Three bus stops outside Huntingdale, Victoria

Monday was Labour Day, and I went for a long morning walk. Well okay, I caught a 703 bus from Bentleigh to Centre Road/Huntingdale Road — despite the PTV app incorrectly claiming it wasn’t running most of the day.

Then I walked to Huntingdale Station, then west along North Road, and gradually back home. Here are some things I saw along the way.

Huntingdale has got a new bus interchange. There’s some confusion about the cost — in 2015 the State Government said it was $7.6 million ($5 million for the bus interchange, a 2014 election promise, and $2.6 million the rest for parking). PTV now says $11.6 million. Hmmm.

Anyway, the upgrade is a good accompaniment to the 601 shuttle bus to Monash University, which was first introduced in 2011, running on semester weekdays every 4 minutes 7am-7pm, then every 8 minutes until 9:30.

Although not finished yet, at first glance the interchange looks rather good – apart from the 601, it’s also used by, the 900 Smartbus (Caulfield, Chadstone, Monash, Rowville) and route 630 (Elwood to Monash, eastbound). They enter and do a short loop around to exit.

It provides a much quicker and closer connection to the railway station, and means passengers don’t have to cross Huntingdale Road to change to a bus to the university.

Huntingdale Bus interchange

Sensibly, the 601 to Monash University has the prime spot, next to the station entrance. The 630 to Monash also stops nearby.

The 900 is over the other side. I’m betting this is to try and prevent people who just want Monash Uni swamping this service, so people going further can get onto it.

Universities Some universities don’t observe public holidays that aren’t national public holidays. Labour Day is one of these, so there were quite a few people headed to campus.

Thankfully the 601, normally a weekday-only route, also runs on such days. Other bus routes were running a Saturday timetable.

On this day, buses were replacing Cranbourne/Pakenham line trains, so passengers were actually changing off other buses. Given the large numbers of people involved, perhaps when there are rail works on university days, they should run some rail replacement buses via campus?

601 at Huntingdale Bus interchange

The 601 buses are prepaid-only (no Myki purchases or top-ups on-board), and board by all doors, to help speed things up. Ironically most people queuing used the back door, so it was almost as slow as boarding by just the front door.

Just as the near-full 601 completed loading and headed off, another one arrived. One of the challenges for this route is keeping buses coming through at an even frequency.

Crowds on some mornings in the past few weeks have resulted in long queues, and apparently this happens every year at the start of semester. This was the scene on 7th March (via Darren):

Queue at Huntingdale bus interchange (via Darren)

The long wait for a bus to campus was cited last week in The Age, with queues contributing to one campus commuter giving up on public transport. (The article reckoned she’d drive the following day. That was the day that a truck breakdown in the Burnley tunnel caused widespread disruption, so it may not have been any less painful!)

While some would like to see a rail link, the obvious short-term upgrade is more buses, even just for a few weeks when demand is highest… or bigger buses — it looks like the new interchange can handle long articulated buses, and hopefully the same can be said for the stop at Monash, and the route between them.

(Double-deck buses would also cater for more people, but have longer dwell/loading times, negating the benefit somewhat.)

Also at Huntingdale, they have installed a new style of bus stop sign. The “B” is a bay indicator, rather than a Sydney-style B for Bus.

Huntingdale Bus interchange

I’m surprised to see it says “Hail bus”. I wouldn’t have thought that was needed at the terminus of a point-to-point shuttle.

Note the absence of any operator or PTV or even Transport For Victoria branding.

It also looks like further (automated?) signage is coming. (Around the interchange there are also some Smartbus signs, not yet activated.)

Anyway, I kept walking and found this on North Road – a rather splendid looking brick bus shelter.

Looks like it’s a few decades old. Being north-facing it may not provide much shade, but at least unlike its newer cousins, it’s not plastered with ads, and it doesn’t block the footpath as it’s set back (onto council land).

Bus stop on North Road

Further along, I found this stop on Warrigal Road near North Road. Someone’s forgotten to take down this old sign from the former operator, Ventura.

