Getting around without trams and/or trains

Updates below

If you’re keeping up with the news, you’d know that the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) is in dispute with both the tram and train operators.

At this stage, there is a threat of industrial action, which could be anything from refusing to wear uniforms to refusing to check tickets to disrupting services for several hours, or even longer.

Obviously if services are stopped, even outside peak hour, this will cause a lot of disruption for passengers, who will have to defer their trips or find alternative methods of getting around.

Bus in Queen Street

A couple of brief points on this:

Stay informed. It’ll help a lot of you know when (and if) any service disruptions are occurring.

Be aware particularly that if the RTBU says there’s a four hour (10am-2pm) shutdown of trains, this probably means services begin winding down just after 9am, and won’t be back to normal until 3pm or later. Check how your trip is affected before you find yourself waiting on a station platform.

Plan your trip. If you have to travel at a time of disruption, plan ahead. If you can walk/cycle/drive to another service, that might work.

Look at the PTV Journey Planner — it’s a long way from perfect, but fortunately the web and app versions has the option to switch off specific modes. (, which can also plan Victorian PT trips, has this option too. Bing doesn’t.)

PTV Journey Planner preferences

This is useful for everyday use as well. The walking speed is something I always tweak, as the default is quite slow.

Some people going to the airport like to switch off the Skybus option to avoid the premium fare.

Always carefully check the results; the PTV web sites and app don’t show a map, so be sure it’s worked out precisely where you’re going correctly.

And of course one should be cautious in the context of a big train or tram disruption, as during a strike there’s likely to be delays to street-based public transport due to increased traffic. This is problematic when relying on buses in particular — a missed connection could easily mean a 30 minute wait.

In my testing on a trip from the Flinders Street Station to Box Hill Station, the default told me a train would take 23-27 minutes. Switching off trains recommended a tram instead, taking 58-64 minutes. Switching off trams as well worked out a bus trip, catching 2-3 buses and taking 67-80 minutes. Slow, but at least it is possible.

But at least in many cases there are options.

  • Dealing with individual railway lines suspended is a different matter — that’s about knowing alternatives to your line, generally connections from parallel lines — see this great resource
  • At this stage it’s unclear if V/Line services will keep running if Metro is disrupted.

Update: Four hour tram and train shut down on Friday 21st August 10am-2pm

The shut down has been confirmed for Friday week — remember, services disruptions will be wider than just those four hours.

The Age has an article that goes more widely than this one: How to get around on public transport strike day

Update 21/8/2015: the Friday tram and train stoppages were called off, but there is now the threat of a tram stoppage next Thursday.

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.

10 replies on “Getting around without trams and/or trains”

Just glad PT strikes have been very rare since mid-1990s. If the proposed rail strike next Monday doesn’t affect peak (sort of) then it will be a bonus.

Helpful information, Daniel. Thank you.

While reports have mentioned the disputes are about a new agreement for wages & conditions, there has not been much specific information about what the competing demands / offers are. Can you shed any light on what the sticking points are, beyond simply a dispute about standard pay rates – ie. are Metro’s proposed operational changes part of the discussion, etc

Good hints. In the advanced search, Stefi also recommended tweaking the maximum walking time from the default 10 minutes.

You’d want to check the routes though. For me, it insists that the best route is to catch a bus through the southern edge of North Melbourne to Footsray, and then a second bus back to the northern edge of North Melbourne. Given the congestion, I’d suspect it would be better to get off at North Melbourne and walk!

My other tip – and I know several people doing this already – is, if your business around and about can be rescheduled or deferred or reconfigured, do that. (ie if you have a job where it is possible to work at home for a day). This clearly won’t work for everyone, but it can for many people.

I still remember going into the city in the 90s and seeing all the trams parked in Collins St. I did not live in Melbourne at the time. Did not work as they got rid of the conductors any way.

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