Will the Frankston line be Australia’s first metro?

The train to Pakenham on a recent Saturday afternoon, about 5pm:

Train to Pakenham, Saturday afternoon

Finally this looks to be fixed, at least on the Frankston, Dandenong and Ringwood lines, with trains to run every 10 minutes between 10am and 7pm on weekends.

This is genuinely good news, and although the extra padding going into the timetable is a concern, I expect the boosted service will be welcomed by passengers, and result in patronage growth.

And it’s an important step in providing frequent services, all day everyday, just like a real metro.

In fact, if they can get the confusing peak shoulder (4pm-5pm and 6pm-7pm) timetable sorted out, and if they were to increase service after 7pm from the current 20-30 minute frequencies, it probably makes the humble Frankston line Australia’s first metro.

Next step should be to upgrade other lines, and start providing high frequencies on buses, starting with Smartbus (as well as trams, where they’re lacking) to provide a frequent anywhere-to-anywhere network across Melbourne.

Update lunchtime: The government’s press release includes this important quote from the minister:

“The Coalition Government is moving Melbourne’s weekend trains to a metro style frequency where for much of the day, passengers will be able to dispense with a timetable.

This is important because it shows definitively that the Coalition supports “metro style” train frequencies, something that Labor started in 2009.

The challenge for the government (whoever is in power at the time) is to keep pushing these upgrades onto the rest of the network (train, tram and bus), and at all times of day, seven days-a-week — to provide a full service, high-frequency network across Melbourne that is a genuine alternative to car travel.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

19 replies on “Will the Frankston line be Australia’s first metro?”

Well, well done to Metro, the Victorian Government, and any other parties who have brought this about.

It’ll be good, but it’d be nicer if they’d consider running express trains on weekends, especially where there’s an extra line for it that’s otherwise completely unused. Getting into the CBD from far out on a weekend can take a long time.

@Cam, not sure yet. Stay tuned for details.

@Mike, I think frequency is the first priority. It’s particularly important for connections off other services, and remember that (particularly once Southland station is built) the emphasis for weekend travel isn’t as targetted at the CBD as it might be on weekdays.

Improving frequency from 20 minutes to 10 means every passenger saves 5 minutes on average waiting time (average wait goes from 10 to 5). Express trains save about a minute per stop skipped, but this is difficult to do in two directions (because there’s a partial third track, but not a fourth), results in more complex timetables, and would mean a lot more drivers/trains need to be used, because some sections would have nearly double the number of trains.

On the other hand, it’s unclear if Malvern to South Yarra will still get every train serving it (from both Dandenong and Frankston), eg a train every 5 minutes, which might be over-servicing those stations. It might make sense to make one of those run express, as on weekdays.

Though shorter than the Frankston line, I think that Redfern – Bondi Junction in Sydney can already claim near enough to metro standard.

It has wide operating hours. 7 day service is every 10 min (sometimes 5 min) until approx 9pm. After that it’s every 15 minutes. The Sunday morning service is every 15 min from 5am, with 10 min cutting in after 7am.

@Michael, yeah grade separations are needed, though 6 trains per hour (plus perhaps one V/Line) is nowhere near the level of peak hour (which by my rough calculations is about 15 trains per hour).

@Peter, good point. Not sure though, isn’t Redfern to Bondi Jn strictly speaking two lines which share a bunch of stations? eg you could argue that Richmond to Flinders Street is of metro standard, but it’s clearly lots of different lines.

Perhaps it’s okay if they all use the same platforms (which I assume the Sydney example does)?

Express trains save a minute per stop skipped. The perception is different tho’.. every MATH station stop seems like an eternity, especially when no-one appears to get off or on. Time is as important as frequency… there should be a combination of stoppers, expresses, loop & directs, so passengers with a brain can choose the best train & time to travel. I believe “Metro” is only applicable to short haul. In the UK you can travel between major cities in far less time than it takes to travel from Frankston to Melbourne.

So, the most infrequent service will continue to be in weekdays PM late Peak hour?
Who cares about Saturday’s if you cant get home on a Friday night?