Old Ventura Bus sign in Warrigal Road

Also here: the intersection was recently resurfaced. It seems to me they missed an opportunity to provide a jump-start lane for buses. With or without a “B” priority light, it would help the busy route 630 buses get ahead of the other traffic.

Warrigal Road/North Road intersection

Similarly, the bus jump start lane at Wellington Road/Princes Highway westbound should be made 24/7 instead of peak only. Cars clog it up outside peak times, which just seems silly.

Buses play a vital role in filling gaps between the trains and trams. The alignment along North/Wellington Road to Monash University and Rowville is a big gap.

In public transport, “software” — routes and operating hours and frequencies that meet passenger needs, is essential.

But “hardware” (infrastructure) is also important.

It’s good to see the upgrade at Huntingdale, and it’d be even better to see upgrades to the 601 service to keep up with demand.

More bus priority, especially an easy win such as at Warrigal/North Road would also be very welcome.

Ten things about London Underground, and lessons for Melbourne

Britain is a place many Australians look to with fondness, with many of us having relatives there, and it being a top destination for Australian tourists.

As a result, London is sometimes seen as a city to emulate, especially as our cities get bigger.

Our current crop of public transport managers certainly have links to Britain — the current CEOs of PTV, Metro and V/Line are all Brits (though the current and recent Yarra Trams CEOs have been French).

London Underground (aka The Tube) carries vast numbers of people. Could Melbourne’s Metro be more like them? Well we seem to have copied some of the Tube map’s colours for our rail map.

Here are some things I’ve learnt about London Underground – both from last year’s trip, from recently reading Christian Wolmar’s book about the history of the system, and from other research – and how they might relate to Melbourne.

Earls Court station, London Underground

1. Underground, overground

Most of London Underground isn’t underground. Tunnels are very expensive. Mostly it’s the central core of the network, where there was no other practical choice, that’s underground. Outside the central core, for the older lines, there was space to go aboveground, though recent network expansion has mostly had to go under.

This map actually shows you where the tunnels are on the network.

Melbourne lesson: it’s only recent new lines in heavily built-up areas that have been or will be underground: the City Loop, Metro 1 (under construction via Swanston Street) and the proposed but not funded Metro 2. Other new lines such as Regional Rail Link and Mernda are aboveground, because they’re either in new areas or along existing reservations.

2. Oyster isn’t perfect

The popular narrative is that Myki is crap, Oyster is perfect. Oyster is terrific, but perfect? No.

On our trip, most of us used credit cards; one used an Oyster card. We found we couldn’t top-up the Oyster card online, because our account was linked to a non-UK address. Instead it has to be done in person.

Fares also aren’t fully integrated. You will pay extra to change between tubes, other trains, buses, trams, river boats.

And we (occasionally) saw Oyster readers not working, mostly on buses. And “heritage” Routemaster buses don’t accept credit cards.

That said, on all other services, the system’s terrific “contactless” capability to accept most Paypass/touch credit cards directly is a real boon for tourists.

Melbourne lesson: Myki has a way to go to improve, especially with regard to reader response times. Only the new model readers are fast enough — over time this might be resolved as older equipment gets replaced.

We probably won’t get credit card options anytime soon, but phone apps may be on the way.

London Underground station information

3. Branches and junctions

Conventional wisdom will tell you that a metro system has no branches — that trains run simple patterns from end to end.

Many of the more modern metros are like engineered like this. Singapore for instance, where each line is self-contained. Even getting to the airport involves changing to a shuttle service.

London Underground actually has lots of branches, which complicate operations, but are a legacy of it being such an old system.

And yet they’re replicating it on the new Elizabeth Line (aka Crossrail) — a central tunnel, with two branches in the east, and three in the west.

Even so, “flying junctions” and other infrastructure are used to avoid conflicts, and the interactions between lines are minimised. It helps prevent delays on one line quickly spreading to another.

Melbourne lesson: there’s been a gradual shift to separating out the lines, not just in terms of timetables but also maintenance and drivers.

