Those LED automated signs on station platforms are known in the biz as Passenger Information Displays, or PIDs. In recent months they’ve been installed at a lot of stations along the Frankston line.
They’re handy because they provide you with realtime departure information, without having to press the Green Button, which often doesn’t work or takes ages to get to the vital bit of information: how many minutes away is my train? PIDs are also useable by the deaf and hard of hearing.
At Frankston line stations with more than 2 platforms, they’ve concentrated installing them on the “island” platforms — if the budget is limited, this makes sense at stations such as Ormond and Bentleigh, where most trains (and most passengers) use those platforms. Few use platform 3.
It appears someone decided the “island” rule should apply at the MATH (Malvern, Armadale, Toorak and Hawksburn) stations. So at Malvern, some months ago, PIDs were installed on platforms 2+3. At Armadale and Hawksburn, they’ve been installed on all four platforms. (Toorak doesn’t have them at present, so I guess I should have said MAH.)
Problem is, few trains stop on platforms 3+4. This has been the case for a couple of years, and since the July timetable change, even fewer trains stop there — basically only after 10pm on weekdays, and before 10am and after 8pm on weekends. The rest of the time, all the trains stop on platforms 1+2.
This is because stopping patterns are being standardised so that Dandenong line trains generally run express Caulfield to South Yarra. Consistent patterns make a lot of sense — they are more predictable, and can be shown on maps — and the Dandenong line has been prioritised for expresses because it carries more people than the Frankston line, serves more growth areas, and it also carries express V/Line trains. In the future I wouldn’t be surprised if no trains stop on platforms 3+4 except under unusual circumstances (such as a disruption on the other tracks).
So the signs are either left blank most of the day, or showing a message telling you to go to another platform.
This could be done with a cheap static sign — if needed at all. All these stations have automated displays up on the concourse which direct you to the correct platforms.
There are scores of stations, and hundreds of platforms around Melbourne that are still without PIDs. What an appalling waste of money to install them where they’ll almost never be used.
Update 28/8/2014: In the past week or so, PIDs have been installed at Malvern on platforms 1 and 4, though they are not yet in use. Perhaps this post was something of a premature rant about a non-problem!