Bustitution looms again

Just a quick one as I’ve been very busy, and have also had a bad cold, so haven’t felt like much writing.

The next lot of major bustitution is upon us from Saturday morning, and including all of next week: no trains between the City and Caulfield.

You’ll recall that at Easter, this was a complete mess.

Have they learnt from that? Yes, I’m told they looked very closely at how it went, though they’re sticking with the strategy of funnelling most people into Caulfield, then bussing them from there.

Why? Because, they say, they know what went wrong, including during that looooong trip on the Monday morning:

  • What should have happened is that terminating trains used platforms 1 and 3. Frankston into platform 1, with passengers directed to a bus queue at the NW end of the station, going to the Arts Centre; Dandenong into platform 3, passengers directed to a bus queue at the SW end, buses to Federation Square
  • But Frankston trains arriving into platform 1 were delayed leaving again due to crowding on the platform.
  • Train controllers made the fateful decision to terminate some onto platform 2 instead, to keep trains moving.
  • This resulted in large numbers of people ending up in the one queue, and consequently long delays there, and on buses approaching Federation Square.
  • Bus drivers only have training for their specific route (they’re often brought in from far afield, so don’t necessarily know the local road system), so they couldn’t divert resources to the Fed Square route, nor could they divert some buses away from Fed Square to avoid traffic snarls

Okay, fair enough, let’s assume the root cause was a lack of staff clearing platform 1. They can fix that.

But that doesn’t explain why they let the queue for buses to Fed Square get out of control. Why didn’t they divert some of the crowds to the other queue?

They could also brief the bus drivers on both routes, and the options connecting them, for more operational flexibility. Sounds like this time they will divert buses if the Fed Square route clogs up.

And it doesn’t explain why the long delays for buses getting out of Caulfield across Princes Highway, nor why the Federation Square bus route was still a mess throughout that week.

To be fair, they say they’ll try harder this time to quickly clear incoming buses out of Fed Square, and deploying Variable Message Signs to encourage other traffic to avoid parts of that route, to try and keep things moving.

They’re also going to try express buses from Cranbourne and Pakenham all the way into the City (inbound AM peak only), to try and reduce loads closer in. It’ll still be a long journey in the traffic.

And for Dandenong line users they’ll have contingency plans if the line clogs up, offering the option of a bus connection from Oakleigh to Darling on the Glen Waverley line. They may also deploy buses to Moorabbin.

But they’ve resisted the idea of funnelling large numbers of passengers onto other lines by default, as it may just cause crowding and delays to spread more widely.

There also seems to be no consideration to also boosting regular crosstown route buses to neighbouring rail lines – though they did tell me they’d watch for people left behind, and try to boost tram capacity. Tram 67 and bus route 630 seemed to be the worst affected last time.

I also know they’ll continue to monitor closely each day and tweak things where possible. I don’t expect this will be the last big shut down for the metro tunnel, so they do need to keep working at improving things.

Let’s see what happens on Monday morning.

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 “Bustitution looms again”

Over the last few nights, the Lilydale and Belgrave lines have had bustitution from Blackburn to the ends of both lines, which to me would indicate that Ringwood station was completely inaccessible to trains in both directions given that no Ringwood shuttles were operating. I rode the last train to Flinders Street last night (2336 from Ringwood, an up Lilydale), and the first one (0502 Lilydale from FSS) back to Ringwood this morning and did not notice a single improvement whatsoever, the ride quality is still like being in a boat (especially between East Camberwell and Camberwell) and the Ringwood crossovers are still as rough as ever and can be heard throughout the district in the early AM. Either this recent work was entirely devoted to electrical/signalling or someone is making a fortune doing nothing.

The other night I caught an express rail replacement bus to Blackburn, which left Ringwood at 2309 – three minutes after the normal 2306 train would have – getting to Blackburn on time with a 28 minute wait for the next train (2348). Wonderful. I wouldn’t have normally caught the rail bus with the 901 SmartBus running along the same stretch of road, but the inbound 901 to South Morang (which I sometimes catch to swap to the 906 at the freeway/Blackburn Rd/Ventura St) was supposedly 18 minutes late so I didn’t bother with it, what goes past five minutes later when I’m sitting on the rail bus? The same 901 and completely empty.

This half an hour gap between both buses and trains really needs to stop.

thanks for the update.
Does anyone know why the turnaround near Elsternwick station hasn’t been fixed as promised (PTV CEO on ABC radio earlier in the year)? This would allow trains on Sandy line to run from Sandringham to Elsternwick, with express buses to the city. Thanks.

