The Night Network trial, in particular running the trains all night on weekends, isn’t perfect, but has solved a lot of problems.
- No “last train” that revellers have to rush for
- No long wait until dawn if you miss the last train (this was said to be an issue contributing to CBD night time violence)
- Shift workers can get to and from work on Friday and Saturday nights
- Relieving the load on taxis, meaning an alternative to the long queues
- The hopelessly late 8am start (first city arrivals) for trains isn’t so much of a problem anymore – you can get to events like fun runs much more easily
But there’s one problem it hasn’t solved: connections to Sunday morning V/Line services.
Take for example the 7:05am from Southern Cross to Seymour and Albury. Before Night Network, you couldn’t catch a Metro train to connect with this service — the first trains arrived about an hour later.
This problem isn’t fixed. Why? Because Southern Cross Station doesn’t open for suburban passengers on Sunday morning until after 7:30am.
The Metro suburban trains run all night, but they don’t stop there.
What exactly are Southern Cross Station’s opening hours?
SCS is a privately run station. The contracts are here, but all I could find with regard to operating hours is that they are set by the Southern Cross Station Authority… not what they actually are.
The SCS web site doesn’t have useful information like opening hours. But it does promote their latest parking special offer (!). Supposedly their Lost Property office is open from 6am.
The PTV web site has a detailed page about the station and its facilities and services… but also doesn’t specify opening hours. Ditto the Metro page. V/Line reckons 6am, but as we’ll see, trains don’t stop there that early.
Obviously at least some platforms must open by the time the first trains are due to depart.
What time are the first Sunday morning trains from Southern Cross?
First V/Line Sunday trains out from Southern Cross:
- Seymour/Albury 7:05
- Geelong 7:50
- Traralgon 8:04
- Ballarat 8:15
- NSW Trainlink to Sydney 8:30
- Bendigo 8:36
(From January there will also be a 7am train to Warrnambool.)
There are also morning coaches to Halls Gap at 8:15 and to Nhill/Horsham at 8:15, from the coach terminal, which is also where Night Coach services depart at 2am to regional destinations. (You can’t connect to those via Metro train either.)
First Sunday morning Metro trains to stop at Southern Cross
These times haven’t changed with Night Network. From 1am until these times, suburban trains run direct into Flinders Street, and those lines that do run via Southern Cross all night (Werribee, Sunbury, Craigieburn, Upfield) don’t stop there.
- Belgrave/Lilydale/Alamein 7:39
- Sunbury 7:42
- Werribee/Williamstown 7:50
- South Morang 7:51
- Frankston 7:52
- Upfield 8:06
- Sandringham 8:05
- Craigieburn 8:15
- Hurstbridge 8:01
- Cranbourne/Pakenham 8:02
- Glen Waverley 8:02
Journey planner confusion
The PTV Journey Planner appears to want at least a 15 minute connection to V/Line services, so if you ask it to plot out a journey from Sandringham to Ballarat on a Sunday morning, it tells you to catch a 7am train from Sandringham, arriving 7:30 at Flinders Street, then catch another Metro train to Footscray arriving at 7:50, and change there for your Ballarat train at 8:23.
In contrast Google Maps says you can catch the 7:30 train from Sandringham, getting to Southern Cross at 8:05, changing to the same Ballarat train leaving there at 8:15. You just saved 30 minutes and one change of train by using Google instead of PTV.
That’s just one example. If you wanted to catch the first train to Geelong (7:50) there are similar challenges coming from most of the Metro lines.
If you’re trying to get to Southern Cross but your Metro train skips it, you have to change services somewhere else, and either walk or catch a Night Bus or Night Tram through the CBD to make the connection.
The most obvious connection point would be Flinders Street, but none of the Night Trams connect from there to Southern Cross. (That’s the same in daytime too, but obviously there are lots of trains for that trip during the day, so it’s easy.)
You can use the 941, 942 or 952 Night Buses from Flinders Street to Southern Cross Coach terminal (about a block from the Bourke Street entrance for trains).
What about… opening Southern Cross earlier?
It’s astounding that as part of Night Network, they organised to run the entire electric Metropolitan train network all night… except for Southern Cross, the second busiest station on the network.
Could it be the private operator wanted a fortune to open it all night? Is this yet another warning sign that PPPs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be?
Or did the government just not get a contract variation organised in time for the trial to begin at the start of 2016?
Note the City Loop underground stations (run by Metro) are also closed during all-night service.
Perhaps it makes sense to funnel all-night travellers into Flinders Street, to centralise things like security and customer service.
But at the very least, trains should stop a little earlier at Southern Cross on Sundays to make connections to V/Line, and access to Docklands and the western end of the CBD easier.
Even if it’s too hard to divert direct trains from the southeast/east/northeast through the station, the north/western lines already running through Southern Cross should stop there after 6am, when supposedly the station is open.
- From Werribee/Williamstown approx 6:48, 7:29.
- To Werribee/Williamstown approx 6:12, 7:10
- From Sunbury approx 6:13, 6:58
- To Sunbury approx 6:42
- From Craigieburn approx 6:25, 7:20am
- To Craigieburn approx 6:28, 7:23
- From Upfield approx 6:45
- To Upfield approx 6:57
I really hope Night Network is made permanent, but it does need tweaks to make it more financially sustainable (more about this later), and more useful for passengers.