Bushes and trees blocking footpaths

We all like some greenery in our neighbourhoods.

But as I noted in this rant blog post, one bane of pedestrians is bushes and trees overhanging footpaths.

They’re not really obvious unless you’re walking, but bushes and trees like this are everywhere.

I’m sick of having to duck out of their way. This is especially difficult when it’s dark. You can easily not spot the hazard as you approach.

Bushes blocking footpath

Local councils have regulations about this. In my area, City of Glen Eira local law says:

Trees must be trimmed to a height of three metres above the ground and, at least, vertically in line with the property boundary. Shrubs must not protrude beyond the fence line or encroach onto the footpath.

If a Council notice is sent requesting that trees or shrubs be trimmed, the work must be completed within 14 days.

Property owners who do not comply with a notice within 14 days will be issued with an official warning notice. This provides a further 10 days to complete the work. If action is still not taken within the required timeframe, a penalty notice of $200 may be issued and a contractor will be engaged by us to undertake the necessary work. The property owner is responsible for the contractor’s fees.

When I checked with the council, they said they don’t do proactive inspections. It’s up to people to report problems.

But how many people know what the rules are, and that you can report them? No wonder it’s such a widespread problem.

Bushes overhanging footpath

What the council does do is when looking at a reported site, they will look at the immediate surrounding area.

They also said that for overhanging branches from trees on the nature strip, the council is ultimately responsible — though it sounds like they’d prefer if property owners kept them under control.

One weekend I went for a walk along some main roads near home, and noted down some particularly problematic locations to report.

I used a stricter criteria than the council. The council standard is 3 metres of clearance. I decided I’d only report it where I had to duck to walk under it (I’m about 1.8 metres tall), or if it was blocking enough of the footpath that a parent with a large pram, or someone with a mobility aid/wheelchair would have to detour onto the grass to avoid it.

On a 6km walk, I found about two dozen problematic locations. About 90% of them were bushes and trees growing from private property. A small number were on the nature strip. And I reported a bunch of them.

On a subsequent walk, I found one far worse:

Tree branch across footpath

With most trees and bushes that overhang the footpath, you can brush past. Not this one.

The main branches are so thick that you’d do yourself an injury if you collided with it. It’s right at head height.

Someone had put a bit of hazard tape on it, but one wonders how it was ever allowed it to block the footpath like this.

Duly reported.

We’ll see what happens next.

Update 15/5/2018: Sometime in the last 72 hours, the tree in question has been pruned back markedly, such that it is now clear of the footpath.

Airport rail

Good morning! I’m over in The Age today writing about airport rail:

Ever wondered why we need airport rail? Catch Skybus in peak hour

Go read it.

Hopefully the two typos I’ve just spotted aren’t too jarring, and can be fixed online soon. (Too late for the paper — argh!)

Update 13/5/2018

A couple of people asked about the source for these numbers:

There are at least 24,000 workers in the airport precinct, making it one of the busiest employment centres in Melbourne. A staggering 96 per cent of them drive to work. No wonder the traffic is bad.

The source was the Melbourne Airport Landside Access Strategy, prepared by SKM for PTV in 2012. Unfortunately I’ve misread one of the numbers — the 24,000 was person-trips, so the number of workers would be half that.

However the real point of this was the 96 per cent figure, so I don’t think it invalidates my point. Since then, later figures indicate the number of workers in the precinct has risen to about 16,000 measured in the 2016 Census. 16,000 was also a forecast in the 2013 airport masterplan for 2018 numbers, so it’s growing faster than expected. The same masterplan had an estimate of 23,000 by 2033.

For 96% of workers in such a big employment centre to be driving to work is a really serious problem.

Which has more trains? The Upfield line or the Geelong line?

I can’t remember who asked the question, but it was a good one:

Which has more trains? The Upfield line or the Geelong line?

They’re quite different rail lines.

The Upfield line serves Melbourne’s northern suburbs, and runs via the City Loop. It runs electric Metro services through 16 stations (plus 3 City Loop stations). The route is 23km long, and takes about 36 minutes.

