8 minutes to Southland

After many years of waiting, Southland station finally opened this morning, with an official ribbon cutting, attended by Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan, MP for Bentleigh Nick Staikos, MP for Mordialloc Tim Richardson, and PTV head Jeroen Weimar.

Despite the rain, there was a pretty big crowd, come to have a sticky-beak and/or just do some shopping. Freebie snags and coffee and cupcakes were on offer.

Cupcake to mark the Southland Station opening

Protest against parking fees adjacent to Southland Station

Also greeting passengers was a union protest about car parking fees imposed by Westfield on shop staff. They’ll now have to pay $5 a day to park at the centre. Of course, some might be able to use the train now, but that’s unlikely to be an option for all of them.

Westfield needed to do something to prevent train users parking all day adjacent to the station. They chose to impose parking fees, implemented with pay stations and automatic gates. What they could have done was simply impose a 4 hour limit on the car parks on the western side of the highway (eg near the station), while leaving the other spots alone.

Lower profile, sitting in the car park during the opening event was a Vix van — no doubt to quickly respond if any of the Myki equipment broke down during the first hours of operation. It seemed to all work fine.

Just in case the Myki equipment fails: a Vix van at the Southland Station opening day

The new station

The outbound platform is accessed by a ramp.

This platform has PSO facilities and toilets — Exceloos are built into the structure, which might be a first for a Melbourne railway station. (McKinnon has something similar as part of the building, but this is managed by the local council, and is outside the paid area of the station.)

Southland Station outbound platform

The citybound platform is reached via a subway and either ramps or stairs. Both platforms have the new fast Myki readers, and LCD screens showing the next three trains.

Both platforms have rain cover, though on the outbound platform it’s nowhere near the entrance.

Southland Station on opening day

The entrance to the station has a network status screen, a pay phone (remember them?) and a Myki machine. The rather grand high entrance portico thingy doesn’t provide any shelter — the Myki machine was noticeably wet.

Myki machine at Southland Station

At least the entrance catches the eye when you’re looking for it coming out of the centre, which is about 100 metres away across the car park.

Southland Station on opening day

Fencing and signage (curiously in the style of station signs) direct people which way to go to the centre or to Bay Road. It was notable that some people were seen walking entirely the wrong way towards the centre, but that may have been because special event facilities were obscuring the way.

Signage at Southland Station

While it’s good that Westfield has provided a fairly direct path, they haven’t done a good job on the drainage. The rain this morning resulted in parts of it having huge puddles.

Access path from Southland Station to the centre - needs some drainage work

As far as I saw, there is no departure information at the shopping centre exit or the station entrance, so you’ll need to use the PTV phone app to tell if you need to hurry or not to make a train.

Given advances in real-time information, if Westfield were clever, they’d provide a screen with train departure info near the exit closest to the station, and another with bus departure information at the escalator down to the bus interchange. I’m sure they’d prefer people keep shopping than go and wait on a bench.

It’s a fair hike to the bus interchange, but most of the bus routes connect to the Frankston line at other stations.

Outbound train arrives at Southland Station on opening day

Services

The Frankston line has trains every ten minutes, 7 days-a-week for much of the day.

(The longest lines have the highest 7-day frequency. Long lines = more stations = more people = need higher frequency trains to service them. But it would be good to see this spread to more lines to encourage train use).

So unlike the buses that serve Southland, there’s actually a good service on the busiest days, the weekends.

And the beauty of a new station like this is that, being halfway along the line, it can be heavily used but not cause crowding issues for peak hour trains, as most of the demand will be off-peak and counter-peak, and not hit crowding hotspots closer to the city.

A citybound train arrives at Southland Station

Travel time

The opening of the station has made public transport a lot more competitive with car travel.

Timed from any of the stations along the line, it’s faster to get to Southland by train than by car — except Moorabbin, which is the same. This is thanks to the direct route of the train.

(Train times using weekend train timetable. Car times are of course highly variable; these are using average of Google estimated time range, for 2pm Sunday.)

Train users have to get to the station. But motorists will have to find a car park (particularly tricky/time-consuming on weekends).

A citybound train departs Southland Station

For people along the Frankston line, opening of the station has probably cut the trip to Southland by public transport by about 15 minutes, and made the journey much easier and more intuitive.

Of course people don’t live in railway stations. But in many suburbs there is increasing housing immediately around the stations. Upgrades like this, which make trips more viable without a car, over time will help encourage more people to get around without driving.

