When the trip home goes wrong

Obviously I wouldn’t normally do this, but let me tell you about my trip home last night. And then I’ll look beyond it to the big picture.

I wouldn’t normally do it, because despite problems, it’s usually pretty smooth. Last night… not so much.

5:20. Check Metro web site to see how the trains are running. The 5:41 from Flagstaff (to Frankston, stopping all stations) is cancelled due to driver training, so I decide not to go for it, but to aim for the next one, at 5:50.

5:37. Leave work. Plenty of time to get to Flagstaff.

5:45. Get to station. Departure boards say train is in 7 minutes.

5:48. On the platform, the departure board has changed: the Frankston train is delayed. I smell a rat. Despite no announcement, I board a lightly-loaded Dandenong to Caulfield, betting that my train will be diverted out of the Loop.

At Melbourne Central, people pack in. In the background I can hear an announcement advising people that — as I suspected — the Frankston train has indeed been diverted, and to go to Richmond.

By Parliament the train is packed.

Sardine factor: 8. #SpringSt #metrotrains

5:59. Many get out at Richmond. But those who took the advice didn’t actually make the connection. By this time, the Frankston train is due to have just left Richmond, and I can see the Frankston platform is deserted, so I stay on board the Dandenong train, hoping to overtake it before Caulfield.

6:10. The Dandenong train crawls its way to Caulfield, despite being an express, and arrives parallel with the Frankston train, which has lots of space thanks to bypassing 4/5 CBD stations. It’s due to leave Caulfield at 6:12.

6:12. I get through the crowds. A bunch of us are hurrying through the subway. It’s like running of the bulls. We come up the ramp to see the Frankston train pulling out, dead on 6:12.

Yes, it was on time. Metro will incur a partial cancellation penalty for bypassing the Loop, but will score for it being on-time. But is it good service? Not if it’s known that many people from bypassed stations wanted that train and were just arriving — and particularly as there’s no scheduled train which needs to use that platform for another 9 minutes.

I’m sure the train network would run very smoothly if it carried no passengers.

People wanting a stopping train crowd onto the platform.

6:19. An announcement: normally the next train is a stopper, but that’s delayed 8 minutes, the next train is an express.

6:20. In fact, next stopping train is delayed at least 15 minutes at Parliament due to an ill passenger. This basically means it’s delayed indefinitely. That express train that’s still a couple of minutes away… they wouldn’t consider altering it to stop would they? No, of course not. Metro’s contracts ensure they have punctuality targets to meet.

6:25. The express train arrives. Plenty of space, but few people get on it. I consider travelling home to Bentleigh via its next stop, Cheltenham, but who knows how long that would take.

The express. But most people are waiting for the stopper.

The following train is scheduled for 6:36.

People are muttering under their breath.

An automated announcement tells us to spread along the platform to help the trains run on time. Yeah, thanks for that. We already had.

Another Frankston line regular, a lady who works for one of the NGOs, who I’ve chatted to before on the train, remarks to me that it’s a shemozzle tonight — and she’s glad I’m on this line so I (as an advocate) can see it firsthand. If only the Minister were standing here with us…

6:36. After we’ve stood at Caulfield for almost 25 minutes, a stopping train arrives on time. Miraculously it’s not too crowded, I suspect because the bulk of people are on that delayed train stuck at Parliament.

6:48. The train is on-time arriving at Bentleigh. The same can’t be said for many of my fellow passengers and I of course; delayed by about 25 minutes.

Delayed trains = long wait for bus home for some #Bentleigh #NotVerySmartbus

I glance at the nearby Smartbus sign. It says the next bus eastbound is 29 minutes away. Compared to a quick connection, the train problems plus this could add up to almost an hour’s delay for some people — those who originally intended on catching the cancelled train, and rely on the bus connection.

Every day I see scores of people using the 703 Smartbus to and from the station. It means they don’t have to have a car just to use the train. It frees up car spaces for those who do have to drive to the station. As I’ve posted before, Smartbus services are very popular. But the 703 doesn’t meet the government’s own service standard for Smartbus, and after 6:30, the frequency drops markedly: eastbound it’s 6:02, 6:19, 6:31, 6:46, 7:20, 7:44, 8:52, and that’s the last bus.