The Geelong line serves Melbourne’s outer-western growth suburbs at Wyndham Vale and Tarneit (along with Deer Park, also on the Ballarat line) as well as the city and suburbs of Geelong, all the way out to Waurn Ponds. It runs diesel V/Line services. It’s about 93km to Waurn Ponds via Regional Rail Link, also with 16 stations, taking about 75 minutes.

And the answer to the question? If I’ve got my numbers right, overall the Upfield line has more services each week: 749 vs 714.

But the Geelong line has more on weekdays (122 vs 108), and has a lot more services during peak.

Upfield vs Geelong train services

(Counts both directions. Night Coaches excluded. Night Network services were counted as part of the following day.)

Some things I noticed:

While the Upfield line peak is only three trains per hour (every 18-20 minutes), the Geelong line is more intensive, with 8 trains arriving at Southern Cross between 7:30 and 8:30am (some originating at Wyndham Vale).

The Geelong line is more tidal. Counting peak as before 9am, and 3pm-7pm, there are six more trains in the peak direction than counter-peak, meaning V/Line has to find central city stabling for those trains during the day. The Upfield line is balanced, partly because the peak service is basically no more frequent than off-peak.

Upfield train approaching Jewell

On weekends there’s no contest: the Upfield line runs every 20 minutes for most of the day, with the Geelong line at half that frequency — woefully inadequate for a train line serving suburban areas.

There are more trains in the evenings on the Upfield line, half-hourly, but not by much, as the Geelong line runs about every 40 minutes.

Monday to Thursday nights, the Geelong line has a last train that’s far later than any Metro line: departing Southern Cross at 1:15am.

On the Upfield line, stopping patterns are fairly simple. Between North Melbourne and Upfield every train stops at every station.

The only variations are at the City end due to the City Loop:

  • some trains via the Loop clockwise (weekday AM and weekends)
  • some anti-clockwise (weekday PM)
  • and some direct via Southern Cross (Night Network, after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights)

Geelong-bound train approaches Tarneit

There’s a myriad of stopping patterns on the Geelong line, at least on weekdays.

Firstly, trains originate and terminate at: Waurn Ponds, Marshall, South Geelong, Geelong and Wyndham Vale, as well as a few running to/from Warrnambool — combined with varying platforms at Southern Cross, this leads to confusion for passengers at the Melbourne end looking for their next train.

And the station stopping patterns are all over the place. Just between Geelong and Melbourne inbound, just before 10am on weekdays, I can see:

  • All stations to Tarneit, then express to Sunshine
  • Express North Geelong to Lara to Wyndham Vale, then express Tarneit to Sunshine
  • All stations except Ardeer
  • Express North Geelong to Lara, and express Tarneit to Sunshine
  • Express Lara to Wyndham Vale, and express Tarneit to Sunshine
  • Express North Geelong to Lara, and express Tarneit to Footscray
  • Express Lara to Sunshine
  • Express Tarneit to Ardeer
  • Express North Geelong to Lara, and express Wyndham Vale to Footscray
  • Express Lara to Tarneit, then express to Sunshine
  • All stations (from Wyndham Vale)
  • Express Lara to Footscray
  • Express North Geelong to Lara, express Little River to Tarneit to Sunshine
  • Express Geelong to Footscray
  • Express North Shore to Lara to Wyndham Vale, and express Deer Park to Sunshine
  • Express North Geelong to Corio, and express Deer Park to Sunshine

Unless I’ve miscounted, that’s 16 different stopping patterns in just the first 22 trains to Melbourne on a weekday. Amazing. It must confuse the drivers no end.

With all these variations, plus the line sharing tracks from Deer Park in with the Ballarat trains, and Bendigo trains from Sunshine in, it’s no wonder the punctuality is a mess. For it to work, every train would have to be right on time, every time… which they aren’t, because regional train designs are really slow for loading the large numbers of passengers who use these services.

The Geelong line has single track at the outer end, for most of the way from Geelong to Waurn Ponds, though this is set to be duplicated soon. For now though, it causes issues, including some counter-peak trains not stopping at Marshall because while there’s a passing loop, there’s no platform on it.

