

They seem to also have a relative of Thomas here.
A relative of Thomas, at Maldon

Railway cat, Maldon

Maldon Main street. It was after 5pm, and the crowds had vanished.
Maldon Main Street

They have a heritage post box… and heritage rubbish bins. I remember when style was everywhere when I was a kid, but most have vanished now.
Vintage post box and rubbish bin, Maldon

Rego Brand self-raising flour. (Was this a prominent brand? I couldn’t find anything on Google, though apparently they also made cordial.)
Old advertising, Maldon

The Anglican church. Note the mining and mobile phone towers on the mountain behind.
Anglican church, Maldon

Dinner was a three-course taste-fest. I had cheese fondant, then duck, then a chocolate souffle. I’m not normally one for photographing my meals, but as you can see, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Dinner in Maldon

(Breakfast the next morning — croissants, muesli, egg and salmon on brioche — was great too, resulting in a similarly clean plate.)

I had to get back to Melbourne, which meant we didn’t get to ride the steam train, but during a morning walk before breakfast we spotted it getting ready for its day’s duties.
Maldon, Victorian Goldfields Railway

These towns — Maldon, Daylesford and Trentham — were all once connected by regular passenger rail services. (Maldon had passenger trains from 1884 to 1941. Trentham and Daylesford had passenger services 1880 to 1978 — I remember as a kid going to Daylesford by train; it must have been shortly before services ceased. Regular train with old wooden carriages to Woodend, and a rail motor from there.)

All three towns are getting very busy on the weekends thanks to tourism. In fact some of our group went back to Melbourne the way we’d come, and found bumper-to-bumper traffic around Daylesford. Evidently the three coaches per day on weekends (two from Woodend, one from Ballarat) don’t cut it.

Even on weekdays there are only three coaches from Daylesford via Woodend/Castlemaine, and you can’t reach Melbourne before 9:27am. Chatter among the locals is that while some hardy souls commute to Melbourne from this area, most moving to the area with this in mind live in the towns along the (main line) railway line. Those in the other towns tend to drive to a station — hardly surprising.

Anyway, it’s a nice part of the world. I don’t think I’d fancy that kind of commute every day, but it’s good fun to visit.

Toxic Custard newsletter Travel

A week in Singapore

In a couple of months I’m going to Singapore for a week, for my cousin’s wedding.

Any recommendations? Things to see and do? (The wedding itself is on Sentosa Island, at one of the resorts.)

It’s been ages since I’ve been overseas. What’s the best way to organise mobile/data coverage?

What’s the shopping like? Is it like some Asian cities where you can find good cheap suits?

Hmm, what about camera equipment? (I’d love a new lens to play with.)

The weather? Warm I’m sure. I remember from flying back from Europe via Singapore in 1998, looking at the TV weather forecast and seeing a row of 25-32s forecast…

Weather forecast in Singapore, September 1998

Any other tips?

Yes, I’ll be checking out the MTR.

Photos from ten years ago Toxic Custard newsletter

Old photos from April 2006

Another in my series of old photos from ten years ago

Swanston Dock, April 2006

One night while driving across town I decided to snap some pictures around the docks. It was only after I stopped the car and took a few photos that I realised how dodgy it probably looked.

A panoramic view along Spencer Street, outside Southern Cross Station. Note the lack of Media House on the left. And the whole area seems quieter back then that it is now.

(View it larger at Flickr)

A panoramic view along platform 2, inside Southern Cross Station.

(View it larger at Flickr)

King of the tanbark!

Mucking about on a huge pile of tanbark at a local park.

Building an Ikea Gorm

Around this time I did a few timelapses around the house. Here I am constructing an IKEA Gorm shelf unit. These are tough but ugly. Initially it went into the (small) spare room, until the spare room became a bedroom. It lives on in my laundry.

(Animation made using GIFmaker)


The new improved Preston tram depot

Back in September 2010, the then-Brumby government announced an $807 million investment in new trams and infrastructure:

Dandenong based company Bombardier will design, construct and maintain 50 new low floor trams for Melbourne as part of an $807.6 million investment by the Brumby Labor Government including a new tram maintenance and storage depot at Preston.