On the other Smartbus routes they take the rail feeder service a little more seriously: for instance the 903 out of Mentone station is about every 15 minutes until 9pm, then every half-hour until midnight (sadly with a 16 minute connection from the trains, also every half-hour after 10:30pm).

On this occasion, it’s worse: the 6:46 bus presumably left on time, just before the train arrived. You can’t blame the bus driver — the part of the Smartbus sign that shows train arrivals hasn’t worked for more than three years.

So what are the problems?

Let’s step back a bit. This is not meant to be just a rant from me. What are the big picture problems here?

Driver training has caused lots of cancellations. Sure, it’s needed because of the new track at Springvale and elsewhere, but these projects take years to develop, and it indicates an underlying shortage of drivers, and problems with recruitment.

Is this going to happen every time there’s a track layout change?

Advice to passengers about bypassed trains, if it was made early enough, would allow more people to avoid the disruption, but often it comes too late (though this is slowly improving).

Holding a diverted train for a few minutes would help displaced passengers avoid a long delay, by reducing gaps caused by cancelled or delayed services, but operationally the rail system can’t seem to handle it — even where hundreds of passengers would benefit and it would cause no problems delaying other trains.

Remember, by 6:12, when the bypassed train was leaving Caulfield leaving displaced passengers behind, the following stopping train was already at least 8 minutes late at Parliament — but it seems nobody is watching out for the impacts on passengers; they’re just focussing on getting individual trains through on time.

The operator contracts also don’t deal with this sort of thing well. The operator would be penalised for delaying the train.

Likewise the contracts don’t encourage the operator to alter express trains to help fill a long gap, because that train would then arrive late at its destination.

Regular loop diversions due to short delays (there might have been other reasons this time; it’s unknown), in time, lead to more passengers jumping on the first train out of the city. In the case of the Caulfield Loop, this adds pressure on the Dandenong line, already one of the busiest on the network.

Finally, connecting bus services are generally not co-ordinated, and are often infrequent, causing a cascading delay for people caught up in problems. Smartbus services in particular should be up to a reasonable standard, such that people can rely on them to get home from the station, even when there are train delays. Where installed, the signage helping bus drivers know about approaching trains should also work.

Not Trainageddon, but still affected hundreds

Last night wasn’t Trainageddon. It wasn’t hours of delays, or a large number of lines.

But it was a combination of disruptions and poor customer service that is incredibly frustrating to passengers caught up in it, and it came on the same day as morning peak delays on the Craigieburn, Williamstown and Werribee lines.

The impacts are felt far wider than just the individuals caught up in it. For a knowledge economy like Melbourne’s, it has greater consequences. Let me dig out that Boris Johnson quote again:

Every time your train is stuck inexplicably in a tunnel, every time a service is cancelled, the experience is not just eroding your quality of life. It is eating away at our city’s global competitiveness.

— Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
in the London Evening Standard, 15/10/2009

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.

26 replies on “When the trip home goes wrong”

Regarding ‘regular loop diversions’: some passengers face this issue – by design – every single day.

Neither Sandringham nor Frankston express services go through the City Loop – they travel from Flinders St directly to Richmond. City Loop passengers wishing to use those services must board other trains – typically exacerbating the crowding on Dandenong/Pakenham/Cranbourne services – just to get to Richmond to change to connecting services.

Pity those passengers at Parliament who regularly have to watch full services come and go, unable to board, when all they want to do is travel to Richmond.

Pity even more those passengers that are unable to board their train home to Dandenong/Pakenham/Cranbourne, because it’s already full of people just trying to get to Richmond.

Altona loop commuters experience similar disruptions on a regular basis. Since the timetable was changed in 2011, a separate Laverton service was introduced, rather than using the Werribee trains go through the loop. Now when trains are late, Metro dumps the Altona loop passengers at Newport so that other trains are not delayed. The Laverton trains only run every 22 minutes so it’s generally a lot of waiting while 3 Werribee express, a Williamstown and the VLine trains go by. Last week passengers were dumped at Newport from the 5:36 pm train on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The problem is you never know when this will happen, so the service is totally unreliable. We realise things go wrong with transport systems but this is systematic disruption for Metro’s bottom line, basically because a contract allows them to do so. Patronage declined sharply after the new timetable was introduced. Many people gave up and either drive to Newport (as I do some days when I need to be somewhere) or drive the whole way. The car park at Newport is overflowing with people who live close to a station on the Altona loop. Yes, this affects our quality of life. My street is full of cars and the roads are becoming very congested in suburbia. I live very close to a station but the hype from the politicians about our fabulous public transport is not our reality.
Great post thanks!