Even for me, about ten minutes walk from the station, it’s competitive, especially on weekends when the traffic around the centre is horrible.

It’s taken a while, but it’s great the station is open.

PS: Update 7:15pm. Perhaps the most unexpected reaction to the station opening:

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25 Replies to “8 minutes to Southland”

  1. Brilliant to see the station opened. I think the cover on platform 2 was an issue, and a day like today showed that. I also think that an opportunity to connect buses was missed, as while some buses do connect at other stations, other buses (631, 821, 767) donโ€™t connect to the Frankston line. Despite this, a great start to what will become a very useful station

  2. Good to see this station finally open.

    BTW I don’t buy the argument re 10 minute frequency – if that’s the Government’s argument, it’s pretty silly, but possibly explains why the western suburbs (apart from Footscray station) don’t get trains to that frequency.

  3. @Steve, that’s not the government’s argument. I just think that’s how it’s happened. They’re very focused on fixing crowding, which those long lines were suffering with 20 minute weekend services. They’re not focused so much on encouraging further growth or fighting off-peak road congestion.

  4. I think it was about one year ago when we visited a large shopping centre……ah, that would be Chadstone. The stress involved driving there and parking for me is beyond description. In spite of the traffic marshall, it was chaotic. Never again, I said to myself. It was a miserable experience. I’ve been to Southland, but not for many years. Now I can hop on the new route 58 tram at my door and catch a Franger train from South Yarra to Southland. It is gobsmackingly ridiculous that a station wasn’t built when the shopping centre was built, but better late than never. Thanks to the Liberal Party government at the time who approved and funded the new station…………ah, well, that is not really quite right. It was the Labor Party government that made it happen.

  5. I visited the station today and it does seem popular with a steady stream of passengers both on and off in each direction in the middle of the day/early afternoon.

    Some shelter outside the loos would be useful for both those waiting for them and those wanting to get on the that section of the train and would also likely extend to give better weather protection to the other doors into the station building.

    Weekday daytime services on Ringwood line lack 20 minute services and in the middle of the day/early afternoon, when there is only a single 15 minute service for the whole line, there is some crowding at times.

    I suspect the 30 minute service on Saturday and Sunday evenings and Sunday Mornings will be restricting the patronage of the station at some of those times (especially Saturday evening).

  6. Oh yes, puddles happen in the best places, which is rather odd when one considers modern engineering and surveying equipment. How can paving levels not be correctly constructed?

  7. Altona Station has an Exeloo on the station platform, don’t have a photo though.

    Great to see these facilities built into busier stations like Southland.

  8. It appears that the enpuddled section of the walkway used to be a parking space and that section has not been rebuilt since, only painted on and given the raised dots.

  9. About time one of our major shopping centres finally got a train station, its just horrible urban design to surround a shopping centre with 1k radius of carparks instead of connecting it to the community.
    Chadstone, Northland, Highpoint, Knox, Doncaster, Fountain Gate…
    At least Eastland got it right.

  10. It is a pity the designers didn’t choose an all-over roof, which would have protected passengers on the outbound platform from westerly rain. Surely the project managers could have extracted better value from their budget of $20.5m. For example, the Adelaide Showgrounds station had a budget of $16.5m, which included full shelter across the tracks for 3 platforms, for a 6-car train length, plus a lift. (Here the roof is supported by the same structure that holds the electric wires). Better shelter would also reduce maintenance costs of the myki and train information equipment.

    Is a swipe card system being considered for residents of Tulip Avenue ? They must be concerned at their street being used for parking, either for the station or the shopping centre, so a swipe card system for station access should overcome these concerns.

  11. “Itโ€™s a fair hike to the bus interchange”
    Daniel
    regarding the signage directing people from the station to the bus stop, does this direct people over the Nepean Highway via the bridge or do they have to cross the road?
    PS Yes, you are right to celebrate the new station – they don’t happen very often.

  12. @Nick, I think the point of the fence is to encourage pedestrians to use the access path to the centre. To me it just underscores that the path should be more direct.

    @Roger, good questions!

    I don’t recall any specific signage at the station for the bus interchange; just as shown for the centre itself and for Bay Road.

    You could go via the 1st floor of the centre, or you could go at ground level (via the centre, or along Bay Road), with this requiring crossing Nepean Highway at the traffic lights.