This was an upgrade to the existing Preston depot, originally built in 1924 for construction of the W-class fleet. The renovations took some years, and had to respect heritage aspects of the complex, as well as cope with tram operations during construction. But it’s now completed, and on Sunday Yarra Trams held an open day, with an official opening from the Minister for Public Transport. I went along for a look.

The weather was fine, and there was a pretty good turnout. It’s quite an impressive facility. Some photos:

The automated tram wash. It can handle any class of tram — though presumably someone needs to close the windows (where applicable) first!
Preston tram depot: tram wash

The sanding area, where trams sand hoppers can be refilled. Sand is dropped on the track when extra grip is needed.
E-class and B-class trams in the sanding area, Preston tram depot

A traverser, for moving trams from track to track. Our guide wasn’t sure if the new, 33-metre long E-class trams might just fit. I like that it’s in “Met” colours. You can see at least one Z1 tram in the background; they will be out of service forever, retired by the end of this month.
Tram traverser, Preston depot

B-class tram up on jacks for repairs. It’s quite impressive to see up close. The depot can handle repairs to any class of tram, though normally it appears only B and E-class trams are stabled here. Minor repairs are also done at local suburban tram depots.
B-class tram being serviced, Preston tram depot

Another B-class tram with the front taken off. The depot workers had a say in how it should be laid out after the renovation.
B-class tram being serviced, Preston tram depot

E-class tram in for some work.
E-class tram being serviced, Preston tram depot

The E-class trams are not perfect, but they do bring welcome extra capacity, and importantly increase the number of accessible trams on the network. And they do look rather splendid in the sun.
E-class trams at Preston tram depot

Yarra Trams has several tram simulators. One portable one was set up in the depot for visitors to have a go on (and boy was it popular), but this is the permanent, more fully-featured version.
Tram simulator, Preston tram depot

Spike the rhino on display outside. The campaign around awareness of trams continues.

B and E class trams, and some dork in high-vis. I was surprised at how orderly the depot appears.
Daniel at Preston tram depot

The official opening:

Just outside the depot is the tram and pedestrian-only Miller Street, over the South Morang line, connecting to nearby route 86. If it looks familiar, I’m pretty sure it’s where that iconic scene in Malcolm, of the title character coming over the hill, was filmed.

One sad note. Sadly, at the southern end of the depot, well away from the operational part of the complex, two W-class trams sit neglected, vandalised.
Vandalised W-class trams outside Preston Depot

But that said, the depot upgrade is great to see. This kind of investment in the capacity and efficiency of the tram network is important to keep services improving.
Preston tram depot

Now, if only the government would get fully behind proper tram traffic priority, so these valuable assets could spend less time waiting at traffic lights and stuck behind queues of cars, and help trams reach their true potential to keep Melburnians on the move.

Retrospectives Toxic Custard newsletter TV Video games

The Old Bill

I used to love The Bill, way back when it was a cop show with a sense of realism, rather than a full-on soapie.

The episodes I enjoyed the most, season 4 (from 1988) are currently airing on the ABC, in the middle of the day (around 3pm, and again the next morning around 5am). I’ve got my PVR recording them and I’m checking to see if any memorable episodes pop-up that I want to watch again.

Being a long-running series with a lot of minor once-of characters, many now well-known British actors appeared on the show in guest rolls. The other day there was an episode (“Conflict”) with Alex Kingston as a doctor — no, not Elizabeth Corday or River Song.
Alex Kingston and Nick Reding in The Bill (1988)

Of course it’s also a bit of a time-capsule from the 1980s. A week or two ago one great episode (“Hold Fire”) featured Bob Cryer trying write a report on an actual typewriter…
Bob Cryer (Eric Richard) in The Bill (1988)

…while Jim Carver and Viv Martella were undercover in a pub, playing Gorf and driving game Out Run while they wait for a suspect.
Carver and Martella in The Bill (1988)

Carver: “Oh my God!”

Martella: “What?”

Carver: “I just hit a windsurfer!”

Toxic Custard newsletter transport

Bourke/Spencer tram stop not fit for purpose

If ever you want to see what the priorities really are, look at the resources they’re given.

At this tram stop — Bourke/Spencer Street westbound — the few in cars have clearly been prioritised over the many in trams. While passengers are squashed into a narrow pathway, motor vehicles (if any turn up) are given two spacious lanes.