Thanks for this. I was on the Frankston line last night, at Southern Cross, and had very similar issues. I was able to hop on a train direct to Flinders Street and pick up a Frankston train running to Richmond from there, but that relies on many years of knowledge of how the system is likely to work (like your instinct in jumping on the Caulfield bound train). And even then I was 20 minutes late home. God help anyone who doesn’t have that knowledge, as there were absolutely no announcements or advice at Southern Cross, just a blank board.

The refusal to stop the express trains when there are cancellations REALLY irritates me. I get the train from either Ormond or Carnegie and it happens a lot there – they’ll cancel a city bound stopping all stations train in the morning, and the express trains will sail through, half empty.

I also don’t really understand why driver training needs to be done during peak hour when it requires cancellations. I grant that there may be factors I’m missing there though.

I arrived at Parliament as people started pouring out of the ill-passenger train. We all crammed into a Platform 4 train which waited quite some time to let as many people cram in as possible. Which was nice (if not a bit frustrating for those already on). Got off at Richmond and headed to Pl 4 which said that a train was expected in 1m. Of course, that was the one stuck at Parliament. It also said the next Mordi train was in 9 minutes.

I suspect that the Dan/Pak/Cran that followed that stuck Frankston went direct to Richmond and may have been the one that passed you at Caulfield. The Mordi train, which was supposed to be a loop train, went direct to Richmond and arrived at Richmond about 1 minute early. So the 9 minutes was actually about 3 in the end.

And that Mordi train took me home quite happily. And, it appears, picked you up at Caulfield at 6:36 on the way through.

Apart from the problems that preceded it, it appears as if the stuck@parliament incident was handled pretty well and things diverted nicely. But this complete unwillingness to stop expresses irks me. Back in that horrid Summer of, what, 2009 (?) where sometimes 2 out of 5 peak trains were cancelled, we sat at Glenhuntly each morning preparing to be sardines, watching those empty expresses go past.

Daniel, welcome to the frustrations Altona loop passengers face every single day, without fail. Metro are incompetent at best and negligent at worst. Just yesterday, we had the 8.22am and also the following 8.44am Altona loop trains cancelled. That meant the there was a 1 hour and 6 minute gap between services. To add insult to injury Metro did not publish this to the Notify app nor did they make any station announcements at Seaholme. When I queried Metro via twitter (@metrotrains), I was told “sorry for the cancellations”. I’m sorry but a gap of over an hour between trains is not a cancellation it is a line suspension!

As you rightly point out Metro could not care any less about providing a reliable service it is all about their bottom line. Terry Mulder is doing a pathetic job as transport minister and despite numerous attempts to contact him I have had no response regarding my concerns with the Altona loop service, or lack there of.

This reads like I’m writing out my own experience. Last night the Metro Notify app noted trouble early on the Frankston line so I split the difference and went to Flinders over Soco in the hope to get directly to Caulfield. Lucky I did else I would have been on the 5:53 that had the ill passenger in the loop.

It may be of interest that a similar situation occurred a few days ago on the Dandenong line. In the evening the driver training cancelled a stops all stations and lack of drivers (or a reason like it) and delays resulted in there being no stops all stations for just under fourty minutes. Myself and a horde of others watched three express trains passing us on platform 4. Why couldn’t just one of them be altered to stop between Caulfield and Oakleigh given the situation?

Thanks Daniel! Metro seriously needs to improve the way it announces delays and cancellations. I understand that it might take them forever and a day to get the trains running on time but for the love of God, KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS INFORMED! It is the very least you could do.

@Michael, there is a slight difference: passengers for lines that run direct all day know in advance that they have to head to an interchange station. Yes it does put pressure on the remaining Loop lines. But there are only 4 Loop tracks; it’s impossible for every train to run through them. That’s one of the things about the proposed new tunnels… more trains mean dedicated routes are the way to go, and that means making compromises as to which trains run via which CBD stations.

