After years of inaction, great to see progress on Southland station

Last week on Facebook the Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan published this great photo (along with a couple of others) from Southland Station under construction:

Southland station under construction

Over the weekend of 5-6 November when the Frankston line was closed, they put the pedestrian subway into place.

On Facebook the doubters continue to… well, doubt the usefulness of the station, to which I will say (at the risk of repeating myself):

  • Walking from Cheltenham station is too far for most people to want to do. If they’ve already had to get to their origin station, they don’t want another 15 minute walk to Southland.
  • Almost all the buses from Cheltenham (and other connecting stations) are either hopelessly infrequent (especially on weekends), or depart from a myriad of stops, or both. It’s even worse coming back, as only a severe bus nerd would be able to memorise which bus routes go to the station.
  • The government is right not to spend up big trying to provide commuter parking. Just like somewhere such as South Yarra, it’s a destination, with walk-up access in there as a bonus.
  • Many (most?) trips to shopping centres don’t result in people buying more shopping than they can carry (though some enterprising people do take home furniture, televisions and other big items on public transport). In fact a lot of journeys are for service-based spending, such as going to the cinema, banks, appointments.

Anyway, I took a look on Sunday. After so many years of inaction, it’s great to see solid progress on this project.

Southland station under construction November 2016

They seem to be making good use of the property in neighbouring Tulip Grove that was snapped up when it came up for sale, using it for construction access. It probably makes sense for it to provide another station entrance (as well as better access into the shopping centre) for locals, with parking restrictions to prevent park and ride commuters using it — but I guess it’s fair enough to get community views on this.

Southland station under construction November 2016

Some have observed that the station will be pretty bare bones. This impression posted on Facebook by Member for Bentleigh Nick Staikos shows the design. What even is the point of that thing above the entrance?

Plan for Southland Station

It certainly appears the pedestrian access into the centre itself will be less then ideal. (Source: PTV)

Southland station - overarching design (PTV)

But, hey, salami tactics. Just getting the station is the big step forward. Improved access is something to lobby for next.

If Westfield are smart, they’ll move to remodel parts of the car park to provide a more direct pedestrian path. And in the long term I wouldn’t be surprised if they extend the centre building out to meet the station.

Station construction work is likely to continue until December, then take a break over the busy Christmas shopping period, then resume next year, with PTV saying the station due to open in 2017.

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.

14 replies on “After years of inaction, great to see progress on Southland station”

Thanks for the photos and the update. I didn’t even know that work had started.
I’m one of those people who carries home a large number of heavy bags from Southland (my weekly supermarket shop) so the car will still be the most viable option for me.

Would there be merit in moving the bus interchange from its current location to next to the new station? I’ve got to say the current location makes for interesting journeys around the shopping centre – e.g. 811/812 from Cheltenham, turns right into the shopping centre from Nepean Hwy, and then turns left out of the shopping centre into Karen St and then does a loop via Nepean Hwy and Chesterville Rd to continue north. Will express trains continue straight to Cheltenham, or will they stop at the new station? What’s the commuter catchment like around the station – I imagine it will take some who currently go to Cheltenham or Highett? Is there access from Bay Rd, or just through the shopping centre?

You’re certainly right Daniel that movement between the station and the Centre will be somewhat inhibited by the pedestrian-hostility of the car park.

But I’d anticipate that Southland may eventually expand to encompass the station, much as it had crossed the Highway in order to expand.

Once that happens, build a subway connecting the station to the bus interchange and you’ve got a thriving hub for the whole area.

One can dream…


You’ve got a good notion on transplanting the bus interchange to the western car park, and vice versa.

I was born and raised Singapore and is there now as I write this.

Southland has a lot to gain from an improved connection to the train station. Many shopping centres here in Singapore adjacent to the train stations take advantage of this feature, and many lobby for a proper connection with clear signage as it improves business for them.

I’m also over this mentality that stations need to have plenty of commuter parking near them. This is definitely not the case in Singapore where parking facilities are expensive and trains replace cars as a mode of transport, rather than supplement them.

Driving around in Melbourne, sometimes I think it’s more than worth the trouble finding parking at stations and shopping centres, though I can understand if I have the intention to carry bulky or heavy objects with me.

The bus routes got a lot more confusing when the centre was opened in 1968, and routes that used to serve local stations (especially Mentone) were extended. Bizarrely, from Mentone you had to guess which one would leave for Southland next, assuming you were wiling to pay for a second ticket. They were operated by different companies and no one company wanted to give up the business, so multiple buses ran along Nepean Highway at irregular intervals, and the government even-handedly paid a subsidy to all the bus companies to run their partially empty buses for the extra leg.

And I think, to a large extent, the current routes are the same ones that have never been rationalized. It says a lot about planning that they haven’t been.

Once the station is opened there is an argument for removing most of those extra bus legs. For example, the 828, 708 and 825 could be truncated and not go to Southland, with passengers changing to the train instead. This would also release bus bays at Southland, to Westfield’s benefit. Buses also get badly caught on the leg between Mentone and Southland (especially along Swanston St.), impacting timekeeping; the level crossing removal will help a bit but I suspect not really fix the traffic at Mentone. The final benefit is better route legibility.

@ Francis E – while there’s significant scope for rationalisation (eg 600/922/923 could go back to one route, 811/812 should be one and the multiple stops around Cheltenham could be tidied up) I’d be wary of forcing train transfers for users of major routes eg the 828 going to Southland. Another structural issue with the network is that some routes serving the Moorabbin industrial area (eg 631, 821) terminate at Southland rather than connect with trains on the Frankston line.