Bourke St/Spencer St tram stop

Who on earth designed this tram stop? And who approved the design?

It opened in 2007, with Yarra Trams (under its previous operating company) saying at the time:

The new platform stops comply with Disability Discrimination Act requirements and include ramps for wheelchair and pram access, as well as passenger shelters, lighting and real-time tram information.

“We want to ensure that reliable, accessible and sustainable transport options are available across Melbourne”

That said I expect it would have been a collaboration between the tram company, the Department, VicRoads and the City of Melbourne.

Bourke St/Spencer St tram stop

Fast forward to 2016, and it’s clear the stop isn’t fit for purpose. Yet they knew it would be a busy stop, because it’s been designed to be two full tram lengths wide. (Connect two of Melbourne’s busiest tram lines with a huge busy station serving almost every suburban line, all the regional trains and coaches, and the Skybus — of course it was going to be busy!)

The width of the platform isn’t ideal, but the real problem is the main exit ramp, towards Southern Cross station, as well as the sequencing of the traffic lights.

As you can see from the video below, crowds coming off trams get caught on the ramp. This clears so slowly that often not all the people can exit during the green phase of the traffic lights.

Once people have crossed the road to leave the stop, the majority of them have to wait for another green phase to cross Spencer Street to enter the station.

If you sit through the entire clip (yes it’s a bit monotonous; that’s what alighting tram passengers get every day) you’ll see numerous people are tempted by the design to jaywalk.

Or jump to 3:30, where you’ll see a large number of people walk across against the light. A few seconds later you’ll see some people try to cross parallel with the westbound green phase, risking being hit by turning cars.

It’s not the only super stop with these types of problems. But clearly in this case design is flawed.

A wider platform (at the expense of a car lane) would help. So would better traffic light sequencing — perhaps a pedestrian scramble so people get a green sequence to cross directly into the station.

With the trams getting ever busier, it can’t stay the way it is.

music Toxic Custard newsletter

Multi-room music (and Star Wars)

Star Wars episode seven is officially out today on DVD and Blu-ray, but I managed to buy it yesterday — some shops with a name starting with Big and ending in W jumped the gun, as did some with the initials J and B, apparently, though the large W establishment is selling it for $23 (on Blu-ray), which seemed like a pretty good price.

It had been available on iTunes and other digital services for some days, but I wanted the higher picture and sound quality of Blu-Rey. (iTunes can give me HD via my old iPad Mini, but I’ve found it actually drops frames during playback. Not so good.)

It sounds mucho-impressive on the Yamaha surround sound setup that I got in 2014, which I’m very very happy with. This unit does an awesome job with movies and TV, which was always the priority for me — that’s basically why I didn’t go with Sonos at the time; the cost for 5.1 would be about three times what I paid (thus unaffordable for me) and it is limited; for instance it doesn’t support DTS.

Back to the music

But this post is mostly about music.

The Yamaha unit can play my music collection via the network or just off a USB plugged into the front, and it sounds great. It also does online radio (via the vTuner service), which is very neat. I bought a separate Pure Flow One radio (digital/FM) for the kitchen, which also does online radio. Yay, BBC 6 Music!

The only thing my equipment doesn’t do is multi-room music, which systems like Sonos excel at. Yes, I can play BBC 6 in both rooms, but it’s not in sync, which would be handy in a smallish house where the living areas are all within earshot.

So yes, I still have Sonos envy. I regularly see it in action at M+J’s house, and recently I was over at another friend’s house and they have it too. Very nice.

What’s interesting is the emergence of the Google Chromecast Audio, a cousin to the original Google Chromecast (which is used for TVs). GCA, as I’ll call it for short, costs A$59 and brings Sonos-like features to old (active) speakers, and as of a December software update, this includes multi-room capabilities.

So GCA is a bit like a poor man’s Sonos Connect, which retails for A$549, providing much of the functionality at about a tenth the price… well, kind of, sort of.

