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.

Some brief transport stuff from this week

A post in an occasional series wrapping up a few brief transporty things from the last week or two.

The new train design

This might be the least crowded train I’ve ever caught. That’s because it’s a pretend train, a mock-up of a carriage and a half, somewhere in a warehouse in outer-suburban Melbourne. I got to see it last week on behalf of PTUA — we’ve been included in stakeholder consultations this year on the design.

New train mock-up

It looks pretty good, and has more places standees can hold on than the current Siemens and Comeng fleet, but could do with more still.

There’s photos of the mock-up over on the PTUA web site — take a look (and please consider joining if you’re not already a member — the PTUA’s work is only possible thanks to member subscriptions).

Busway knocked back

A few weeks ago The Age reported on Transdev’s plan for a busway from Doncaster to CBD.

  • Dedicated bus lanes along middle of Eastern Freeway (in the median originally designed for rail), with stations at interchanges, including pedestrian access from overpasses
  • Busway would continue along Hoddle Street, Victoria Parade and Lonsdale Street, to a new terminus underneath Southern Cross Station
  • Double-articulated buses with doors on both sides to allow centre platform stops along Hoddle Street in a centre median
  • Every 3 minutes in peak, every 5-6 minutes off-peak
  • $500 million build cost
  • Transdev wanted it to run as a PPP for 30 years, effectively locking them in as the operator for that time
  • Off-board payment with Myki readers on platform stops, to speed up dwell times

It would have been cheaper/more achievable than Doncaster rail, remembering that a lot of benefits of Doncaster rail would be gained by first doing the cheap easy bit: rail to Bulleen, and feeding all the buses into there.

The plan has officially been knocked back.

The question is: can the problems of greater capacity (to cope with crowding) and speed (to encourage more people out of cars) be resolved another way?

Better traffic priority along Hoddle Street, Victoria Parade and Lonsdale Street is the key: both bus lanes where missing, and traffic light priority.

More articulated buses would help with capacity. There seem to have a handful now, but not many.

Skyrail under construction near Murrumbeena station

Can Skyrail carry freight?

I’ve been asked about this twice this week alone, once online, once in the barber shop this morning.

Can the Skyrail (under construction from Caulfield to Dandenong) handle freight and V/Line trains? The rumour that it can’t persists.

It’s not an entirely silly question. Freight trains in particular can be heavier than passenger trains, and the diesel locomotives used for freight and long distance V/Line services to Bairnsdale are heavy beasts.

The answer is an emphatic yes, they will run on the Skyrail — just as they run on the 1970s era viaduct between Flinders Street and Spencer Street stations.

Here’s the official answer from the Level Crossing Removal Authority:

WILL YOU CONTINUE TO RUN DIESEL TRAINS ON THE OLD TRACKS UNDERNEATH THE NEW RAIL LINE?

The new elevated structure will be designed to safely carry both Metro passenger trains and diesel freight trains. Just as passenger and freight trains share tracks currently, they would continue to share tracks in the elevated design. The tracks underneath the elevated structure will be removed to create new community spaces.

It’s fascinating that this rumour continues to do the rounds.

And it’s certainly not helped that this completely discredited Railpage article from five months ago has never been corrected.

By the way, now that construction is in full swing, the photo above, and the one below show just how close the elevated rail will be to some people’s homes/gardens. It’s not hard to see why some residents aren’t too happy about it.

New timetables on 27th August, as Southland Station nears completion

New public transport timetables kick in on August 27th. Last week (or maybe it was the week before), PTV released details, including full timetables for the routes affected:

Altona Loop users rejoice! (A bit)

There will be no more Altona Loop shuttles. Weekday Altona Loop services will run through to Flinders St.

This also means Werribee trains will run express Newport-Footscray-North Melbourne, so both Altona and Werribee people win from this.

Of course the mostly single track through Altona means bypasses are set to continue. At least we now know the Kororoit Creek Road grade separation will include some duplication. Hopefully that makes a difference.

There hasn’t been a wholesale re-write of the timetable, so peak Williamstown and Altona services remain at every 22 minutes, while off-peak is 20!