@Jennifer, yes there are definitely parallels – the stopping trains to Frankston are the equivalent to Altona Loop services; the Frankston expresses are the equivalent of the Werribee trains which bypass the Altona Loop. However we have more frequent trains overall (and busier stations), and I’d have to say fewer bypass/stop skipping than you guys suffer. We don’t get dumped at Caulfield as often as you get dumped at Newport! The Altona line single track has got to be fixed.

@Simon, cancelling two trains is horrible given the service frequency, but I thought they ran buses instead of at least one (possibly both) of those trains? That’s what MetroNotify said at one point.

With reference to diverting loop trains to Flinders St at short notice during delays: Maybe’s it’s better to have a stable, legible operating pattern and stick to it, so at least you know that where you’re waiting is the best place to keep waiting. As opposed to feeling that if you take some bizarre detour it may – or may not – save a bit of time. That feeling of uncertainty is especially stressful for non-expert riders. The system should be simple and legible for the sake of non-expert riders, as non-expert riders are more likely to be offpeak and occasional users, and we want to encourage them. [1]

The ‘running of the bulls’ style interchange sounds like a serious risk to public safety, and if there was a trip and fall and serious crush I imagine Metro could be in deep doo-doo.

BTW, I would promote running trains from Dandenong to Werribee and Frankston to the Caulfield loop. To avoid conflicting movements this requires converting City-Caulfield to up-up-down-down running with a flyover at Caulfield. It would greatly improve the sort of transfers you discuss, with cross platform transfers between Frankston/ Dandenong and Flinders St direct / loop at Richmond platforms 3/4 and 5/6. It also allows introducing longer trains Werribee-Dandenong, which is probably by far the most cost-effective way to make a serious increase in rail capacity in the medium term.

[1] That’s why having the loops reverse direction at midday is quite daft.

1: Why are you contributing to Dandenong line “overcrowding” by staying on the train to Caulfield? I agree with Michael Bells last paragraph. You yourself state that the Dandenong line is one of the busiest on the network, yet you admit to staying on the Dandenong line beyond Richmond, so you yourself are contributing to Dandenong line overcrowding. People at Richmond may not have been able to get on their train home because you (and who knows how many others) were selfishly taking up a space just to queue jump. Richmond is the encouraged interchange station for the Frankston line. I have no sympathy for queue jumpers.

2: Why should metro have to hold a train thats on time, beyond its departure time for you? Why should the people who got on the express, on time at their appropriate station be 10+ mins late home by having their train altered to stop all stations? That’s ludicrous. You say that “they’re just focused on getting individual trains through on time” ..well no duh. Isn’t that the idea? I’d sure complain if I had been on an express train that not only was held but also delayed by being altered to stop all stations. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would either.

3: I always love when someone who lives on one of the most pampered lines in Victorias Public Transport Network has a whinge because they have one bad morning or night on their commute. (Keep in mind the Frankston line gets a 10 minute or better service most of the day, every day of the week). Try living on pretty much any line (other than Glen Waverley) and this kind of thing happens often. Try commuting from Regional Victoria where not only is this common, but a daily occurrence. Geelong is the only line that gets a decent service and sincere apologies when shit hits the fan, every other line is forgotten. Traralgon line commuters are so used to being home between 30-60 minutes late that they rarely bother complaining. Try asking the people of Bairnsdale how happy they are about being home 30 minutes late on the evening service almost every day for 5 years, due to departing flinders street 3 minutes late on an impossible timetable. But I have read your blog before and the impression is clear – you couldn’t give a rats about Regional Victorias PT. Melbourne is all that matters.

4: If a 25 minute delay once in a blue moon is eating away at your quality of life, you severely need to expand your horizons.

@John Doe, I may eventually, but as per your link, Marcus has done a superb job. Also see the video here from the opening:

@Andrew, hooray! I love a bit of outrage based on misinterpretation.

1. If I wasn’t clear, the most crowded part of the Dandenong service was between Parliament and Richmond. A lot of people alighted at Richmond, no doubt some Sandringham people amongst them. There was no problem for people boarding at Richmond.

2. No, good customer service is about serving your customers, not meeting KPIs which don’t reflect good customer outcomes.