But there’s a way to go yet. Currently in peak hour, the V/Line Gippsland and Dandenong lines share tracks, with the latter interacting with the Frankston line in the Loop, which in turn connects with the Werribee line, which (in the morning peak) also shares tracks with some Sunbury direct trains. The Sunbury line in turn shares tracks with the Upfield and Craigieburn lines, which share with V/Line Seymour trains. The Sunbury line also shares tracks with the Bendigo line, which in turn shares with the Geelong and Ballarat lines.

So during the morning peak, about half the rail lines in Melbourne and beyond (and many of the busiest) are actually interlinked! Sometimes you wonder how your morning train ever arrives on time!

The Metro 1 tunnel will help this when it opens in 2025, but timetable changes in the meantime would help minimise line interactions.

Line map on District Line, London Underground

4. Some Tube lines are quite long

Conventional wisdom also says that metro lines are fairly short, which is why it’s okay if carriages are designed for high capacity, with most passengers standing.

The longest one seat ride on the Tube is 34 miles (54 km) from Epping to West Ruislip on the Central line, taking 82 minutes.

That said, this would take you through Central London and out the other side, which is probably not a common trip.

Still, a trip from Piccadilly Circus in Central London to Heathrow Airport is about 50 mins on the Tube, so there are some long trips being made.

Melbourne lesson: Flinders Street via the Loop to Pakenham is 80 minutes. Some have said this is too long for trains with few seats. The new High Capacity Metro Trains will have more standing space, but with more carriages as well, and an overall slightly higher number of seats than the current train fleets. Hopefully this is a good balance between seats and capacity, so most people won’t be standing for too long.

Canary Wharf Underground Station, London

5. Different lines, different trains

While the whole Tube network is standard gauge, different lines are built to different load gauges, in other words, how big each train is.

Deep level tunnels on the older lines are much smaller than some of the “subsurface” lines, and have noticeably smaller trains. Victorian era engineering wasn’t up to the task of building larger deep level tunnels.

This means the fleet is segregated, with many trains unable to run on certain lines.

Melbourne lesson: You wouldn’t deliberately design it like this.

It does may make sense to run trains of one type on a line (same acceleration/deceleration characteristics can help with punctuality and timetabling, and dedicated fleets running to specific depots mean easier maintenance and repairs).

But you wouldn’t want this on a permanent basis, as it’s useful to shuffle the fleet around as newer trains arrive — just as is happening on Melbourne’s trams with the Cascade Plan.

London Underground District Line train

6. The term “metro” may have come from London, not Paris

The term “metro” is now used around the world.

It originated with the Paris Metro, which came from the original operating company name: La Compagnie du chemin de fer mรฉtropolitain de Paris (Paris Metropolitan Railway Company). It’s unclear, but some believe the company name was inspired by the London Metropolitan Railway, which had opened about 40 years earlier.

Melbourne lesson: Well, you probably know this bit. In 2009 or thereabouts the State Government chose to call the suburban rail system “Metro” for the new operating contract that started that year.

Yes, the government owns the name, not the operator, so hopefully it’ll stick around now.

That still hasn’t stopped them partly rebranding again since then, when the umbrella “Public Transport Victoria” (PTV) brand took over from Metlink. And now we’re seeing an even bigger umbrella brand “Transport For Victoria” over the top of that, though thankfully so far that’s only appeared on printed material, not all over the system itself.

Earls Court Station, London Underground

7. Much of the Tube is not accessible

Many of the stations were built before accessibility was seen as important, and 19th century engineering certainly didn’t prioritise something extravagant as ramps when building entrances to underground stations.

At the time, lifts were an emerging technology, not ready for prime time. So many Tube stations are still not step-free, though they’re slowly upgrading them.

Melbourne lesson: Thanks to enlightened thinking from the 1890s, and no underground stations at all until the 1970s, thankfully almost all our stations are step-free, though many are not compliant with DDA, and only some of these will be resolved via level crossing removal-related upgrades.

London Clapham Junction

8. The Tube is only part of London’s rail network

London Underground comprises 11 lines, but numerous other railways also serve London.

