Categories
transport

Temporary track to minimise disruptions

I think this is quite clever.

When trains or trams are partially closed for planned works, generally the less of the route is disrupted, the better.

But this is always limited by the placement of turnaround facilities. Witness the current Sandringham line closure: the major works are at South Yarra, but because (despite what was said beforehand) the infrastructure issue at Elsternwick hasn’t been fixed, the whole line is closed.

Over on the trams, they have an ingenious solution: a portable, temporary crossover. It was in use in Swan Street in Richmond (route 70) for a few days this week while tram platform stops are built:

This enabled them to terminate trams at Richmond station, with disrupted passengers able to either change to a train, or walk 400 metres to where trams could resume.

Apart from placement of the temporary track, they also needed to install some overhead wire. Of course it’s made easier to manage in this case by the road closure.

But it’s smart thinking, allowing trams to run as far as possible, reducing disruption for passengers, and avoiding the mess and cost of replacement buses.

Temporary track is nothing new. Back last century it was a common occurrence around the tram (and train) networks. But that was in a bygone era, when I suspect labour was cheap.

For long term projects, it still sometimes happens. Over Easter, the Dandenong and Frankston lines near South Yarra were ripped up and rebuilt as part of Metro tunnel works, and will be ripped up again as the junction to the new tunnel portal is built. There have also been tram tracks relocated on St Kilda Road which may need to be relocated again as the tunnel works continue.

But overall, temporary track is less common in modern times, at least on short term projects.

If only it were this easy on the railways.

Categories
transport

Public transport compo: what is the threshold?

If you’re confused about tram and train compensation thresholds, you’re not the only one.

PTV announced earlier this month that:

PTV CEO Jeroen Weimar said both Metro and Yarra Trams narrowly missed their new targets for punctuality in February, but met their targets for reliability.

PTV’s web site has figures for February 2018 that clearly show that of the three major operators — Metro, Yarra Trams and V/Line — all failed to meet their punctuality targets:

PTV: February 2018 performance

As shown in this Transport For Victoria info graphic, the performance targets changed in the new contract.

The target we’re interested in right now, punctuality, went up to 92% for Metro, and 82% for Yarra Trams:

Transport For Victoria: new performance targets from December 2017

Trams in Flinders Street

What about the compo?

Okay, so if Metro and Yarra Trams missed their targets, can you claim compensation?

It turns out no, you can’t. If you go looking on the Metro or Yarra Trams web sites, nowhere does it mention that compensation is payable for February.

Why is this? I sought clarification from PTV.

It turns out the target is different to the compensation threshold.

Punctuality:

Punctuality target Compensation threshold February 2018
Metro 92.0% 90.0% 91.8%
Yarra Trams 82.0% 79.0% 81.7%
V/Line 92.0% 92.0% 82.7%

(Previous punctuality thresholds: Metro 88%, Yarra Trams 77%)

Reliability:

Reliability target Compensation threshold February 2018
Metro 98.5% 98.0% 98.8%
Yarra Trams 98.5% 98.0% 98.7%
V/Line 96.0% 96.0% 96.3%

(Previous reliability thresholds: Metro 98%, Yarra Trams 98%, eg unchanged)

So as you can see, Metro and Yarra Trams beat the reliability and punctuality thresholds, even if they didn’t quite meet the punctuality targets. (Only V/Line is paying compensation for February.)

It’s also apparently the thresholds, not the targets, that trigger financial penalties.

So in this case, even though Metro and Yarra Trams missed their punctuality targets… the only consequence appears to have been a light public berating by PTV.

Categories
transport

A quick look at the new Metro and Yarra Trams contracts

It’s no huge surprise that the State Government has announced incumbent operators MTM and KDR will continue to operate Metro Trains and Yarra Trams respectively.

The current contracts started in 2009, and expire in late-2017. These new contracts will run through to 2024, with an option for another 3 years to 2027.

Despite an RTBU campaign, clearly the state government didn’t want to take the system back into public ownership.

The new contracts resolve several weaknesses in the old contracts, including unplanned service alterations such as station skipping, Loop bypasses, short shunting, with penalties applying for these.

It’s important to remember that these are sometimes justified. For instance if a counter-peak train carrying few passengers is delayed, and that train will subsequently form a peak hour service, is it better to let it run late for both of those services, or to skip some stations (with due advice to any passengers affected) to get it back on time to carry a peak load?

There will be a ban on intrusive advertising will ban all-over ads that block windows, making it difficult to see in or out. It sounds like some limited covering of windows will still be allowed, so we’ll have to see the fine detail of this, and how the operators and their advertisers actually implement it — it’s not like most tram and train exteriors don’t offer a lot of other real estate.

There will be an automatic refund for network-wide incidents such as the July train shutdown — though again, the precise details will be significant. In July, some people who were turned away from railway stations by staff and didn’t touch-on were therefore not eligible for compensation.