3. I’m on record as repeatedly saying that all suburban train lines should enjoy the (usually) high frequencies the Frankston line has. I’m not sure where you get the idea that I don’t think services other than the one I use don’t need improvement – the blog post makes it very clear that I’m trying to put my experience yesterday into a broader perspective.

4. Boris was perhaps talking up the effect, but if it’s repeated day after day, yes it does effect your quality of life. But the broader point is this: big cities depend on efficient, reliable transport systems. If too many delays like this convince people to get back in their cars (Jennifer says this has happened in the Altona area, see her comment above) then we all lose.

Sounds pretty similar to the Clifton Hill disruptions a I got stuck in a couple of weeks back. In all honesty the delays I suffered weren’t that bad. I was probably home 20 minutes later than I usually would have been; but the communication, the communication was just woeful and showed the inadequacy of internal communication of Metro as a company.

Firstly I arrived at Melbourne Central to see the screens read “No Trains Operating Replacement“.
Replacement what? Buses? From where? There were no announcements describing the problem either.

I looked for Platform staff, but of course they’re rarely to be found at Melbourne Central, instead they’re all watching the gates upstairs. I headed up, asked a lady who had no idea and also informed me there was no way anyone at Melbourne Central could change the screens to say something actually useful. She did however call the Station Master who then started making announcements.

The announcements told passengers to board a Platform 2 train to Parliament where the replacement buses were leaving from. These announcements were frequent, every minute or so for the until the train left, and even continued as people were boarding that train…. but of course nobody had told the Melbourne Central Station Master that trains had resumed running on the CH group! So just as the now packed Platform 2 train was departing, a nearly completely empty South Morang turned up and picked up nobody!

Thankfully, the driver of the now packed train did tell SM and Hurstbridge customers to get off at Parliament and head straight to Platform 1 instead of up the escalators to the buses.

Of course I needed to get on a Hurstbridge, so I got off at Clifton Hill, just in time to watch a whole lot of people get off one of the replacement buses that had been overtaken by the train running towards the first South Morang train that had departed in over an hour; but of course the train driver either didn’t know this bus was due to arrive, or didn’t care and departed without picking up anyone from the buses.

At this point I figured trains had resumed and would probably be attempting to clear a backlog, and would thus pump through every few minutes, but I was wrong, no other trains came through for at least 15 minutes. They must have backed out other trains earlier, because there was still no departure time known to any staff for the next Hurstbridge or SM train, and there were still a bunch of replacement buses sitting there. After about 5 minutes of umming and arring and occasionally getting information from their walkie-talkies the staff announced Hurstbridge services would resume in about 10 minutes, but decided a few more replacement buses would depart anyway and I took my chance and got on one. Seems I made the right choice as I was already on halfway across the pedestrian bridge at Fairfield when I saw the train approaching the station, must have saved myself 45 seconds!

Like your example Daniel, that night wasn’t a terribly disruptive evening. I know enough about how to navigate our system to make a good guess as to what to do when things go wrong. But those sorts of experience really do highlight how poor Metro’s internal communication is:
* Screens that (supposedly) can’t be changed by anyone at the station.
* Announcements that don’t get made without prompting from passengers.
* Station masters that don’t get told when circumstances change.
* Drivers that depart without waiting 30 seconds for passenger that have already been highly inconvenienced, despite no services behind them.

And your experience really highlights how the franchise agreements are geared to performance indicators rather than actual usefulness to passengers.

@Andrew – Lots of outrage about a post that is clearly designed to highlight problems that are network wide.

One point in particular:
Why should metro have to hold a train thats on time, beyond its departure time for you? Why should the people who got on the express, on time at their appropriate station be 10+ mins late home by having their train altered to stop all stations? That’s ludicrous. You say that “they’re just focused on getting individual trains through on time” ..well no duh. Isn’t that the idea? I’d sure complain if I had been on an express train that not only was held but also delayed by being altered to stop all stations. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would either.

If an express runs mainly empty, past a bunch of stations that have crowded platforms because a S-A-S has been cancelled, the majority of customers are worse off. If it instead stops and picks up passengers that have been left stranded, then yes the minority already on the train might find their journey is a bit slower, but the majority will get to their destination quicker. The exact same sort of logic is true of the disruptions both Daniel and I have highlighted. If people have been forced to take a different trip because of service disruptions, the service is improved for the majority if a train waits a minute or so for those passengers to board from their transfers.