V/Line V/Locity train on viaduct between Flinders Street and Southern Cross

More Geelong trains

The Geelong line will go to every 40 minutes on weekends. With constant overcrowding on the current hourly trains, this was only a matter of time, though heaven knows why they didn’t push the upgrades a little further to half-hourly, which would have meant more trains, a clockface timetable (40’s alternating hours has always been problematic) and preserving the bus connections, many of which are every 30-60 minutes.

As it is, bus connections will break. The premier Geelong bus service, route 1 from North Shore to Deakin, is every 30 minutes on weekends, and will remain so. It doesn’t take a genius to see that buses every 30 minutes don’t interface well with trains every 40 minutes.

V/Line have said in response to queries that it’s because the Sunbury line is every 20-40 minutes on weekends, and the Bendigo line is tied in with that, because they share some tracks… and the Bendigo line in turn interfaces with the Ballarat and Geelong lines. V/Line claims this prevents the Geelong line going to every 30 minutes.

But then, this is the organisation that has three out of four hourly services currently meeting at Deer Park Junction within a few minutes of each other, so I don’t think it’s unfair to say that their timetabling leaves something to be desired.

So has that been fixed? Well, yes and no:

  • Ballarat line at Deer Park, inbound: 15 past the hour. Outbound: 34
  • Geelong line at Deer Park, inbound: 12 and 52, or 32. Outbound: 07 and 47, or 27

So if the inbound Geelong train is 3 minutes late, every second hour it’ll delay an inbound Ballarat train. If it’s even later, it’ll delay an outbound Ballarat train as well, thanks to the flat junction.

You’d think they could have figured out better spacing between the Geelong and Ballarat trains. Aside from junction conflicts, Deer Park passengers will have 2-3 trains per hour: either at 12, 15, 52 past the hour, or at 15 and 32. Hmmmmm.

It remains to be seen whether V/Line continues to run their daily game of Mystery Platforms at Southern Cross.


Southland

The August 27th timetable for the Frankston line already includes Southland times:

Frankston line timetable showing Southland times

For those wondering about stopping patterns, the full timetable shows peak expresses will still run to/from Cheltenham, not stopping at Southland.

On Sunday afternoon I went and had a quick look at the station. It’s looking good. These views from the top of the shopping centre carpark.

The platforms are looking close to complete. Even some signage is now up.
Southland Station under construction

View looking towards the City. I’m guessing the structure closest the camera is the PSO pod and/or toilets. There seems to be plenty of coverage on the citybound platform; less so on the outbound platform.
Southland Station under construction

View looking towards Frankston. The southern ends of the platforms (as well as the entire citybound platform) are adjacent to houses, but it appears you won’t be able to see much from the platform. A few better view from the top of the Southland carpark :-/
Southland Station under construction

It’s good to see the pedestrian route through the carpark has been modified recently; it now heads more-or-less directly to the station entrance.
Southland Station - shopping centre car park

I’m not sure you’d say the station looks beautiful. I guess we’ll see what it looks like when it opens.

The station may look close to completion, but that is not to say that it is opening imminently. While the structure looks more and more functional every week, I’m hearing November is the likely opening date, with electrical and signalling works still underway.

I suppose until the station actually opens, the extra minute or two allowed in the timetables will be one less excuse Metro has for train delays.

It’ll be good to finally have it open – hopefully in time for the Christmas shopping rush.

Other timetable changes

Other changes on August 27th include additional trains on a number of lines: Werribee, Craigieburn (with all peak trains now via the Loop), Sunbury (some peak trains direct via Southern Cross), and some trains extended to Eltham.

There are also more V/Line services to Shepparton, Traralgon (approaching hourly on weekends, but not quite there yet), Bendigo, and Ballarat/Ararat. A number of local buses, both in metropolitan Melbourne and around Victoria, also have timetable changes.

All in all, some good upgrades. Enough? No, of course not – missing in action is any hint of a rollout of PTV’s 10 minute suburban train plan – but this is a step forward.