Camp Road grade separation, Upfield line

The Upfield line’s single track is also a bottleneck. So you’d think it would be a priority to fix? But no — the recent Camp Road level crossing removal (costing around $85 million) made provision for it, but didn’t actually fix it.

The single track doesn’t just make running frequent services difficult; it also means any little delay can quickly snowball – and to avoid this, Metro will often terminate/originate trains at Coburg instead, leaving a big gap in services between Coburg and Upfield. This just yesterday in morning peak hour, following an earlier disruption:

Despite this, it is actually possible to run more trains on the Upfield line, every 10 minutes as far as Coburg. How do we know this? Because it happened during the 2006 Commonwealth Games to better serve venues at Royal Park. These days there’d need to be some jumping through hoops at the city end, since the Northern Loop is full until the Metro tunnel is completed, but some trains direct into Southern Cross would be possible.

Changes coming?

Regional Rail Link brought trains to Melbourne’s outer west, but brought with it the challenges of services for regional Victoria sharing with suburban travellers — something at which V/Line really hasn’t excelled.

In the near future we’ll get an idea of what the State Government has planned for the regional rail network. Separating it from suburban services — giving Tarneit and Wyndham Vale a Metro service — has to be a priority.

And hopefully the Upfield line (and all the other Metro lines) will get full duplication and frequent all-day services… in our growing city, this is nothing less than Melburnians need and should expect.

Vic budget 2018

One of the rituals of the Budget (both State and Federal) is the lock-up. That’s where you get to see the Budget papers before they’re all released, but you can’t leave until they’ve gone public.

For the State Budget, there’s a lock-up for journalists, and another for special interest groups/stakeholders.

I attended the latter this year. You hand in your mobile phone on entry, though you can keep iPads and laptop computers… I suppose there’s a certain level of trust that you’re not going to do anything too devious and send information to the outside world.

All the same, I was amused when someone pointed out that all the tables had signs advising of a Wi-Fi password.

Wi-Fi in the State Budget lock-up

Anyway, what was in the State Budget for public transport?

Some worthwhile upgrades, but I think it’s fair to say nothing really big, and in fact some of the bigger ones had been pre-announced. Some notable ones we hadn’t already heard about include:

Five new X’trapolis trains $103m – presumably to keep the fleet expanding while the HCMTs come online, and also to keep the Ballarat Alstom factory ticking over for a bit until the next tram or regional train order.

Essendon and Watergardens DDA, business cases for Broadmeadows/Pakenham, improvements Kananook and Seaford $16m — I’m a bit surprised Watergardens needs major works given it was only built in 2002. Does it suffer from capacity problems?

Enhanced security around the network including bus stops $17m — would be interested to know what this entails. Presumably specific projects in mind, as it’d be spread pretty thin across the entire network.

South Yarra station and tram stop upgrade $12m — will improve interchange between trains and the 58 tram, though will not include an additional concourse/exit — that may come later.

Shepparton rail upgrade stage 2 $313m — enabling up to 9 trains per day, implementation of which is presumably the next step

Wyndham Vale and Seymour extra services $11m — short term relief for regional passengers

Signal and track upgrades Maryborough, Ararat, Ballarat $130m

Regional rail stabling and maintenance facilities for V/Line $173m — I wonder if it’ll help resolve the issue of them dumping out of service trains at platforms at Southern Cross in the middle of the day, making passengers from Collins Street walk an entire city block to board their trains

Regional train design and pre-procurement $16m — the plan is to phase out the “classic” fleet, eg the pre-2000 V/Locity fleet, with Diesel Multiple Units replacing all loco-hauled trains, which brings operational benefits.

Fishermans Bend active travel business case $1m — planning for a tram and/or walking and cycling upgrades. Doesn’t include detailed planning for the proposed Metro 2 rail tunnel.

Federal money coming

The Herald Sun (paywall) has revealed overnight that the Feds are allocating money to Victorian public transport projects, including:

Frankston to Baxter electrification $225m — good move, would include the Monash Peninsula campus at Leawarra, and enable moving stabling and park+ride out of the town centre at Frankston to an area with more land. Not clear how much of the cost this covers. I’d imagine this would increase pressure to remove the level crossing at Moorooduc Highway.