First off, it should not be a matter that all Dandenong line trains go via the loop, while none of the Frankston line trains ever do.

There needs to be something of a fifty fifty. Half of the trains from/via Dandenong should go via the loop, along with half of the Frankston trains With the other half of trains on both lines operating direct to Flinders street.

By doing that, you will find that the capacity problems with Dandenong trains shall reduce. Currently those Dandenong line trains are also carrying people who board at Southern Cross and Flinders Street. If you ran a half and half, all of the people who board at Flinders Street would therefore board the direct train, and perhaps a number of the Southern Cross boardings too. By that, you shall free up space on the loop trains, to be used only by those who need to board at Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament.

While I understand that there may be delays caused as trains fight for priority at the junctions, but you should in turn, both increase capacity,and reducde dwell times as people will no longer need to change trains in just one or two stops.

There are some concerns that a city loop train from Frankston may delay the following train from Frankston which is a direct service, because the first train is waiting for a delayed loop train from Dandenong.

First off, I can not see how or why that first Frankston train could not wait, like half stuck out of the porthole. I believe there to be enough room there to fit a 6 car train. Furthermore, a lot can be done to the system, to ensure trains do operate more on time. These measures should be put into practice.

The irony is, I somewhat support the re-introduction of city circle trains.

Especially during peak period.

All those passengers who need to catch trains to or from Sandringham, Williamstown, Werribe and Frankston, would be more than enough to fill a decent CityCircle train service.

With all those passengers taking a CityCircle train to Flinders Street or Southern Cross to change……well need I repeat myself……..

The thing is, how many passengers going from Parliament to Brighton Beach would prefer to change at Flinders street than at Richmond?

I fail to understand the logic(-less?) of the PTV on this matter. I mean, I trust there would be almost a carriage-full changing at Richmond for Sandringham line trains, and I would bet another carriage or two for a via Newport service.

There would only need to be one single train set providing a 12 minute service.

@TranzitJim, running half the trains on each line via the Loop, half direct, is a complete mess. This happens now for Frankston line trains between 4-5pm and 6-7pm. It is almost impossible to make sense of the timetable, and results in most people waiting longer than necessary for a train.

It also eats up capacity by having trains switching from track to track, having to wait for each other – the very thing they’re trying to get away from to maximise the number of trains that can run.

City Circle… well, using your example, who would wait up to 12 minutes for a train to Flinders Street so they can connect to a Sandringham train, when there are trains to Richmond (eg which don’t take you backwards to Flinders Street) every minute or two?

@Andrew You should read all the post… The impact wasn’t just 25 minutes if you wanted to connect to the bus.. more like an hour, and avoidable if the express had been altered. The delay to the express would be less than 5 minutes, with the current timetable padding on the line.

Also, a major contributing factor was the long delays caused by the ill passenger. Maybe someone can ask Boris to explain how ill passengers in the major tube stations in peak hour are treated. I suspect London has a more efficient method in handling these situations.

Just wanted to add my endorsement that this is a great post. The point is that the issues you’ve mentioned aren’t rare. Maybe they don’t occur every single day of the week, but changing trains to run direct from Flinders St to Richmond instead of via the Loop, and not adjusting the stopping pattern of express trains when stopping trains are cancelled are things that occur often enough for commuters to be affected by them on a reasonably regular basis.

Meanwhile. I see that there are signs that $100 million is being spent to “improve” things on the Frankston line. This week, part of that money was being applied to painting at some of the stations which, to my non-expert eye, didn’t appear to be particularly necessary. When will politicians learn it’s not the amount of money that you say is being spent that counts, it’s the day-to-day operation of the system (and people remember the one bad experience they have for a lot longer than they remember the 9 OK experiences). .

