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V/Line: a ride on RRL, and 24-hour time… mostly

I finally took a ride on the Regional Rail Link last night. In summary:

Trains from the city to Geelong depart regularly, but from numerous platforms — when I was there in peak, it was 5A, then 7A, 15A, 1, 3A… and when I’d been there at lunchtime, 2B had also been in the mix. It wouldn’t hurt to have some consistency. As it is, if you just miss a train, you’re likely to have to backtrack a long way to figure out where to catch the next one.

V/Line departures: Southern Cross, peak hour

I caught the Southern Cross to Tarneit on the 17:44 to Geelong/Waurn Ponds — peak hour, quite crowded, every seat on the 5-car train occupied I think. A few people standing (probably by choice).

Tarneit station quite busy, perhaps 100 or more people alighted there. Not bad for the fourth weekday of operation. The area around the station is somewhat dominated by the car park (hopefully new development on the northern side will reduce this. Good to see the platforms have multiple exits.

Tarneit station, evening peak

Tarneit station park and ride

Hopped on another train to Wyndham Vale a few minutes later — not nearly as crowded.

Then a train back into the City — counter-peak, mostly empty. It was late, and the departure disappeared off the platform screens for a few minutes, a bit odd.

Notably, a lady hopped off the inbound train at Sunshine and changed onto the Sunbury line outbound, so while no doubt Geelong to Werribee people have been inconvenienced having to now make a bus connection, the opening of RRL has also made other trips easier.

Despite it being after 6pm and dark, I saw no sign whatsoever of PSOs at either of the new stations. They are not currently on the list of stations served by them, which seems odd.

It was too dark to see any scenery on this little jaunt, or even to fully appreciate the speed. There was a brief good view of the bright lights of the distant city between Deer Park and Tarneit. I’ll have to go back in daylight.

Riding V/Line in the dark

Footscray station platform 3 doesn’t have departure screens. This is cunning, given this is for citybound trains that you’re not meant to board there. (Sunshine does have them as that platform is used in both directions, but I’m told it doesn’t display citybound departures.)

It’s about time

It’s great to see a brand new rail line so popular already.

But something else I noticed…

24-hour time isn’t common in Australia, but V/Line uses it. It’s on their web site, on the screens at Southern Cross, and on their timetables… in fact the paper timetable has a panel explaining 24-hour time.

V/Line explains 24-hour time

Oddly, it’s not on their Passenger Information Displays at their stations. They all seem to be 12-hour time, even on the new platforms which exclusively serve V/Line trains.

Wyndham Vale station, evening counter-peak

Is it important? Not greatly in the grand scheme of things. But some consistency would be good across the greater public transport network of course. I’m undecided which is better… 12-hour time is more well and understood, but 24 avoids AM/PM ambiguity, and most people would know it from the world of air travel. It’s also used internally by operators.

It’s not the first time we’ve had inconsistency on this in public transport. The Metcard system used 12-hour times on the cards and readers, but from memory used 24-hour time when the readers showed expiry times.

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.

13 replies on “V/Line: a ride on RRL, and 24-hour time… mostly”

Great news from Marcus Wong about PSOs.

I was on the last UP and last DOWN, as well as the first of each on Sunday too.

I stayed on the platform at Little River for I think 6 to 7 hours between trains.

I do have videos and photos of three of those trips if Daniel Bowen wants me to post them.

The RRL is a mixed bag. The negatives is ofcourse the now broken link between Werribee and Little River. How hard would it be for PTV to source a sprinter railcar for operating a shuttle link ovee that route?

Also, the fact that all Geelong trains must service both Tarneit and Whyndamvale is beyond me. Why do we not have a regular suburban shuttle all day long. Say, use the H sets for that.

Yet it gets worse. It is beyond me how you would want to have Warnambool trains used for travel between Tarneit and Southern Cross. It is bad enough they permit Southern Cross to Geelong now they have a 20 minute service just for themselves. At the same time, the same thing, to Bairnsdale and Swan Hill are now denied to persons boarding at Pakenham and Sunbury respectively, and they have much longer to travel than Tarneit.