The week in transport

This is an occasional series, when a few things happen during the week and I want to put a word in…

ABC: Ticket inspectors taking tram user’s phone to seek proof of identity unacceptable, PTV says

This is a concern, but context is important. It’s a matter of degrees. I think whether it’s acceptable or not depends on how they do it.

If the AO has to verify an ID, and no other proof is able to be presented and they say “Hey are you able to show us your name and address from an app, otherwise we’ll have to wait for police to attend”, and the passenger agrees, then I don’t see a big problem with it.

On the other hand, if the AO demands to see it, and/or grabs the phone and/or intimidates the person into logging on, and/or watches them do so (eg observes their pass code) then that’s definitely a problem.

Authorised Officers at a tram stop

Age: Level Crossing Removal Program business case released: the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) is 0.78

As the business case documents reveal, the problem is that the standard methodology used for BCRs uses a discount rate that may not be appropriate, and also doesn’t count many of benefits that are commonly associated with level crossing removals.

The core benefits anticipated as a result of the program include travel time savings, reduced vehicle operating costs, road travel reliability benefits, public transport user benefits and avoided collisions. As a standalone program, the LXRP is expected to deliver a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 0.78 using a 7 per cent discount rate. Using a discount rate of 4%, the BCR is 1.34.

The BCR has been calculated using a standard appraisal methodology. This excludes other significant benefits that the LXRP can be expected to deliver, including:

  • Wider economic benefits (WEBs), such as agglomeration benefits and additional tax revenue from increased
    labour supply, which are expected to be $555 million using a 7 per cent discount rate
  • Additional Benefits โ€“ such as improved network resilience to incidents, reduced perceived congestion benefits
    and the related benefits and costs of land use changes occurring as a result of the project โ€“ are expected to be
    $175 million using a 7 per cent discount rate
  • Local amenity benefits, increased activity centre connectivity/ consolidation, and benefits for emergency services.
  • Avoidance of wider social impacts (ie. to families and communities) caused by accidents at level crossings

There’s a heap of other interesting stuff in the report… I haven’t read it all yet, though I did find a familiar photo, originally used in this post.

Not hard to see why pedestrians, cars, buses, ambulances get delayed in Clayton. Grade separation needed!

Leader: Westfield Southland shopping centre will introduce paid parking in preparation for the opening of the station.

Charging after 3 hours not unreasonable. As I understand it, at other Westfields such as Doncaster, they charge beyond 3 hours, but you can get parking validated at the cinemas and so on so you’ll still be able to see a long movie and not get charged.

Something had to be done — either a hard limit, or charging — before the station opened, or the shopping centre car park would inevitably fill with commuters’ cars.

Leader: City of Port Phillip is to ban motorcycle parking along parts of Acland Street.

Good. The current laws, which allow motorcycles to be parked basically anywhere on a footpath, are getting out of control. Motor vehicles take up too much space to be allowed in busy pedestrian spaces. Commonsense guidelines are not communicated to riders, and are unenforceable, and thus widely ignored. The lesson for the council here is to ensure that there is plenty of signage for the ban, and that it’s enforced — unlike similar bans in the City of Melbourne.

Age: New Metro train timetables in August.

The government had already announced that V/Line would get a boost. Geelong trains will run every 40 minutes on weekends (currently hourly) should help relieve crowding, though it looks set to mess up bus connections (if they don’t get a wriggle-on and re-write those timetables to match), and really, who decided the non-clockface frequency of 40 minutes is a good idea? Half-hourly would have been better.

The Bendigo and Ballarat lines will also get more services, including an upgrade to hourly on weekends, and there’ll also be more trains to Ararat and Shepparton.

Train arriving at Bentleigh

The Metro changes include an end to the much-hated weekday off-peak Altona shuttles — these will now run all the way into the City. It’s not clear yet whether the Werribee trains will continue to stop all stations, or if these will run express part of the way; otherwise all the stations from Newport in will have 9 trains per hour, which is probably overkill for off-peak.

There will also be a handful of extra peak services on the Craigieburn, Werribee, and Sunbury, though much of the capacity freed up by Regional Rail Link on the latter two will remain unused.

Full details of Metro and V/Line timetables will be released in July.