For the past five days — from 8:30pm last Thursday, to last night (Tuesday) — the Belgrave, Lilydale, Alamein and Glen Waverley lines were replaced by buses between the city and Camberwell/Darling.
The new signalling for Richmond to Burnley is all commissioned and ready for service. pic.twitter.com/pvRKouOkak
— Vicsig (@vicsig) December 5, 2017
Thankfully it’s over now. But it was a huge disruption, affecting passengers on a full quarter of the network.
PTV station boarding figures from 2014 indicate the affected stations have 113,700 boardings per weekday. Assuming most of those passengers travel into the area where trains weren’t running, and most make a return trip, we’re probably talking about more than 200,000 trips per weekday impacted.
The effects have been felt right across the eastern suburbs:
- Long queues of passengers at Parliament and Camberwell, and long queues of buses in nearby streets
- Extra passengers on tram routes in the area, including 70, 75, 109, 72 — to the point where many have been unable to board along the route — and to a lesser extent 5, 6, 3
- Extra passengers on buses in the area, including 906, 907, 302 and 304, prompting some extra buses, but from what I hear, nowhere near enough
- Extra passengers on nearby train lines including Cranbourne/Pakenham and Frankston
- More private vehicles on the roads, slowing down buses and trams, as well as clogging up the Eastern Freeway
For those who braved the train replacement buses, there have been long delays, both at interchange hubs such as Camberwell, and on the buses themselves, which have been caught in traffic. On Friday there was the additional challenge of the weather.
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) December 1, 2017
Rail upgrade works are important; everyone knows they need to happen. And there are lots on at the moment, with level crossing removals, and plenty of other projects bubbling along.
Why in December?
The number one question people have been asking is:
Why such a big shutdown in December? Why not January, when there are fewer people travelling?
It’s because… there’s something even bigger coming in January.
Nothing’s been officially announced yet, but I’ve been told several times (and it wasn’t flagged as confidential) that major works will shut down the entire Caulfield group in early January.
Caveat: The details I have are sketchy, and the details may have changed, or I could be totally wrong in what I’ve heard. So take this with a grain of salt:
My understanding is that from the 2nd to the
7th 9th of January, all Cranbourne, Pakenham and Frankston trains will terminate at Moorabbin and Westall Caulfield (or possibly even Oakleigh, according to my scribbled notes), and my assumption is that Sandringham trains will terminate at Elsternwick.
Update 7/12/2017: Corrected the above, as official information has now been published. See the bottom of this post.
The entire inner-city section of those lines will be replaced by buses — though they may get creative and bus some people over to other lines, just as they’ve done with parts of the Glen Waverley line recently. You’d hope they’d put extra trains on other lines, and co-ordinate with authorities managing roads, trams and buses as well… given the past few days.
The affected stations on these lines to be closed account for
165,880 122,830 boardings per weekday, about 45% 8% more than the Burnley group of lines.
Trust me when I say that as a Frankston passenger, this is not going to be fun. Maybe I should book some annual leave?
Why don’t they give us longer notice?
Some of these projects are years in planning. It beats me why authorities don’t flag them further in advance more than a couple of weeks.
Even now, as people continue to ask why the Burnley group works didn’t wait until January, they don’t have an answer to share.
If people had more notice, some of them might be able to plan leave from work, to make things easier for themselves.
Workplaces might be able to adjust shift times, or organise car pooling or working from home.
At the very least people might be able to understand the context of the overall works plan, and why some projects are scheduled at particular times.
It’s perfectly possible to give 2-3 months notice… because it’s been done before.
Back in 2012, then-public transport minister Terry Mulder made the decision to flag major works up to 3 months in advance.
As you can see thanks to the Web Archive, this Department of Transport page from March 2012 listed major works up to the end of May.
This didn’t last long. As I recall, within six months, they were back to flagging works only a couple of weeks in advance, though Yarra Trams has a list that includes some advance changes, and sometimes the Level Crossing Removal Authority gives longer notice of major shutdowns.
Publicising major works well in advance wouldn’t help everybody, but it would help some. And the more people who can plan their holidays or travel around those disruptions, the better for everybody.
Update 7/12/2017 – Official info released
The day after this blog was published, Metro and PTV largely confirmed the January closure, though the details have changed a bit along the way.
and: Buses replace trains: Caulfield – Dandenong, Wednesday 10 January – Thursday 25 January 2018 (all day in the first week, then in sections in evenings only after that — click through for details). (Also on the PTV web site)
It appears the Sandringham line will not be affected, however there will be express buses from Moorabbin to Brighton Beach, meaning many Frankston line passengers will be added to that line. There are also buses from Westall to East Malvern on the Glen Waverley line. Hopefully both lines both get additional services.
- The Age 7/12/2017: Summer bus hell awaits as rail commuters face January network shutdown