But there are also other systems now available — more jumping on the Sonos bandwagon every few months it seems. So comparing them, we have (and I’m particularly interested in how much it costs to connect to older equipment):

  • Sonos — the one to beat. Pricey, but very mature technology; they’ve been in this game longer than anybody else. Connection (Sonos Connect): $549, speakers from $299.
  • Pure Jongo — cheaper than Sonos, but more obscure in Australia. Their technology is called “Caskeid” (pronounced Cascade) and apparently Onkyo has licenced it. Connection (Jongo A2) $149, speakers from $199.
  • Denon’s Heos — same price range as Sonos, but the controller app gets poor reviews. Connection (Heos Link) $599 (it’s an amplifier as well, so more of an equivalent to the $749 Sonos Connect Amp), speakers from $379.
  • Yamaha’s MusicCast — compatible with latest model Yamaha receivers, but not mine. Limited range of products otherwise, from $349. Interestingly, this review implies all of the components can connect to old equipment, but looking more deeply, it appears this means only if that equipment supports Bluetooth, which my 2-year-old receiver doesn’t. The newer version of the same receiver (RX-V479) has MusicCast built in.
  • Samsung Sound — has a connection to old equipment called the “Multiroom Link mate” for $449, speakers from $299.
  • Panasonic has equipment using the Qualcomm Allplay standard, which theoretically other manufacturers can all use… but Panasonic seem to be the only ones available in Australia, apart from the near-no-name brand Laser (which I’ve seen in Officeworks of all places) and one Medion product (sold by Aldi… occasionally). Panasonic’sConnection $279, speakers from $379.
  • Harmon Kardon Omni+ — connector $229, speakers from $329. Seems to be getting poor reviews.
  • Bose Soundtouch. The only connection option is the $799 amplifier (similar to the Sonos Connect Amp). Speakers from $299.

Cheapie wireless speakers

But here’s the interesting thing: some brands support Google Cast:

The catch? Google Cast on third party speakers doesn’t yet support multi-room. Google says:

We are working on adding Multi-room group playback support to all of our existing and upcoming audio devices with Google Cast built-in. This will allow you to group your Chromecast Audio devices and Google Cast speakers from different brands into one seamless experience. This feature will be rolled out to all Google Cast speakers throughout 2016.

I’d hate to fall victim to vapourware, so I think I’ll believe this when I see it.

Let’s face it, the technically best solution still seems to be Sonos. They’ve been in the game a long time, their tech is mature, and they’ve got a proven record for selling equipment that lasts, and is upgradeable over many years. If I want multi-room music, I could get a Sonos Connect and then gradually get a bunch of Sonos speakers for around the rest of the house. Cost for Connect plus a speaker is from about $850…

Or I could get a GCA for the Yamaha, another for the Pure Radio in the kitchen, costing $120, and then speakers with Google Cast for other rooms, if the promised upgrade comes through. Cost from about $370.

I’d also need to figure out where to serve local music from. I should check if my router has is NAS capable – some can happily serve up files on a USB stick plugged into the back.

GCA does have a possible flaw: it has problems with gapless music played from some sources… it seems MP3 or AAC format is okay but WAV or FLAC isn’t. (What’s gapless music? Playing consecutive tracks with no gap between them, so that songs that lead into one another like on side B of Abbey Road don’t have short silences between them. Wait, did I just say side B? Showing my age…)

Multi-room music is perhaps the ultimate in extravagant unnecessary lifestyle products for my home. I think I’ll hold off and see if Sonos decide to get a bit more price-competitive and bring the Connect down in price in response to Google Cast and/or see if Google Cast gets a firmware upgrade to properly handle gapless music, and to handle multi-room music on third-party speakers.

Has anybody gone down this road before me? What did you find?

Film Toxic Custard newsletter TV

Video shops are dead – but streaming video ain’t perfect

Let’s see if I can go a whole week without writing a blog post about level crossings.

Video shops are dead. For a while there was one (or more) in every suburb. Where I live now in Bentleigh there were at least two. Even Glenhuntly, where I lived in the late-90s, had two.

They were close enough that mostly, I could walk to them. M’s house in Footscray was the exception — the video shops around there dealt with the local migrant populations, and you had to go further afield to find English language movies (or even movies with English subtitles).

Over time the video shops ditched VHS and morphed into DVD shops. But in the last few years, almost all of them have closed, disappeared along with CRT non-widescreen analogue TVs. As with many industries, the internet is taking over.