In the rejuvenated Docklands area, there is the Docklands Light Railway, an automated mostly elevated system runs.

Privatised “National Rail” operators run services from beyond London, including many commuter routes. This causes some issues, with some long distance trains running with moderate loads until they reach the commuter belt, where they get crowded.

Some suburban routes have been taken over by Transport For London and are being upgraded and run as “Overground” services, offering high(er) frequencies, thus becoming more like The Tube.

Melbourne lesson: The issue of long distance trains serving commuters is a well-known problem on V/Line’s Ballarat and Geelong lines, where passengers from Caroline Springs, Tarneit and Wyndham Vale (and to a lesser extent, other stations on other lines) add to capacity pressures for those from further out.

There’s little question that something will need to be done to serve both demographics better. More short-run services in the short term, and better track separation and Metro services to growing suburbs in the medium to long term.

Melbourne’s rail network is of course supplemented by its trams and to a lesser extent, buses. London has a small number of trams, but a very extensive bus network as well.

London Transport Museum: original Metropolitan Railway timetable

9. Frequent since opening

The Tube has run frequent services from the start. Wolmar’s book talks about 4 trains per hour on lines from day one — also shown on this timetable (above) from the opening of the Metropolitan line.

This reflects that the first lines served mostly busy built-up areas, not empty paddocks. Mind you, later some lines did expand in an effort to prompt residential development.

Melbourne lesson: A parallel might be the trams, many of which were built in already established areas, and were mostly reasonably frequent as soon as they opened (and still are today) whereas the trains ran farther afield, originally beyond the metropolis to developing areas, and were (and mostly still are) not terribly frequent – every 20 minutes is typical outside peak.

We need to catch up. There’s huge scope to run Melbourne’s trains at least every 10 minutes all day on most parts of the network, vastly improving the experience for passengers whether it’s a one seat ride, or involves connections.

London Victoria Underground station disruption, Saturday lunchtime

10. Less peaky = busy all day

Melbourne’s rail network is very peaky. The most extreme case might be the Ringwood (Belgrave/Lilydale) line, where the number of trains through Camberwell in peak hour (approaching 20 per hour) is ten times the number in the late evening (2 per hour).

Peaky means we’ve built substantial infrastructure and fleet which only gets a workout for a relatively brief period every day. There are probably quite a few trains in the fleet that only run two services everyday – once every peak hour. This might be a product of demand, but it also means that outside peak times, passenger wait times are much longer, which suppresses public transport demand, even though overall travel demand is strong.

London Underground’s service, at least measured by trains per hour, is much flatter, with for instance the Piccadilly line running 21 trains per hour at most times of day, though the weekend Night Tube (overnight service) is “only” 6 trains per hour.

And this is reflected in passenger journey figures. A quick comparison:

  • Route length: London Underground about 400 km / Melbourne also about 400 km depending on how you count it
  • Train service kilometres per year: Underground 84 million km / Metro 23 million km
  • Total passengers per year: Underground 1.37 billion / Metro 233 million

So it’s not that London Underground is a bigger network with longer routes; Melbourne’s rail network is a similar size (but not as well supported by other related systems like London’s DLR and National Rail, as noted above).

The key is that London Underground is a far more intensive network, with more frequent services, and far more passengers.

It also means that unlike Melbourne, London’s system better reflects overall city travel demand, not just CBD peak hour demand. Outside peak hour, travel demand (in both cities) is substantial, but the broader Melbourne public transport network’s lack of all-day frequent service isn’t good at capturing it — trams do okay, but trains and buses (which fill the gaps) are an issue.

Handling billions of passenger trips every year means making use of the latest technology. London Underground uses platform screen doors at some of the newest stations, as well as in-cab (high capacity) signalling to allow very high frequencies on the busiest lines. We’ll start to see those rolled-out when Metro 1 tunnel opens.

Peak hour at South Kensington Underground Station, London


London is a bigger city than Melbourne, about twice the population. It’s got a 1900 year head start.