(I suspect the tram system is likely to be more resilient, as central control might be a less essential part of everyday operation.)

And there are “passenger experience” measures with penalties attached, tracking things like cleanliness.

One particularly interesting snippet: apparently Metro will put buses on standby at five strategic locations, in readiness for major disruptions. I’m assuming that would just be during peak hour when it’s difficult to get buses deployed. I wonder how many rail operators do this — though I also wonder how many rail systems this busy have 150+ level crossings regularly causing disruptions due to suicides or accidents.

These infographics from Transport For Victoria highlight a number of the changes — scroll across to see more:

Presumably the planned Comeng train refurbishment includes these previously flagged changes to interior layouts and seating, and inter-carriage connections. It’s unclear what the planned upgrades to B-class trams, and other train types will entail — note the X’traps and Siemens refurbs are getting a lot more money than the Comengs.

The performance targets are rising. What’s perhaps significant is that the targets are above the figures achieved by the operators for much of the past year, so they’ve set themselves a challenge to improve.

Here’s a comparison of Track Record figures from the past 13 months (August 2016 to August 2017), to the new thresholds:

MTM has missed the new train Delivery target twice (including July, when the big shut down occurred) and missed the Punctuality target 9 times.

KDR has missed the new tram Delivery target three times (March, April and May 2017), and missed the Punctuality target 6 times.

Unfortunately, compensation will still not be automatic, except for network-wide disruptions. For monthly breaches of the target, it’ll still only apply for Myki Passholders who bother to put in the application.

And unlike some compensation in the past, it will still only apply if the network-wide average falls below the threshold, so if your line is crap but the rest are okay, no compo for you.

Punctuality is particularly a problem for the trams, because they fall victim to other road traffic, which is outside their control. The operator can only do so much when it’s ultimately up to government to institute measures such as dedicated roadspace and traffic light priority to get trams moving. (As noted in this recent post, Melbourne’s trams spend an incredible 17% of their time simply waiting for traffic lights.)

William St tram prang

The increased spend on proactive maintenance and renewal is also likely to be important, to help prevent issues such as track, signal and fleet faults that regularly cause cancellations and delays.

Some things don’t appear to have made the cut this time around — I would like to have seen a move towards headway running (maintaining a service frequency, rather than strict departure times) when high frequency services are running — more on this in an upcoming blog post.

And in the information published yesterday, there’s been no mention yet of planned service upgrades (such as PTV’s plans for 10-minute services), timetable consolidation (eg PM peak on the Ringwood line is still a mess of different stopping patterns), infrastructure projects to be included, or the move towards “metronisation” that was flagged in the 2009 contracts.

Hopefully the full contracts will be published soon.

From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like a step forward. Now let’s see if it all results in an improvement in service quality.

* * *

PS: This from ABC Online today:

Categories
transport

The new improved Preston tram depot

Back in September 2010, the then-Brumby government announced an $807 million investment in new trams and infrastructure:

Dandenong based company Bombardier will design, construct and maintain 50 new low floor trams for Melbourne as part of an $807.6 million investment by the Brumby Labor Government including a new tram maintenance and storage depot at Preston.

This was an upgrade to the existing Preston depot, originally built in 1924 for construction of the W-class fleet. The renovations took some years, and had to respect heritage aspects of the complex, as well as cope with tram operations during construction. But it’s now completed, and on Sunday Yarra Trams held an open day, with an official opening from the Minister for Public Transport. I went along for a look.

The weather was fine, and there was a pretty good turnout. It’s quite an impressive facility. Some photos:

The automated tram wash. It can handle any class of tram — though presumably someone needs to close the windows (where applicable) first!
Preston tram depot: tram wash

The sanding area, where trams sand hoppers can be refilled. Sand is dropped on the track when extra grip is needed.
E-class and B-class trams in the sanding area, Preston tram depot

A traverser, for moving trams from track to track. Our guide wasn’t sure if the new, 33-metre long E-class trams might just fit. I like that it’s in “Met” colours. You can see at least one Z1 tram in the background; they will be out of service forever, retired by the end of this month.
Tram traverser, Preston depot

B-class tram up on jacks for repairs. It’s quite impressive to see up close. The depot can handle repairs to any class of tram, though normally it appears only B and E-class trams are stabled here. Minor repairs are also done at local suburban tram depots.
B-class tram being serviced, Preston tram depot

Another B-class tram with the front taken off. The depot workers had a say in how it should be laid out after the renovation.
B-class tram being serviced, Preston tram depot

E-class tram in for some work.
E-class tram being serviced, Preston tram depot

The E-class trams are not perfect, but they do bring welcome extra capacity, and importantly increase the number of accessible trams on the network. And they do look rather splendid in the sun.
E-class trams at Preston tram depot

Yarra Trams has several tram simulators. One portable one was set up in the depot for visitors to have a go on (and boy was it popular), but this is the permanent, more fully-featured version.
Tram simulator, Preston tram depot

Spike the rhino on display outside. The campaign around awareness of trams continues.
Rhino!

