Metro tunnel portal plans released

Rail Projects Victoria has released some draft plans for parts of the Metro 1 project.

The plans include both portals (where the tunnel connects to the existing aboveground tracks) and the western turnback – a facility to be added at West Footscray station to turnback (terminate and/or originate) train services through the tunnel.

Below are some brief notes, but if you want details, you should go read the full draft documents and send in feedback to the project team.

Eastern portal

The eastern portal will be near South Yarra station.

The Dandenong line will have a junction near Chapel Street that allows rail traffic to enter the tunnel (likely for all suburban services), or continue on the existing tracks to Richmond (V/Line and freight, and perhaps the occasional sports event special).

South Yarra platforms 5+6 won’t be entirely abandoned – plans released some years ago and newer versions recently leaked both show the platforms being used in the future as the rail network continues to expand.

Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel draft plans: Eastern portal
Metro tunnel draft design: eastern portal (Click to see larger)

Note the lack of South Yarra platforms for the tunnel. This is tricky: the only way they could be accommodated is underground, well west of the existing station – making any kind of passenger connection very difficult. The government also claims it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and require a lot of land acquisition.

Western portal

The western portal near South Kensington station does a similar job for the Sunbury line.

Edit: I had thought the plans indicated the existing Sunbury line tracks to North Melbourne were set to be abandoned, but a commenter below found this diagram which shows them still present after the project is complete.

Under normal operations, it’s expected North Melbourne’s platforms will become dedicated to the tracks from Werribee+Williamstown / Upfield / Craigieburn respectively.

(The left of the first diagram below connects to the right of the second diagram)

Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel draft plans: Western portal
Metro tunnel draft design: western portal (Click to see larger)

Notably the tunnel project will include improvements to South Kensington’s station entrance, but it appears no substantial upgrades to the station itself – it’s one of Melbourne’s dingiest, and with steep non-DDA-compliant ramps. Hopefuly there are opportunities to improve the station, including widening the platforms, once the old tracks are removed on the north side.

Western turnback

The western turnback involves additional track and a new platform 1 at West Footscray (which was itself only rebuilt and opened in 2013 as part of the Regional Rail Link project). The new platform will have a completely separate entrance, and is not aligned with the existing ones. Make your own conclusions about forward planning.

Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel draft plans: Western turnback
Metro tunnel draft design: western turnback (Click to see larger)

I’m not sure why they decided on West Footscray instead of, say, Sunshine. Perhaps it was based on where short starting trains would bring the most benefit in the event of a disruption. As I understand it a similar turnback track is planned near Malvern.

Originating short citybound trains on platform 2 of course is somewhat problematic when passengers will usually board citybound trains on platform 1.

It’s good to see the tunnel project progressing, even if there are questions about parts of the design, and service upgrades are lagging.

Anyway, read more about these plans on the project web site.

The feedback period lasts until 22nd February.


On the buses

I’ve been on a break at home, having a rest and trying to get stuff done around the house.

Alas, this is now at an end, and while I guess I’ve had a rest, I certainly haven’t got all the stuff I planned done. And people telling me “nobody ever does” isn’t helping.

My break was timed to miss most of the big south-east rail shutdown.

  • Moorabbin (Frankston line) and Westall (Dandenong line) to the City have been replaced by buses between 2nd and 13th of January.
  • The Sandringham line was also bustituted between Elsternwick and the City between 2nd and 5th of January.

This is all due to works for the metro tunnel near South Yarra station, in preparation for building the tunnel portal there. There are also works preparing the Dandenong line for the High Capacity Metro Trains.

Here are a few snaps of the view around South Yarra station, comparing October with last week. (Sorry they don’t all match up exactly; I wasn’t that organised.)

October, looking southwest:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works October 2018, looking SW

…and a similar-ish view a few days ago:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works January 2019, looking SW

More striking is this: October looking southeast:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works January 2019, looking SE

…and a few days ago – the hill and all the trees are gone!