They have not learned (or can’t be bothered) to put additional services on the Glen Waverley line. Even if what they say about the line being at capacity during morning peak is true, they could still easily change daytime frequency from 15 to 10 minutes to encourage travel during off-peak times, especially as this bustitution occurs during the last nine days of school holidays. While they’re at it, they could increase capacity during afternoon peak by finally implementing direct Flinders St trains as happens during morning peak.

“deploying Variable Message Signs to encourage other traffic to avoid parts of that route, to try and keep things moving.”

Sounds pretty poor effort and I’m betting with almost no priority the buses still get same delays.

@ Nick: The problem with the Glen Waverley line is due to the way that the trains are through-routed to/from Lilydale and Belgrave, which still operate like it’s the 1920s with suburban shuttles, single track sections and slow speeds. The only way GW could be improved is if they started running extra trains to Mooroolbark and Upper Ferntree Gully in between the full runs, with these trains continuing to GW whether they use the city loop or not. The main thing is though, where would the extra trains come from to be able to run that kind of service if there aren’t any sitting unused in the yards? The current batch of new X’Trapolis trains is to add more of them to Frankston and Werribee in order to get rid of the worst condition Comeng trains (those which will not be “life extended”), not to add trains to the Burnley group.

The Burnley group timetables need a good shake-up to reflect the numerous grade separation works – with less stray cars and pedestrians to contend with (and no walking-pace tramway crossing at Gardiner) the trains could easily run faster between stations, yet the speed limit is still 80 km/h where it could be 90 on the straights – currently there is only one short section on the Glen Waverley line where trains are allowed to reach 90 km/h, nowhere else on the Burnley group can this officially happen).

Day 1 on the Glen Waverley line:
-no footy specials before the game
-same 20 minute daytime frequency
-crush load at tooronga despite previous service running
This bodes well…

What are standard tram/bus routes like when these cancellations happen? Does just about everyone use the rail replacement buses, leaving the normal routes operating with standard passenger numbers, or do all of those routes become full as well?

AFL matches in Melbourne should be cancelled or transferred interstate during big projects such as this. The same for other major public events.

@number from my experience the number 5 tram that I catch from wattletree road is no more packed than usual during bustitution.

Nevertheless, i’ll be riding my bike in all week

Noticed today the East Malvern carpark was overflowing, along with streets on the both sides of Waverley Rd. Seems like a lot of people deciding to park and ride (in addition to kiss and ride). Too bad they didn’t put extra trains on the Glen Waverley line in the afternoon peak (12 mins vs 7-8 mins in the morning). How do they expect people to get home?

I had an experience on Thursday, with the V/Line portion of the bustitution. I took advantage of the free travel, and, took a coach to Bairnsdale. Coach #1 was Pakenham to Traralgon, #2 from Traralgon to Bairnsdale (I guess one of the 13:00 am from SX) and #3 was Bairnsdale back to Pakenham.

Not many people on the coaches. Plenty of spare seats left. At least nobody got left behind. Especially #3, which was express Rosedale to Morewell to Pakenham, where it terminated. Only two people plus the driver on it. They had three buses on the evening trip from Bairnsdale, each with their own travel pattern, including one of which I think was non stop from Rosedale to somewhere in Melbourne.

Before my coach left Bairnsdale, I caught word from our driver that, he knew the Firefly driver who died the other night, and knew him well for 20 or so years. While in Bairnsdale, I got to watch one segment of The Chase Australia, while waiting for an order of fish and chips for dinner. I watched Brian TheShark catch his bearded contestant, and as I left the shop, that ammonia smell in my dinner. Two sharks got their catch that time.

While the chance of my coach driver knowing another driver is perhaps not a long shot within the experienced long serving drivers, having that Shark connection is a tad.

Things happen in threes they say, and, I hope one omen of the day plays out here. One end of a rainbow touched the roof of my coach heading towards Bairnsdale, and most of the time a perfect arch out the side of which I was sitting at. after purchasing a lotto ticket in Traralgon. I am yet to check that ticket, but, I live in omen hope.

Back on the coaches. I noticed the timetable was all over the place. Some clear errors in the times, like it would jump back an hour suddenly. Who or how do they write these timetables???

Before I close, I wish to express my sympathies to the victims family of the tragic bus accident last week.

I noticed trams where running a shuttle on the 3, 67 and 72 lines to Flinders St Station and back. I would have just gotten the tram myself.

The last time I went to the Caravan Music Club via bustitution I went via the Glen Waverly line, only to see the bus I wanted leaving just as I got off the train. Lucky the cafe had a view of the bus departure board for the next service “you can’t have that dish it will take longer than the bus arrivial”

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