B and E class trams, and some dork in high-vis. I was surprised at how orderly the depot appears.
Daniel at Preston tram depot

The official opening:

Just outside the depot is the tram and pedestrian-only Miller Street, over the South Morang line, connecting to nearby route 86. If it looks familiar, I’m pretty sure it’s where that iconic scene in Malcolm, of the title character coming over the hill, was filmed.

One sad note. Sadly, at the southern end of the depot, well away from the operational part of the complex, two W-class trams sit neglected, vandalised.
Vandalised W-class trams outside Preston Depot

But that said, the depot upgrade is great to see. This kind of investment in the capacity and efficiency of the tram network is important to keep services improving.
Preston tram depot

Now, if only the government would get fully behind proper tram traffic priority, so these valuable assets could spend less time waiting at traffic lights and stuck behind queues of cars, and help trams reach their true potential to keep Melburnians on the move.

Categories
Melbourne transport

How Yarra Trams cleans up the wrong types of leaves

There’s a legendary excuse for late-running trains in Britain called the wrong type of snow (fallen on railway lines). Apparently the wrong leaves are also blamed sometimes.

Yarra trams track cleaner

I recall a Yarra Trams person telling me that while they love Melbourne’s leafy streets, some of our local trees drop the wrong leaves (I’m paraphrasing mind you, these are not her words), which does cause slippery rails, particularly in autumn — which is why, particularly at this time of year, you’ll see this beastie out and about, cleaning them up.

Similar perhaps to a conventional street-sweeper, it’s got special wheels that go into the groove of the track to clear it out.

It moves slower than the trams — on the morning I snapped it, it manoeuvred itself onto the opposite track when a tram came along, then moved back and followed it onward.

Yarra Trams track cleaner

Categories
transport

Is this tram route map the wrong way round?

While I applaud Yarra Trams’ efforts to put more information on-board trams, this map threw me for a moment.

Tram route map

I’m used to seeing east (Box Hill) on the right, and west (Port Melbourne) on the left. This had it the other way around.

And before you say it: it wasn’t designed to match the actual orientation of the tram and the outside world, because there were copies of this map on both sides of the tram, so one was the right way around, and the other wasn’t.

Perhaps I need to just stop being such a map.square.

PS. I suspect the real reason for it being like this is they wanted the major route to be at the top.

Categories
Film Melbourne Photos transport Video games

A few pics: Myer, trams, crocs and Star Wars

I don’t have a proper blog post for you, so here’s a few pictures from the last week or so.

If you were looking for Myer’s Lonsdale Street store, it’s gone — almost all of it except the facade.
Myer Lonsdale Street
(When I was a kid, we often went into the City on a Friday night, had dinner at the Coles cafeteria in Bourke Street, then made our way up through the back of Myer to level 6, where the toy department was, before heading to Lonsdale Street to catch the 602 bus home.)

Great to see Yarra Trams continuing its removal of mystery “phantom” route numbers. This “67a” (that’s “a” for altered) was diverted during the Queen’s visit.
Tram 67a

Southland: Beware of crocs.
Warning! Crocs!

Darth Maul in a playful mood at EB Games, Southland.
Star Wars

Categories
News and events transport

Yarra Trams – by appointment

Maybe after tomorrow, this could be the new Yarra Trams logo?

Could this be the new YarraTrams logo?

Update Wednesday 6:30pm: There you go, here’s my best pic of the Queen in the tram. Not great I know; she was on the opposite side and facing the other way.

The Queen on the tram

Lots of pics at The Age and Herald Sun.

Most amusing: Channel 9 had footage that showed during the Queen’s ride, the royal tram got a Fleet Operations PA message about diverted services.

Update Thursday morning: A better view of the Royal Tram…
Royal Tram

…and its backup.
Royal Tram backup
(There was a second backup in the Royal colours prepared, but I didn’t see that.)

See also: Why a Z-class tram was used for the Queen’s visit

Categories
PTUA transport

An end to secret tramways business

Tram 47 in Collins StOne day in 2008, Marita and I went to a party, and I blogged about the trip there on mysterious tram route number 7. I concluded:

In my book, in most cases the secret numbers shouldn’t be used. If a tram is travelling along a substantial part of the route, it might as well use the same route number. Most people won’t care that it doesn’t make it quite all the way. Or it could use a suffix such as D for Depot — though that would probably require the few 3 digit route numbers to be cropped back to two for simplicity.

I should probably point out at this point that my personal views do not necessarily represent PTUA policy, but they did in this case, and the Sunday Age got interested in the story.