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works October 2018, looking SE

And here’s a view from a few days ago from near Chapel Street, looking northwest:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works October 2018, looking NW from near Chapel Street

At Caulfield there also seemed to be a fair bit going on:

Caulfield station: works January 2019

Also observed: at South Yarra the extensions to platforms 5 and 6 are nearing completion.

Upgrades and new infrastructure are important, and if you’re going to close rail lines, early January is the time to do it.

The question is: how good is the information provided to people, and how smooth are the replacement buses?

I would say: not too bad. Buses always struggle replacing trains, but I think they’re getting better at this.

Some observations about the bus replacements

Here, if you feel so inclined, is a brain-dump of observations:

The earlier they can advise people, the more likely some affected passengers can avoid it, such as booking leave. I was lucky enough to be able to do this. The more notice the better. (In this case, details were published on 11th December, about 3 weeks out. I think they can do better.)

Some people will always miss the notices, and just rock up to the station. So prominent signage on approach and at station entrances is helpful.

Some of the notices need review. I have my doubts about the detailed bus timetables posted at stations – their usefulness and their scope for incorrect interpretation.

The signage pointing the way to the temporary stops seems pretty good. Big and bold.

Signs at replacement bus stops could improve. They generally don’t have any detail, such as bus stopping patterns, or days of operation. There were sightings of people waiting at the stops a day early – the signage was up, but the trains were still running.

Likewise, last year some of the signage came down a few hours early, leading to confusion on the final night.

Location of the stops seems okay – from what I’ve seen, it’s consistent with past occupations, mostly along main roads to ensure a relatively quick ride.

An exception is citybound at McKinnon, where they can’t make up their mind if it’s outside the pub again (where staff tend to be located, and there’s a temporary shelter), or 50 metres up the road (where the bus stop sign has been installed).

Supply and despatch of buses seems to have mostly been good, though there have been some long queues in the City in PM peak.

Less confusion around Myki touch-on (the buses are free). But there seems to be no consistency around whether all-door boarding is used or not.

Information needs to be consistent. Signage tends to say “to City”, which is very clear. But many announcements I’ve heard at stops have said “to Flinders”. This is less clear. On one bus I was on, when it was announced that “this bus is express to Flinders”, 80% of the passengers got off the bus, then most of them got back on. I think “City” would be better.

Also: “to Flinders“? I know that’s how some refer to it, and I know I’m being a pedant, but it’s really “Flinders Street”. Flinders is a completely different place.

The replacement bus routes have split different passenger groups to different services, and seem to have worked well. Lighter than usual traffic at this time of year certainly helps.

Rail replacement bus, Frankston line, AM peak, January 2019

Travel time from my limited samples: Bentleigh to City (Arts Centre) is around 40-46 minutes, depending on time of day. Routes varied – some buses take Dandenong Road/St Kilda Road, others take Burke Road and Citylink. I haven’t sampled other routes – how’s it been?

They still haven’t fixed the Patterson bus zone, which remains 7am-7pm Monday to Saturday, despite rail buses running until around 1am (and all night on weekends), and even regular buses serving the stop every day until around 10pm. Should I just go park my car there every Sunday until they fix it?

The rail shut down has meant there has been extra pressure on nearby routes: trams and buses that run towards the City or connect with other rail lines that are still running. Little or no effort seems to have been put into additional services – apart from the Sandringham line, which is part of the Frankston replacement route for some passengers this week.

Sandringham line at Flinders Street during Frankston/Dandenong line shutdown, PM peak, January 2019

Only some of the replacement bus routes are in the PTV database, typically the all stations services, so planning a trip may result in travel times that are longer than reality. This may be related to the terrible timetable display web pages, but a resolution really ought to be found. (The Beta PTV web site shows promise.)

There have been some BIG issues with the PTV timetable data recently. South Gippsland coach routes still have non-existent (during works) Metro train connections from Dandenong to the City, which gives incorrect results in the Journey Planner for some trips. And lots of other data is showing up with errors, such as Peninsula bus route 788 missing most of its trips.

What else have people (who have perhaps been commuting more than I have!) seen during the shutdown?