Geelong to Waurn Ponds duplication — another $50m on top of the previous $100m

Monash and Rowville rail $475m — to cover property acquisition and pre-construction. The report says the Feds would prefer heavy rail, whereas the State would prefer light rail that also serves the employment and retail centre at Chadstone. The mode probably comes down to future demand and capacity. The report does say the Feds agree with the State that the section to Monash should be the first stage.

Amusingly the report also says:

The Herald Sun understands the federal government is willing to consider building a tram but also wants to look at a heavy rail line, with the final decision to ensure the route is โ€œfuture-proofedโ€ for growing demand.

Future-proofing transport infrastructure is a good idea. Shame they never seem to want it for the major road projects they fund.

The rest of the Federal Budget gets announced on Tuesday night.

Crowded train, Richmond

More State PT investment to come?

There’s a bunch of worthwhile stuff in the State Budget, but no really big ticket items.

A lot of observers suspect there will be some bigger announcements to look forward to approaching the election. Federal too, perhaps.

It’s also notable that the new State money for roads was more than double the new money for public transport. Remember, new investment should reflect the type of city we want to achieve.

So hopefully there is more coming for PT.

Pre-budget week

There’s been a flurry of pre-budget announcements in the world of PT.

Hurstbridge line works extended by a week as they grapple with signalling issues on the rebuilt section of track. Apparently it’s down to compatibility issues between new signalling equipment and old.

This was announced on Tuesday afternoon. Amazingly, almost 24 hours later, PTV’s generally excellent weekly disruptions email came out, still quoting the old dates. And 36 hours after the announcement, the regular printed newspaper advertisement for Metro disruptions didn’t mention it at all.

New Metro timetables coming later this year – including extending 10 minute services on the Dandenong line to 10pm (apparently misunderstood by some commenters on The Age article), and more peak services on the South Morang/Mernda line and Hurstbridge lines, the latter making use of the newly duplicated section of track.

Also some extras expected on the Werribee line, but not clear exactly what. Still no commitment to a widespread rollout of 10-minute off-peak services, but it’s a step in the right direction.

More investment in upgrading the Dandenong line has also been announced – power, signalling, which it notes “paving the way for the Cranbourne line duplication” – this can’t come soon enough.

$50 million to investigate high speed rail to Geelong. It sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky, but actually it makes a lot of sense to look at the next step in the evolution of the regional rail network.

The upgrades last decade to 160 kmh were good, but that’s not particularly fast by world standards. Moving to 200 (something the UK has had for 30+ years) and beyond would slash travel times — and may be more affordable than the 300 some are talking about.

But even 300 would be possible, as much of the Geelong line is straight and flat.

This seems to be part of the State Government’s moves towards shaking up the regional network alongside construction of an airport link, with Sunshine as a hub.

In any case, the short-term need is to separate out Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo trains from suburban services, including electrification and extra tracks out to Melton and Wyndham Vale. This would provide some travel time improvements, and more importantly, relieve crowding and cut delays.

And yes, it might be possible to divert the Bendigo and Seymour/Shepparton lines via the Airport… but we shouldn’t assume the same trains will serve suburban airport passengers. They would need to be additional services.

703 bus

Not really budget-related, but in other recent news, there are a bunch of network changes coming in May, including:

  • New tram timetables, with extra peak-shoulder and evening services on some routes — on tram 19, this will partially (but not fully) restore cuts from 2017
  • Extra bus services on routes 631, 703 and 767 — including upgrading the awful 703 timetable from every 45-50 minutes on Sundays to every half-hour (still the route will shut down at 9pm though, and there seems to be no adjustment to take advantage of the removal of Clayton level crossing)
  • Extra coaches between Seymour and Shepparton
  • Numerous minor timetable changes and upgrades to some buses in the northern and western suburbs

It’s well worth keeping an eye on this PTV page to see what other changes fly under the radar.

I’ll also note that the Opposition has been making various public transport pledges, including duplication of more of the Hurstbridge line, and returning trains to Donald (a step closer to Mildura).

As we move towards the November state election, things are getting interesting.