Ye olde CRT TV (November 2004)

Blockbuster was one of the biggest video shop chains — they now seem to have only four stores left in Melbourne. I’m not sure about Video Ezy — if the White Pages is accurate, they still have about a dozen stores. Any number of individual stores have vanished.

(From my observations, a surprising number of old video shops seem to have turned into fitness centres. Some kind of transformation from couch potato to gym junkie.)

For a while, DVDs by snail mail was the thing. It never caught on at my house. It’s just not the way we watch movies. Usually the decision to rent something is spontaneous. You need to go to a physical shop, or stream it. The other option I’ve tried is renting on iTunes. Unfortunately this isn’t streaming – downloading a movie in HD first can take ages – far longer than it would take to find one of the few remaining video shops.

Streaming video is good, the technology and infrastructure around it has matured, but none of the services are perfect — I’ve now sampled most them.

I used Presto ($9.99 per month for TV or movies, $14.99 for both) for about 6 months. It had a good range, but no HD, and is more expensive than the others if you want TV and movies.

Then I moved onto Netflix ($11.99 for HD). Good range, terrific apps (virtually every platform you can think of) and hooray for HD.

Then I tried Stan ($10, including HD). Good range, slightly clunky iPod app which looks like it should be able to use a cable to your TV, but can’t.

I haven’t tried Quickflix.

The problem with all of these is that the range is good but not brilliant. There were just far too many times I would think of a random movie, go looking for it, and discover it wasn’t available. Ditto with TV.

In a great discussion on the Talking Headways podcast from late 2014 (I’m working my way through the earlier episodes) they talk a bit about Netflix and other streaming services vs the old video shops, and come to the same conclusion: the range isn’t great. It’s probably more restricted than at many of the old video shops.

And even today, the biggest range of TV and movies is at your local JB Hifi store… as long as you’re prepared to buy, not rent.

At the moment I am without a streaming service — we’ve got a few of those old-fashioned DVDs to watch. But I have slowed down DVD/Blu-ray purchases. Barring Star Wars: Force Awakens (out on Wednesday), I’m not planning to splurge on any more discs for now, so I may get back to streaming again soon.

Which one? Depends what I want to watch. I have found these web sites which let you search their databases to see what’s available, without being a member:

These are useful tools, but I’m amused that Finder’s intro text talks about Game Of Thrones, which isn’t available on any of the services they compare.

It seems the streaming rights to that are locked up by HBO for their streaming service… which is only available in the USA. Sigh. Given the range of programming they’ve got, I reckon if they were to launch in Australia, they’d get a lot of happy subscribers.

That’s perhaps the biggest problem with the current streaming services — the content owners have much greater control over what each service can offer, so unlike those old video shops, whole ranges of movies from particular studios are just completely missing. “The long tail” was meant to solve this, but other factors have come into play.

driving Morons on the road Toxic Custard newsletter transport

The Montague Street bridge strikes again

It used to be that the fashionable bridge for high vehicles to crash into was the Spencer/Flinders Street rail overpass — eleven hits in five years.

But it’s been usurped by the Montague Street tram bridge.

At lunchtime on Tuesday I went down to have a look.

Certainly no shortage of warnings signs. In this view alone I count four, plus the stripy guard barrier in front of the bridge:
Montague St bridge, looking south

What you may not realise is that it’s actually two parallel bridges. One takes tram route 109; the other has spare tracks used for tram storage, as part of the nearby Southbank depot. (Originally one was the Port Melbourne line; I’m guessing the other was freight tracks or sidings.)
Montague St bridge, looking north

Similar to train bridges, there are signs indicating you should ring Yarra Trams straight away if a vehicle hits the bridge. Presumably that phone number has been rung a few times recently.
Sign on Montague St bridge

I was only there for about ten minutes, but unbelievably, another vehicle hit the bridge while I was there. This truck’s exhaust pipe hit the barrier. The pipe bent markedly, but stayed on. The truck driver stopped momentarily, then just kept going.
Truck damages exhaust, Montague St bridge

Not a serious collision of course, but amazing that despite all the signage and all the publicity, it still happens so often — this was the day after it had been hit twice.

And thankfully the vehicles are really hitting the super-tough guard barrier, so damage to the bridge itself (which would cause untold delays for many tram services and passengers) has so far been avoided.