Summer timetables = planned train crowding (See a problem? Get the evidence)

If you missed it last night:

Channel 7: Frustration over summer timetable: Scores of train services have been cancelled and the Metro system will run to a limited summer timetable, even though most people will have returned to work. Jacqueline Felgate reports.

Here’s a PTUA press release, and the raw footage:

It was shot on a city-bound Frankston train on Wednesday morning. All week this particular service (the 7:59) has been packed, because at many of the stations it serves, there are no trains for twenty minutes either side of it due to the summer cancellations. Plus it stops at additional stations to plug the gap.

Before you pipe-up and say your station only gets trains every 20 minutes all the time, please take a look at the number of unique stations served by those trains, and the loads boarding at each station. The Frankston line is a very busy line, and the stations involved, Bentleigh to Hawksburn, are very busy inner-suburban stations.


Most have taken this as it’s intended: that it might be excusable for trains to be packed when every available train is in service, and/or rails are full to capacity, but to get this level of crowding and long waits between trains because of deliberately cutting services, just to save some money? Very poor effort from Metro and the government.

Is crowding widespread even when all trains are running?

Others have responded along the lines of: So what? The trains on my line are always this crowded, every peak hour.

If that’s the case, where is the evidence?

A little history: In the latter part of last decade, there was a lot of publicity around crowded trains, on almost every line. The media were regularly FOI’ing reports, and staking out hot spot stations (thanks, ahem, to some good tip-offs) getting great footage of people crammed in and others left behind on platforms.

Here’s a good sample, from 2007:

Labor and the Coalition came to realise this was a serious political problem. Train problems basically lost Labor the election. Between them, the two flavours of government bought several dozen more trains — by my count, 45 up to 2011, and another 8 in the 2013 budget, so 53 in all — expanding the train fleet by about 25%. (The Coalition has funded 15 of the 40 they promised over two terms.)

The extra trains mean we’ve seen a lot more services running on the most crowded lines (for instance Werribee used to run mostly every 20 minutes; it’s now about every 11 minutes in peak, plus additional Laverton trains), and the load surveys say overcrowding is well down.

Meanwhile, patronage growth (and particularly peak patronage growth) is not booming like it was a few years ago, though in coming years with the expansion of Docklands, it may shoot up again.

So if there is still widespread regular bad overcrowding like 6-7 years ago, it’s not very visible.

There are some cases of crowding, of course — the May 2013 load survey indicates the Dandenong line is currently worst, with 7 load breaches in AM peak, and another 7 in PM peak, with the Werribee line a close second. Happily, RRL will enable extra services on the Werribee and Sunbury lines… the no relief in sight for the Dandenong line at present though.

But given big boosts in fleet capacity over the past few years, crowding does not appear to be the kind of systemic, network-wide problem it once was.

If you’re regularly experiencing bad overcrowding on a normal day with all services running and no major delays, then please, please, please get some pics and/or video so there can be a renewed campaign to get action to fix it.

You have a camera in your phone. Please use it.

Don’t be embarrassed. If someone asks you what you’re doing, tell them. (I’ll do another post to on this topic soon.)

If it’s a problem that occurs during delays due to signalling, track failures, or bad weather, then that’s a bit different — it’s a question of reliability, not capacity.

If the problem is crowding during off-peak times, then that shows the need for more off-peak services, when there are resources (trains and track capacity) available… the major barrier isn’t fleet and infrastructure, with their long lead times, but funding (drivers, power, maintenance). Again, get the evidence.

Packed car parks? Well that’s not really a train problem at all — it’s a problem with feeder services, and walking and cycling facilities. Get the evidence.

Oh, your problem is Myki? Don’t get me started. But again, get the evidence.

And once you’ve got the evidence? PTUA may be able to help, but if not (they’re all volunteers), there are other ways to let people know.

Update 13/1/2014

Tonight it appears Metro have started adding back trains into the reduced timetable to help relieve overcrowding. Restored services were noted tonight on the Frankston, South Morang, Sandringham and Dandenong lines.

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.

12 replies on “Summer timetables = planned train crowding (See a problem? Get the evidence)”

And the worse part is how sneaky Metro has been about this, referring to reduced services as “Summer works timetable”. In fact, all lines have reduced services but only a few have “works”.
PS Saw you on the news last night – I thought you had retired?
PPS Got new mykis for 2 family members (old cards expired) and discovered you can’t have the person’s name on the card (unless you mail the card in and wait two weeks). Who’s brilliant idea was this?

Services from Oakleigh have been more crowded this week. I was fortunate to snag a seat on the 8:40ish this morning, but gave it up to a mother who got on with toddler twins and a pram at Murumbeena.

You said that packed car parks are not a train problem, but they are still a public transport problem. If successive governments of both colours over the last 50+ years had had a little bit of foresight in acquiring the land and building train line extensions we wouldn’t now have so much of a problem with the nearest train station being so far away with no efficient transport to reach it. Now it’s too late because all the land is privately owned and occupied and now worth squillions more than it would have been worth 50 years ago.

I love how the media tells you all about the works in the Domain tunnel, but not a word is said about the RRL.

The works being done this Christmas at Franklyn Street is by far more important than the Domain Tunnel in my mind, yet not even a beep about it.

Bias media. No wonder Metro is getting away with it.

I’d also remind people that when using cameraphones, turn the phone sideways so it takes landscape footage or photos (ideally footage). TV stations can’t use your footage easily if you shoot in portrait view.

@Peter – I’ve noticed that when TV networks have portrait format mobile phone video to show, they add a blurred and stretched version of it as a background image in an attempt to make it look more presentable.

Its really stupid how during Australia Open they cut services!! This is nothing more than a money making stunt by metro and the state government!! Yes I understand there is a level crossing separation on the Ringwood line and Regional Rail Link Construction but what has that got to do with the rest of the lines on the network. I am pretty sure Mitcham is not on my line. Its also hard to believe Frankston trains ran every 10 minutes on Christmas day when no one is out but services are cut at the worst possible time. When London had the Olympics which is much bigger than the Australian Open their trains ran very frequently and coped with the excess crowds going to work and the games. Melbourne cant even do this!!! I think our Public Transport is a horrible stain on our reputation as the most liveable city. Melbourne can do way better than this!! We all need to tell our MP’s either give us the PT we need or don’t get our vote!! November election here we come!!!!

A shame to see such holiday timetable
Though for buses there very few on holiday timetables, only 10 this year.

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