Age 14/9/2008: On our tramway’s secret service. Yarra Trams said they wouldn’t be changing anything, and noted the rather astounding (I think) statistic:

they account for 10% of the kilometres that Melbourne’s trams travel each day and 8% of the network’s travel time.

In 2009 I noted that in Collins Street the problem was getting worse, with tram routes 29 and 47 both running to Kew Depot, but via different routes.

Fast-forward to 2011. It was highlighted again in May via the PTUA’s Problem Of The Day:

It’s hard enough navigating public transport without throwing in mystery route numbers. There are dozens of them on the tram network — not on maps, not in the timetables.

A new operator took over in late-2009, and unlike their predecessors, they are interested in this issue, and getting rid of obscure route numbers which barely anybody knows about, and bear no resemblance to their parent routes. (Whether or not it had gained media attention, one would hope it would be an aspect of operations they would have reviewed when taking over.)

Route 86/86d

Yesterday via an Age article, they announced they’ll begin to phase them out. The press release provided more detail:

Mysterious route numbers such as 81, 121, 77 and 92 will be phased out to help passengers to get to their destination on the next available tram.

The so-called phantom routes do not appear on the network map or timetables. They are services that are necessary to get trams to and from depots or to reposition them on the network.

This route renumbering initiative will make catching these services much easier. The new route identification format for these services will feature their parent route and the letter ‘a’ or ‘d’.

The letter ‘d’ means the tram terminates at the ‘depot.’

The letter ‘a’ means the service is ‘altered’ and is not running the full length of the route.

It’s a small thing, but a worthwhile exercise to make that underused 10% of tram service kilometres more useful to people. Bravo, Yarra Trams.

Categories
transport

Tramspotting

Earlier this year I wrote a post showing what each type of Melbourne train looks like.

Here’s the tram version, in order of appearance. This is a longer post, as there’s more types.

This is the W-class tram. They’re something of a Melbourne icon, having been around (in various forms) since the 1930s 1920s, though those on the road now are mostly from the 50s. Purists don’t like that the pole has been swapped for a pantograph, but while it’s not historically accurate, I personally don’t mind how it looks. After many years of successful operation, unfortunately they are now all speed-limited to 30km/h, ostensibly a safety-measure, but ultimately to enable cost-cutting on brake maintenance.
W-class tram

There were 748 W-class trams built, but only 38 are in service — 12 in the City Circle fleet in burgundy paint jobs (which, again, annoys the purists). The government says all except the City Circle trams are to be phased-out. As you can see, the City Circle is amazingly popular.
W-class City Circle tram

Z-class trams date back to the late-1970s to early-1980s. This is a Z1. At least I think it’s a Z1. It could be a Z2 — they are almost identical. You can tell Z-class trams apart because of their pointy nose. Inside they have a big empty space where conductors used to be seated at a booth.
Z1 tram

This is a Z3. The notable difference from a Z1 is the presence of a small door at the rear of the tram, but they also have better acceleration, braking, and to me the ride feels smoother.
Z3-class tram

These A-class trams are from the mid-80s. They feel cramped inside to me, though they’re about the same size as a Z. Perhaps the seating layout just isn’t very efficient.
A-class tram

The B-class trams are from the late-80s to early-90s. There are two Bananas-in-Pyjamas-like variants, the B1 and the B2. There were only two B1s made, and they’re notable for their venetian blinds, and making the odd funny pneumatic noise. They were the first articulated trams in Melbourne, and also the first to have air-conditioning.
B2-class tram

This is a C-class tram, aka a Citadis, introduced in the early-2000s as part of the privatisation deal. They’re made by Alstom, and run in numerous cities around the world. They were the first Melbourne tram to have a low-floor, thus when combined with a platform tram stop, it’s wheelchair accessible. I suspect someone decided as a cost-cutting measure not to opt for a rear door, which is a shame; it’d make the back of the tram easier to access.
Citadis tram

D-class (Siemens Combino) trams were also from the early-2000s as part of privatisation, and also run in a number of cities around the world. D1 is the 3-section version. They’re known for not having very many seats, in part because the wheel arches intrude into the cabin.
D1 Combino tram

D2 is the 5-section version, a similar length to a B-class tram. Unlike Siemens trains, Siemens trams don’t suffer from brake problems, but they have suffered from structural issues requiring strengthening, which included the removal of seats, further reducing their numbers.
D2 Combino tram

There’s one more: the C2, aka Bumblebee trams. They are 5-section Citadis trams, originally built for Mulhouse in France, but leased until December 2011, after which they will have to go back home… which is a little while before the next batch of Melbourne trams will arrive, so there could be a shortfall for a while.
Citadis C2 ("Bumblebee") tram

We don’t know what the next model of tram will be, but they are likely to be a similar length to the Bumblebees.