I kind of agree with you transitjim. A lot of the Dandenong line “overcrowding” coul have easily been solved by running some Pakenham/Cranbourne trains direct, running Westall/Dandenong trains via the loop and alternating with Mordialloc/Frankston services. Unfortunately this is the unsexy, easy and able to be adopted tomorrow option so obviously we can’t do it. Instead, we’re going to be dudded with a $5.2b “High Capacity” *cough cough* joke that still won’t enable express trains to pass stopping all stations trains, that will totally and completely screw over Regional Commuters from The Gippsland line and will still require lineside infrastructure for V/line and freight trains, or millions of dollars more to install those trains with the same equipment. We should all be concerned that this High Capacity project is being rushed through before the election with no consultation, other than with the parties who have financial interests of course.

How does the London Underground survive.

You still need to have point works at the end of the line.

In London, all of the high frequency Deep Tube lines need to terminate somewhere, and they do so with two or three platforms, accessed via a scissors crossover. Those points need to change between each and every train.

Including the Victoria Line which is the first with Automatic trains, and has a frequency of one and a half minutes, still needs to have points changed between each train, and at both ends of the line too.

Furthermore, you have the SubSurface lines. Baker Junction, busy with three lines using that. Then there is the District line which has branches all over the place.

To conclude, I see little difference between the points at the City Loop end, compared to the points at say the Dandenong end, or in deed at Frankston. You will still have the same need to change points between every train.

Perhaps a five minute frequency is best for the City Circle idea. The Dandenong line can handle a frequency of two minutes. So we should be able to operate a four minute frequency on each route.

I fail to understand why such a system would be too complex. All you do is wait at your station for a train to turn up with the idea of watching the destination signs on the trains, and/or listen to the announcements.

How do we survive with trams along St Kilda road, and the many bus routes out of locations such as Dandenong, Frankston, and many other locations. Perhaps we need to introduce ‘train route numbers’??

Running city circle trains eats into capacity on the Hurstbridge and South Morrang lines because the 3 of them share the same loop track. It would kill of any hopes of a Doncaster service prior to the South Morrang line diversion.

Going on to the topic of infrequent services being canceled which was discussed earlier, apart from that services shouldn’t be that infrequent anyway, could cancelations of very sparse services be handled any better?

V/Line almost always provide replacement coaches for any canceled train, even for relatively frequent peak services, but there are still suburban lines that have 60 minute gaps between trains at times (Hurstbridge, Sunbury at night, Pakenham on Sunday mornings), and I know from experience that there is no taxi or bus provided if one of these services gets canceled – you are told to wait for the next train.

I’ve heard quite recently that there’s been 2 hour gaps between trains at the far end of the Sunbury line at night recently because of cancellations, and I remember a night that I spent nearly 2 hours waiting at Cranbourne once a few years ago when I just missed a train at night followed by the next one being canceled.

When the delays are that large, surely some form of transport should be provided?

This is the problem with incentives. If you design incentives, the people who operate under their yoke will focus on them, even to the exclusion of the objectives those incentives were designed to achieve.

The biggest issue like this in public policy is measuring student achievement through standardised testing. While it should show kids getting smarter, it also leads to “teaching the test”

There are two schools of thought on solving this.

1. Leaving operation up to a benevolent operator. Since the issues a network faces are multiple and complex, and impossible to include in contracts, only an intelligently run system reacting in real time can understand and serve the customer’s needs best. Probably has to be state-run, since benevolence and cost-control are not mutually reinforcing.

2. Better incentives. Perhaps in 20 years, wearable technologies will have improved in such a way that commutes can be measured and aggregated. Metro would not be paid for getting trains through stations on time, but for getting people home on time,. (An even more distant future system would have monitors on private transport too, and bonuses for them if boom gate disruptions, tram crashes and traffic jams are minimised too.

Back in the 1980s, I often saw the State Transport Minister catching the train to+from Parliament station, experiencing the system first-hand. Not as an occasional stunt, but using it like a regular commuter. Now I live outside Melbourne.. does it happen thesedays, with elected representatives or senior transport executives? Curious.

@Gavin, that’s a good point. You’re probably thinking of Peter Spyker, who was known to use the train quite a lot between his home in Mentone and Parliament.

Many senior transport executives do use public transport regularly, for instance I know the current CEOs of Metro and PTV both use it to get to work, as did the immediate past Yarra Trams CEO. (Not sure about the current one). In my experience most make a point of it. Ministers and other MPs however, not so much, it seems.

Comments are closed.