But Melbourne is growing fast. Our transport system needs to mature, and any sane policy should dictate that the backbone of the transport system should not be moving individuals in cars, but by mass transit.

City planning will also play a role, by concentrating development around public transport.

We might never have such an extensive rail network as London, but we can do a lot better than we are now — starting to adapt some of the best practices and technology from London and other big world cities would be a great start.

Is the Smartbus branding dead? Why not make every bus a Smartbus?

Smartbus was devised in the dying days of the Kennett government originally as a mostly hardware-based upgrade: traffic priority, real-time information at stops, distinctive bus stop signs and buses.

Originally it didn’t include service upgrades (which sparked derision from the PTUA at the time), but this was changed early on during the Bracks government, with a trial on routes 703 and 888/889 (now 902).

It was a success, with patronage growing strongly. In 2006 the Bracks government announced more Smartbus routes, including four orbital routes (of which two and three-quarters were eventually built) and four Doncaster area “rapid transit” routes under the sub-brand “DART”.

Most of these replaced existing routes, but they’re now some of the busiest bus services in Melbourne.

This old data (which was the most recent published by PTV, and has now disappeared off their web site) shows that Smartbus (90x and 703) make up 5 of the top 7 routes — in part due to their length, no doubt.

Melbourne annual bus patronage 2011-12

(Monash Uni shuttle route 601 is probably ranked at about 7th, but the figures are so old, it’s not included, as it only started in late 2011.)

Silver and orange

Part of the appeal, apart from a better quality of service, was a distinctive silver livery, to set Smartbus routes apart from others.

Transdev, which operates most of the Smartbus routes, seems to be doing their best to kill it off.

Regular orange buses are turning up regularly on Smartbus routes.

Smartbus-liveried buses are turning up regularly on non-Smartbus routes.

Smartbus livery on non-Smartbus route

Transdev of course have well-publicised problems with their fleet, which has led to a shortage of buses. But you also see these issues on weekends, when there should be plenty of spare vehicles. (The above photo is from a Saturday. That day, at least two Smartbus liveried-buses were observed running on route 223.)

Ventura has also been spotted occasionally running regular orange buses on Smartbus route 900, and they also run route 703, one of the original trial Smartbuses, which has never been upgraded to reach the supposed Smartbus service standard, and always runs orange buses (albeit with internal passenger information displays, which are only seen on Smartbus routes).

Is it time to ditch the special livery?

There might be some benefit to having a distinctive Smartbus livery in terms of attracting new users, but I don’t think it’s ever been quantified.

There is, self-evidently, a cost to bus operators of having a specific fleet of buses that can only be run on certain routes. This is the same reason they are reluctant to run mini-buses at quiet times – as this video from Florida notes, it would involve having an entire separate fleet for particular runs.

Should all buses be Smartbuses?

Smartbus routes are not actually the most frequent on the network, so the current distinction is somewhat arbitrary.

What if we gave all bus routes the benefit of Smartbus technology?

One benefit of Smartbus is real-time information at stops, but data feeds for this are now available for almost every Melbourne bus route (via the PTV app and others).

Maybe where regular and Smartbus routes share stops, they should be displaying all routes on the Smartbus kerbside signs?

Perhaps they’re already trialling this. A couple of weeks ago I spotted this displayed on a Smartbus sign at Caulfield Station – it was alternating between non-Smartbus route 624, and Smartbus route 900. (Yes, refer to printed timetable isn’t very useful. In fact, that default message should probably now be “refer to printed timetable or PTV app”.)

Route 624 on a Smartbus display

Smartbus 703 internal display

Another Smartbus amenity not currently seen on other routes is passenger information displays inside the buses, alongside automated announcements for each stop.

During my UK trip last year I found similar displays in every single London bus that I rode. I found it helped a lot when navigating an unfamiliar route.

London bus internal passenger information

This is also increasingly standard on Melbourne trams.

The obvious question is: why not here on every bus? This would also assist ensuring those with hearing or vision difficulties are informed about their location.