    I found a trip in Google Maps that directs you to do the latter (Highett Station, train to Southland, then bus 821 to Kingston Centre), which appears to direct you through at ground level via Bay Road, taking 7 minutes.

    PTV’s Journey Planner seems to resist sending you the same way — in fact even with the fastest walking speed switched on, it would prefer you walked from Highett to Southland (20 minutes) than make that train/bus connection!

  13. Do we have a final costing for the station? Given the range was anywhere from $13mil to $61mil (and a lot of that cost was hidden in the Napthine Express program), it would be interesting to find out what the final result was.

  14. This Leader report says it cost $21m.

    (It also labels the station as “controversial”. The station isn’t. Nobody has argued strongly against it, and both sides of politics are claiming credit for it. The parking changes that it indirectly sparked are what’s controversial.)

  15. I thought the only controversial thing about the station is around the property that was bought on Tulip Street for access to the station, and the fact that some parking fees are put in place to prevent commuters from parking at the shopping centre for long hours.

  16. A swipe card system could be used for the workers at the shopping center so they can access the car park without paying while still making the customers pay.

  17. Thank you for sharing your pictures…..and for your time and effort to take them…. A lot learned , from the images , narrative and comments…. Planners and designers should be less chauvinistic and incluye in their engineering guidelines opinions from users, neighbors…..By the way, please, bear with my misspelling, my Spanish corrector is very intrusive, and blinding my english grammar….

  18. I will certainly consider using Southland more now that it has a direct train connection, though I would have an additional 10 minute walk at the other end. I’m more likely to take the train at peak shopping times eg just before or after Christmas when parking is difficult. The rest of the time I usually find parking quite straightforward.

    When I think about my typical shopping trip I’m often carrying quite a lot by the end of it, and I’m not sure I’d want to carry it the additional ten minutes.

    My typical shopping trip to Southland often also involves a visit to the huge Bunnings in Mentone, down the Nepean Highway. That is still more or less inaccessible by public transport.

  19. Nice to see Southland open. Opening morning was fun, with lots of free cupcakes, cookies, BBQ breafast, coffees, handouts, etc. The new station is nice, if a little spartan. Some more shelter may have been good. There was a very heavy shower or two during the opening morning, and lots of standing water everywhere. The new stairs up to the platform (citybound) had a lot of water pooled on them with no run off – it was quite treacherous.

    The protest was fun to witness – and the odd departing citybound train that gave an extra supporting “honk” or two was appreciated by the masses. I wasn’t aware of the issue until I was wearing my tatty “Apple Southland” tshirt, that Apple handed me on opening day, a week ago. A lady at Lincraft wanted to know if it was true I wasn’t paying parking fees. Apparently there is a rumour that Apple and a few other big retailers have cut a deal for free staff parking. I had to inform her I didn’t work for Apple.

    While I usually commute up/down the Cranbourne/Pakenham line, I tended to make a weekly trip via Southland. I’d usually alight at Cheltenham or Highett into the shopping centre, and grab a 631 bus home. The walk was about 5 minutes or 8 minutes respectively from the stations. Southland station makes this much more attractive, and given the lack of “crush” factor on the Frankston line compared to the Cranbourne/Pakenham, I may make more trips home this way.

  20. The large major chains would have significant bargaining power, compared with the small shops ad so would be in a better position to negotiate.

    The supermarkets, cinema and assorted late opening food establishments would also have a significantly higher proportion of workers working outside good PT hours and thus with far less choice in driving and free parking is far more justifiable for workers with such hours.

  21. This is one very great day in deed.

    I hope that people will proove the viability of such railway stations, to the point, where they can help the business case required for other such links.

    I am yet to try it out. Perhaps I may wait until the Boxing day sales, and try it out then.

    Will the shopping center extend itself towards and perhaps over the new station?
    Will there be better or undercover walkways of some kind between the station and the center?

    Also, will there be moves to relocate the bus interchange towards the station one day, or, perhaps a center so large may need two interchanges at opposite ends of the center for all bus routes?

  22. Two bus interchanges would be a very bad idea as it would reduce the ability of passengers to change between buses and create confusion but moving the bus interchange to next to the station is a good idea.

    The station draws patronage away from some buses to, from and through Southland because buses are no longer needed to get between the Frankston line and the shopping centre and surrounds. This may even allow one or two bus routes, that serve the Frankston line at other stations, not to go to Southland.

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