Since the 828 already runs every 20 min and is a very busy route (even on Sunday when it’s hourly) I would make this a centrepiece of a new Southland network, with it running via its current route to Southland from the east and then direct to Sandringham via Bay Rd (replacing 822).

Another potential major route is an upgraded 823 run from Elsternwick to Southland (and potentially Mentone) via Nepean Hwy. Currently the 823 runs well below potential.

After that a key trade-off is one-seat to Southland versus an upgraded frequency (eg every 20 min) on more direct routes. A lot of local routes in the area had a 20 min headway (when they were 600-series numbers) but some have since been pruned to 30 with a more complex network overall. There’s potential rationalisation in the Brighton area. The main simplifications could include extending 824 westwards from Moorabbin to replace 811/812 along the western part of South Rd. And 811/812 (or its single route replacement) could entirely replace 825. This would provide an east-west grid along three major roads over the Frankston line but people would have to change for Southland (arguably undesirable for such a major destination).

I think it is absolutely brilliant that this project is going ahead, after many years of putting it off. I do think though that the amount of people using the station will cause pressure, as the station is being built with little facilities. Hopefully, Westfield will decide to extend the shopping centre over the station and with this, give an upgrade to the station. On the issue of buses, what could be done to keep everyone happy (including Westfield) is a swap from the current bus interchange to the western side, with the current bus interchange changed into parking. While there are many better uses than parking, i doubt Westfield would give up parking for two bus interchanges. What many people dont realise, is that this project will not only benefit the residents around the station, but also residents and workers in suburbs like Heatherton and the Moorabbin industrial area. For example in Heatherton, there are two buses, the 821 and the 631. While the Frankston line is the closest railway line, the bus does not go to any railway stations on the Frankston line. When Southland Station is built, these people will have access, not as good as it could be if the bus interchange was moved, but still access. I also wonder if Passenger information screens will be installed near the exit to Southland. This would be important as these people will know how fast they need to be to catch their train. I think this project will be brilliant for Cheltenham and many suburbs around Cheltenham.

Move the bus interchange and the new station could become the interchange between the Southland bus routes and the Frankston line. Then you could ask the question as to whether the existing bus/train connections (often on multiple stations between Moorabbin and Mentone) could be rationalised.

This new station should help increase patronage on the 822. I’d say between Sandringham Station and Southland it should be every 15-20 minutes, it’s that busy. Between Southland and Chadstone every 24 minutes. In the morning and in the afternoon there is a desperate need for more busses. Around 3pm when schools start to finish I’d say busses should run every 15 between 6-10am and 3-7pm. Then run the route every 20 minutes like the 828 and on Sundays run it every 30

Still better than Chadstone which is openly hostile to pedestrians if you approach it in the wrong direction. I have taken to going to Oakleigh and getting the bus there. The 900 bus is often full even on the later services.

Agree with Tim re Chadstone. I always walk as I live less than 2 km away. But the direct route takes me through the Dandenong rd car park – dark and ugly and usually full of puddles. If you want to walk around the outside of the centre it’s not easy on the entry from Warrigal rd as you have to cross 3 sets of traffic lights to do the equivalent of crossing one rd. I think they are designed to funnel people into the shopping centre. God forbid anyone would not want to go shopping, but may just want to have a walk in the streets nearby. On the bright side, there are some lovely streets around Chadstone, and until fairly recently some beautiful period homes – many of which have now given way to the ubiquitous boring garden free apartment blocks (but that’s another subject).

@Peter: I was wondering why you thought staying on the 828 from Cheltenham to Southland could beat the train until I looked at the timetable. Sure enough, the timing point isn’t at Cheltenham Station, but at Southland.

(The timing point is where a bus arrives early and waits for the departure time, to get back in sync with the timetable.)

The 828 is timetabled at 7 or 8 minutes from Cheltenham Station to Southland, depending on the time of day, and peak hour traffic might well delay it. But let’s assume 7 minutes. A passenger who leaves the bus at Cheltenham and changes to the train has an average wait time of 5 minutes off peak and a journey time to Southland of about 2 minutes. So the average trip time is the same, with the current timetable. But if the bus timetable is altered to meet the train (which PTV claim is the intention across Melbourne) bus+train easily beats bus only. Furthermore, peak hour train frequencies are already closer to 5 minutes and we’re told off-peak will go to 5 minutes sometime after the Metro Tunnel is finished. And the bus will just get slower and slower as traffic gets worse, and its actual travel time is unknown to you at Cheltenham, whereas you know the train will never take more than 12 minutes during the daytime.

Cheltenham has several cafes right beside the station where you can grab a bite or a coffee during the interchange time, in contrast to schlepping across an open carpark to what passes as coffee at Southland (for a meal I believe you need to go up a slow travelator and another escalator, then walk around 500m to the food court – not less than 10 minutes, and yes I’ve walked it).

I’m afraid I think as a matter of policy, the timing point on the 828 should be at a railway station, not a shopping mall where most people are… shopping. I think it should be changed now, before Southland Station opens.

@Gavin: with all the brownfields development along Bay Rd. and the new office park near the corner of Reserve Rd. demand for a bus to Sandringham should be increasing. Unfortunately Bayside council allowed a road layout in that office park that has poor pedestrian permeability. Let’s hope they do better for whatever is going on the big area of empty land right on the corner.

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