As for the liveries themselves… arguably it is useful to distinguish between bus routes by more than just the number. But equally there’s value in a uniform fleet, to emphasise there’s a network.

Perhaps the answer is to make more route number displays standard on all new buses — not just the front, but also the side and rear too. Make them super prominent.

And perhaps some innovative new way of providing individual route markings/colours (within the standard orange design) could be found, such as a coloured stripe or other design along the side that can be displayed clearly, yet easily changed when the bus gets switched to another route.

All options worth exploring.

Non-liveried Smartbus arrives

Of course, putting more automated information at stops and on buses won’t solve issues of poor scheduling, infrequent services, spaghetti-like route structure, on-road delays (and a lack of traffic priority), cleanliness, and reliability…

But starting a rollout of Smartbus features onto every bus route — including regional town buses — would be a step forward to providing an easier to use bus network.

How many motorways does a big city need? And what sort of city do we want?

On Friday, The Age reported that Infrastructure Australia has put out a report that asks what sort of city we’d like to have in 2046:

  • The Expanded Low Density scenario – similar to Los Angeles – sprawling, dispersed suburbs, even more car-dominated than today
  • The Centralised High Density scenario – similar to New York City – concentrating jobs and housing in the inner 15km ring
  • The Rebalanced Medium Density scenario – similar to London – medium-density over a wider area, and jobs closer to where people live

IA’s question is a good one, and put in terms many people can understand.

If the populations of Melbourne and Sydney continue to grow, we will end up being more like the population of LA, NY or London.

What outcome do we want? Because that’s the one we should plan for.

Sunday afternoon traffic on M1 exit to Kingsway

As it happens, also on Friday, the Financial Review reported that the International Monetary Fund says Australia has been spending too much on roads, and the pendulum needs to swing to railways, ports and airports.

All this raises many questions, but here’s one I’d already been looking into:

Do more populous cities have more motorways?

How many motorways are there in LA, NY and London, and other big cities, compared to Melbourne?

I looked at the total kilometre length of motorways in the three cities – plus a few others where I could easily find data.

Motorway kms by city

Some caveats:

  • I went looking for numbers, and in some cases got lists of motorways (freeways and tollways) from Wikipedia and added their lengths together, or found an official source (LA, NY)… a more exhaustive study would probably have better sources than this.
  • You could argue that motorway lane kilometres are more important than just length, as the number of lanes can radically alter carrying capacity.
  • You can also argue that other types of roads, such as major arterials, can play a big part in overall road space and capacity in a city, but let’s keep it simple and focus on motorways.

…taking that into account, you will note that Melbourne already has more motorways by length than London and Sydney.

In fact we’ve already got more kilometres of freeways than any other city in Australia, but the WestGate Tunnel and North East Link, which the current government wants to build, will see go even further beyond the others.

Houston is the clear king, at least in this small sample. That’s the city where they keep massively expanding their freeways, but their traffic doesn’t get any better.

Westgate Freeway, Sunday morning

What do the big cities do?

Motorway length is obviously dependent on city size.

Some people argue that as our cities grow in population, they need more motorways.

What happens when we divide by population (for the same area) to find the motorway kilometres per million people?

Motorway kms by city and population

Obviously a more exhaustive study, with more cities, using this type of methodology would be interesting.

Nonetheless… by this measure, what’s striking is that we in Melbourne have more motorways per person than London or New York City. If we keep building them, we’ll creep closer to Los Angeles.

Back to the IA question: what do we want for our city? LA, NY, or LDN?

I don’t think we want to be like LA. Sprawling, dispersed suburbs dominated by cars? LA’s bad traffic is notorious. No thanks.

New York or London? I’d personally prefer London. Gentler medium density, and spreading employment centres over a wider area.

The key thing to remember is which transport modes move people efficiently as cities get bigger. As I said recently: Roads get less efficient the more people use them … Public transport gets more efficient.

And we will get the city that we plan for and build for.

On the measure of motorways at least, if we want to be like London or New York, there’s a lot to do to achieve that… but building more motorways isn’t one of them. Time to look for more efficient ways to move people around.