Are there any plans to improve the weekday off peak services beyond Ringwood? They are now express till midday but still 1/2 hour between trains. I would MUCH prefer stopping all stations than having to wait that long for a train.

This will for existing patronage better and increase patronage as well. Southland station might have given the Frankston line regular overcrowding issues on weekends without this.

The weekday off-peak frequency on the Ringwood and Dandenong lines should be upgraded to every 10 minutes too. This would also provide 20 minute services on the Belgrave, Lilydale, Pakenham, and Cranbourne lines.

Would be great if the next step was to do away with Saturday/Sunday timetables and simply have a single ‘weekend’ timetable that could also be used on public holidays. I often need to be in the CBD at 7am on a Sunday and currently it’s not possible to get there via public transport.

It’s good news, but I think the weekday am peak period should be extended and trains going every 10 minutes then too. I travel on the Cranbourne line from Hugesdale to South Yarra each day and there are just as many people trying to get on a train after 9 am as before, and yet the frequency of services drops to only 2 per half hour. And more often than not the services after 9 am are late or cancelled, making your long wait longer again. I don’t think anyone has ever twigged to the fact that there are masses of university students trying to get to Monash Caulfield via the Cranbourne line, and we all know that uni students start at odd times, not necessarily before 9am. I’ve been travelling on this line for many years, and I’m heartily sick of having to stand the whole way. I just want more trains with fewer people on them.

I hate trying to get home on the Frankston line after 7 pm on a weekday. Without fail I get stuck at Caulfield cos the connecting train arrives 1 min before I get there. It was a 19 min wait last Friday which I used to order dinner at the Asian restaurant that backs onto the station but to be honest I rather would have gotten home earlier.

They had trains on the Werribee line every 10 minutes in off-peak, until they got rid of them a year ago. The Coalition, like the PTUA, only cares about the eastern suburbs.

@Ray, two things.

“They had trains on the Werribee line every 10 minutes in off-peak”

No, they did not run every 10 minutes. At the Werribee end inbound they ran at 8/12 minute intervals (not too bad), but between Newport and the city at 4/16 minute intervals, which was rotten. Out of the city, as far as Newport, they were at 8/12 minute intervals, and 5/15 at the Werribee end.

They were not easy to remember, nor even frequencies. However it’s true that obviously the 2011 meant a downgrade — moreso for Altona Loop passengers, losing their direct trains to the city.

“The Coalition, like the PTUA, only cares about the eastern suburbs.”

If you’re going to make that claim (about the PTUA, at least), then you should justify it.

If you look around the PTUA web site, you will see plenty of articles specific to the west, both in the category for this, and amongst the Problem Of The Day posts, for instance:

If there’s a weakness, it’s about volunteers and their limitations. While I personally visit friends in the west regularly, none of the current PTUA committee actually lives there, making it sometimes difficult to have the level of awareness that residents have. Want it to change? Then join and get active.

They really need to increase services all round. Sandringham line would be the easiest of the lot of them, to experiment, seeing that currently it only requires 4 trains in off-peak times.

In Hamburg, Germany, looking at the timetables there, train trips from start to finish, take about 30 minutes to an hour from one side to another of the city. Obviously they are a more built up city with smaller radius to the city, hence do not need to use so many trains to cover the line as we do in Australia, neither do they need to run trains express. But to give you an example, Monday through to Sunday during off-peak times trains run every 10 minutes from 6am to 11pm, and every 20 minutes thereafter until about 1am. In peak trains run every 5 minutes on the main lines and 10 minutes on other less used train lines.

Thursday through to Sunday morning, some lines have trains every 20 minutes or each hour after 1am to cater for party goers.

I am sure we can experiment with a similar system here on the shorter lines (especially seeing Sandringham line has some medium density growth along its corridor in the Chapel street/St Kilda area). Obviously a removal of rail crossings would make it a proper metro, as a metro is defined by any mode of transport that doesn’t interfere with other modes, e.g. Sandringham line doesn’t cross roads or other rail lines.

You make some good points Aljosa but the Sandringham line does cross roads.

Glen Eira rd, bay st, church st, new st, and Hampton st

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