The new timetables started yesterday, but this morning is the first big test of the peak hour changes.
As I’ve already noted, while most lines get a tweak, the Caulfield lines get a big shake-up, especially Frankston.
As the number of trains running has increased, more have had to bypass the four CBD loop tunnels. Alamein and Blackburn have done so for decades. Sandringham trains switched in 1996. Werribee in 2008. Now it’s the turn of the Frankston express trains, and of course it’s been my line for most of the past fifteen years, and I’m taking a lot of interest.
I was looking a bit more at how and why the new Caulfield group timetable works like it does. While I know some don’t like it, it’s interesting to see how it all fits together.
It’s easiest to see by looking at the trains in the PM peak, leaving Richmond (eg after they’ve gone through the loop, or run direct from Flinders Street).
5:13pm — Pakenham express from loop (1)
5:16pm — Cranbourne stopper from loop (2)
5:16pm — Frankston express direct from Flinders St (3)
5:20pm — Frankston stopper from loop (4)
5:22pm — Pakenham express from loop (1)
5:25pm — Cranbourne stopper from loop (2)
5:25pm — Frankston express direct from Flinders St (3)
5:29pm — Frankston stopper from loop (4)
(1) Stopping South Yarra, Caulfield, Oakleigh, Clayton, Springvale-Noble Park, Dandenong-Pakenham
(2) Stopping South Yarra, Caulfield-Cranbourne
(3) Stopping South Yarra, Caulfield, Cheltenham-Frankston
(4) Stopping all to Carrum or Frankston
What’s going on? Well instead of the complete dog’s breakfast of the old timetables, they’re making better use of the track capacity they have. And they’ve standardised the stopping patterns so that particular trains serve particular stations.
- You can fit a train through the loop about every 3 minutes.
- They’ve set up a repeating pattern every 9 minutes.
- The Pakenham express leaves just before the Cranbourne stopper, because they share the same track all the way to Dandenong, so the express skips more stops, and almost (but not quite) catches up to the previous stopper at Dandenong.
- The Frankston express leaves just before the Frankston stopper, because they share the same track to Caulfield. After that they have a separate track to Moorabbin, so the express can overtake the previous stopper.
- The Cranbourne/Pakenham lines are mucho overcrowded, so now there’s never more than a 6 minute gap between them. The old timetable had the Frankston trains run together through the loop, resulting in gaps for Cran/Pak of up to 9 minutes, which meant a lot of crowding on some trains.
So the theory is the loads are more even (they claim to have researched this and believe it to be true), so the loading at busy city stations is quicker, and the trains are more punctual. And the better use of track capacity has let them add more train services overall, reducing crowding.
Those who have lost express services and/or now have to change trains are not happy, of course. Someone (not me) put this poster up at Bentleigh a couple of weeks ago:
Now, I loved the 8:06 and 8:17 express trains. But they were anomalies. Extra stops added to existing express trains a few years ago to relieve crowding at Ormond and Glenhuntly. Counter-intuitive because they left two minutes after other trains. I’m sorry, but such oddities are not the basis for a well-designed train timetable.
Those that have more right to complain are those from the end of the Frankston line and are losing their Express Loop services. It’s worth nothing that others who use Flinders Street (and probably more people will after the change) will get a quicker trip in on those expresses. So it’s not as if everybody loses out. But those who have to change trains will find it takes some getting used to.
If you will now have to change trains and/or your trip takes longer, then of course you’re not going to be happy about it.
The question will be whether these changes bring reduced delays that mean a more predictable, reliable, less crowded trip into work, even if it takes a few minutes extra than the timetabled theoretical travel time under the old regime.
Metro and the government will be hoping this change results in that payoff. If not, people like Rob Hudson (state member for Bentleigh, a marginal seat) are going to be on shaky ground when the election comes in November.
For those on the affected lines, how are you finding it today?
And more significantly, once the dust settles in the next week or two, how is it?