Update 26/2/2018 9:45pm. Found an error in the Brisbane data. Corrected.
Update 27/2/2018 7:00pm. Sydney data also corrected. Thanks for the feedback.

Crosstown traffic / Bacchus Marsh stopover

All of us have data being captured about us all the time.

For many of us that includes Myki travel data (though even that is tiny compared to the myriad of information captured by our smartphones).

Mostly for me it’s the drudgery of everyday work commuting, but every so often there’s something of interest.

Crosstown traffic

26/01/2018 13:49:14 Touch off  Train 1/2 Bentleigh Station - - -
26/01/2018 13:09:15 Touch on   Train 1   Footscray Station - - -

This is not a typo. On Australia Day (public holiday timetable) we managed to do Footscray to Bentleigh in 40 minutes.

There was a little bit of trickery involved. The train from Footscray ran into the Loop clockwise (being a weekend), and as we came into Melbourne Central the app told me a train from there clockwise to Richmond was imminent, so we swapped onto it, then just managed to get a connection at Richmond onto the Frankston line to Bentleigh.

Jumping through that hoop saved us about 10 minutes — a timetabled journey with just one change should take about 48 minutes.

Still, it shows that good frequencies along direct routes mean a fast trip, even when it involves connections.

You’d struggle to get across town that fast in a car. Google Maps reckons 30-50 minutes on the weekend if driving — there’s frequently congestion in King Street if you drive through the CBD, and taking the Bolte or Westgate then Kingsway is no better, as the exit onto Kingsway is often clogged.

Melbourne, like any big city, has transport demand from many places to many places. Public transport needs to cope better with this.

The more routes (be they train, tram or bus) go to frequent (10 minutes or better) services, the better connections will be, and the more trips will be competitive with driving, and the more people will choose public transport instead.

Ballarat station

Copycat from Ballarat

08/02/2018 23:02:22 Touch off  Train 1   Southern Cross Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 21:34:15 Touch on   Train -   -                      - -     -
08/02/2018 21:28:04 Touch on   Train 8   Ballarat Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 19:39:43 Touch off* Train 8   Ballarat Station	- $6.72	$26.98
08/02/2018 19:04:15 Touch on   Train 2/3 Bacchus Marsh Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 18:29:49 Touch off  Train 2/3 Bacchus Marsh Station	- -     -
08/02/2018 17:23:46 Touch on   Train 1   Southern Cross Station	- -     -

I thought I was being so clever.

I wanted to get to Ballarat, but I had missed the 17:10. The next train all the way was at 17:50.

But the timetable also showed a 17:35 to Bacchus Marsh, arriving there at 18:18, just ahead of the next Ballarat train. So perhaps I could have a quick stop-off at the Marsh?

That went fine until by Sunshine the train was running late. No need to panic though, it’s just one track each way; they can’t overtake, right?

Wrong. The train was held at Melton for a few minutes to let the Ballarat train fly past. D’oh. That’s a lesson for next time.

So I had an unscheduled half-hour in Bacchus Marsh. Which was charming.

The kicker is this made me late for a PTUA Ballarat branch meeting. Oh well, they welcomed me when I eventually got there, and we had an interesting discussion.

After some dinner I headed back. The 21:34 touch-on was the conductor checking the fare. (When conductors check fares, they also set the default fare to the end of the service, making it important that you touch-off after using V/Line.)

Also notable: breaking the trip at Bacchus Marsh meant my Myki Pass covered part of the trip, and I got charged just $6.72 the rest of the way to Ballarat, rather than the usual $21.60 (minus $4.30 for Zone 1/2 on my Pass). This is the anomaly facing V/Line users thanks to changes to metropolitan fares — some trips are dirt cheap, some are expensive.

That $6.72 also seems to have covered my fare home afterwards: Marsh touch-on at 19:04 to commencing the trip back at 21:28 is more than 2 hours, but because it’s a trip across six zones, the “fare product” is 3 hours, not 2.

Cheap with the stop-off? Yes. But I’d have preferred to be there on time.