On the other side, there is no doubt that the RRL is a massive advantage to Geelong customers, being given the chance to have a 20 minute service, as well as having an express run without stoppers getting in the way. Ballarat and Bendigo lines also benefit from that somewhat.

A couple of years ago I raised with V/Line the ridiculous inconsistency with which it uses the 24-hour clock. Despite being told it was a personal bugbear of the staffer I spoke to, nothing has changed, and it makes for confusion.

On departure boards shared by V/Line & Metro, the former has a 24-hour clock and the latter a 12-hour one. V/Line uses the 24-hour clock on its station clocks and on timetables, but conductors still exclusively use the 12-hour clock.

Even more weirdly, station PIDS are inconsistent. On the Geelong line, the dot matrix “next train” displays are in 24-hour time, but as your photo shows, that doesn’t seem to apply to the newer screens – so they have actually gone backwards to some extent.

V/Line regularly surveys its customers about 24hr or 12hr timetables. Unequivocally, the results are in favour of 24-hour times.

If V/Line passengers are unequivocally in favour of using the 24-hour clock, then V/Line should move with all possible speed to make it the only clock used on its services. It’s mystifying why that hasn’t been done already.

Then maybe PTV can ensure that Metro and Yarra Trams to do the same.

I know 24 hour time very well but I still convert it to 12 hour time. 24 hour time is probably better for timetables for me but I doubt it is for most people and I am astonished at the survey results mentioned above, to the point of disbelief.

I see Marcus found that V/Line has used the 24-hour clock since 2000.

Transport for NSW uses it for all modes online, but it appears not in their printed material.

Amusing in Brisbane, Translink uses 12-hour time but private airport rail line company Air Train uses 24-hour.

I looked for any kind of V/Line survey results that might be public, and only found this report which mentions in passing:

Some people with intellectual disability also found the use of the 24 hour clock too complex and difficult to understand.

You’ve hit one of my hotbuttons with the 24hr time.

I live on the Frankston line south of Cheltenham, so having a timetable with me is of great use, letting me time my trip home for the fast trains. I have the PDF timetable on my iPhone (PTV’s app got terrible reviews in the App Store, so I never tried it). That uses 12 hour times, with afternoon distinguished by bold. Unfortunately, when looking at it on the iPhone’s small screen bold isn’t always immediately obvious if there’s no non-bold on the screen. This can mean a lot of scrolling around. 24 hour time would make this a lot simpler for me.

Those PDFs are generated dynamically on PTV’s web site. At this point, it’s just stubbornness on their part not to have a 12hr/24hr option when downloading a timetable. It’s not ignorance – I did make the suggestion to them years ago.

As you say, most people have met 24 hour time before. But even if you never had, what else could a time of 16:18 be but 4:18 pm? There is a good argument for supporting 24 hour time only, like almost every other railway in the world (including London’s).

On the 24 hour time issue, They need to be consistent.

I prefer the 24 hour clock, especially for longer range services such as V/Line where routes are long, and services are infrequent.

But, it does need to be consistent. I constantly need to convert between the two, and when I am tired from a long day, it becomes hard to do.

Even better would be to have both time types. On electronic time displays, have the hour alternate say each 30 seconds between 12 and 24 hour.

@Francis E, the new PTV is better than the first couple of versions, I’d give it a go again.
But yes, a 12/24 hour toggle in an app, or on the PTV website, would seem pretty simple to implement.

More concerned about what platforms are used at Southern Cross, they need to be more consistent. eg Geelong train always platform 7a 7b & 8a 8b, Ballarat 5 & 6 and so on

Transport for NSW moved to 24 hour time in October 2013. The timetable you link to, Daniel, predates the move. They have not updated all the .pdf timetables for the STA run buses but I think all the private operators and other modes have made the switch.

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