SoCross: the interchange

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen this.

A man rushed past on the stairs at Southern Cross. He ran down and around the corner, then doubled-back to the V/Line fare gates. My guess is he’d come from the Metro platforms.

Here’s a short video of what happened next.

(It’s only 18 seconds to play in full. You don’t need to hear the sound.)

You can sense his frustration.

On V/Locity trains, the conductor checks the platform, then advises the driver it’s clear to depart, and all the doors close. The conductor probably can’t see if someone’s trying to board after that. I would assume the driver can see via the mirror, but might not be authorised to stop the train.

The Bendigo line shares parts of its route with the Metro Sunbury line (between Sunshine and Sunbury), so there’s also a risk that a delay might cause the train to miss its path – though with the Metro trains only running every 20 minutes (40 beyond Watergardens) this seems unlikely. There are also issues with the single track beyond Kyneton.

Note the lady in the background. I think she had planned to meet him on the train. After it departed, she approached and they spoke and ended up sitting on a bench together.

Of course we don’t know all of the context here – had his Metro connection been delayed or diverted? Or had he just not allowed enough time?

It’s an hour between trains to Bendigo. That’s a long wait. Depending on how you measure it, Bendigo is Victoria’s 3rd or 4th largest city.

Southern Cross Station: Crowding to get onto platforms 7 and 8

Southern Cross (formerly Spencer Street) Station got a huge upgrade about 15 years ago. The former passenger subway was closed, and is now used mostly for maintenance vehicles, and as a conduit for numerous cables and pipes running under the station.

The subway used to be the only way to get to and from the platforms. It wouldn’t cope with passenger numbers nowadays, but would provide extra capacity and be a quick way to change between platforms. It’s unclear if it is viable to bring it back into service.

The station upgrade provided far quicker exit to some locations, such as Collins Street west, and to the northwest including Telstra Etihad Marvel Stadium.

But capacity has been a problem in recent years, and interchange between some of the platforms isn’t great, especially at the Collins Street end. It’s a bit better via Bourke Street, and doesn’t involve exiting the paid zone to swap between Metro and V/Line.

You can only feel for the bloke in the video, and all the others over the years who have missed their connection thanks, in part at least, to the distance between the platforms.

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.

22 replies on “SoCross: the interchange”

That has happened to me on a number of occasions, made worse in that my station is Malmsbury, so I have to wait two hours. On one occasion I had the sinking feeling of being at the Bourke St entrance and finding the train departs in one minute from Platform 8S!

What about how tight they were not even putting escalators on every platform at the Bourke St end? V line then love to schedule 2 trains arriving at once in peak hour just to pack out the stairs to a dangerous level. Such a joke. Can send you pics if you like.

A 1 hour wait is awful. The only way we’re going to get better frequencies is if all the single rail sections across the network are duplicated immediately. This really should have been the highest priority for infrastructure improvements.

And maybe factor in passengers missing connection trains for performance reviews like what they do in Switzerland or Germany (I think). How (un)feasible is it to intentionally delay departures for guarranteed connections if one gets delayed? I have heard that connecting conventional trains in Japan sometimes get held back if a Shinkansen service gets delayed.

There’s a problem at the Bourke St end with a seemingly easy fix. When transferring from Metro to V/Line I use the Bourke St end because I (generally ) don’t have to touch off and on.
But there are no TV screens INSIDE the touched on area at the Bourke St end advising which platform each V/Line train leaves from.
If my train to Bendigo is not at P.15 or 16 then I have to check on 8, 7, 6, 5 etc before I hopefully find a V/Line assistant on the gate near 3&4 who could tell me that it’s on 8S or 1. If there is no attendant at the gate I need to touch off and look further.
The solution is to install a TV screen at the north end INSIDE the touched on area, similar to the one at the top of P.15&16 at the South (Collins St) end.

When I was working at PTV they were quite good about letting me finish early so I could make the Vline service back up to the country where I was living. This was especially important during the bus substitution when I got the express bus to and from Paliament.

It is annoying having to change trains even on the Metro services as sometimes they switch the direction of the escalators at the Bourke Street end and you can’t use them. At least you can wait in a bit warmer circumstances at Southern Cross. Flinders Street is freezing at the moment especially if you get there and it is 44 minutes to the next train.

When they added plat 15 & 16 they didn’t have the brains to turn the indicators around to show what platform country services are leaving from without you having to leave the suburban platform to go out and read the indicator signs outside the suburban platform area.
Having contacted both southern Cross Station and the Country Services they each pass the buck.
Meanwhile us silly bunnies can end up missing the train because there is NO easy way to check if your train is leaving 15/6 or somewhere else at Southern Cross!

Don’t forget Colonial…

That subway would be fine to use again. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be safe to allow workers into it without special permission. But we know they drive carts through it all the time. I’ve been in it (about 12 years ago) and it was certainly a passable foot tunnel.

I’m sure they can come up with a rule to make its use impossible though.

It is similar at Footscray station where passengers interchanging between platforms would go through that situation where they can’t catch their train because of the poor interchange and distance. It must be very bad for those who have to wait a long time for the next train. It has happened to me too and I think there should be a more direct and connected connection when changing platforms at all stations.

You’re kidding, yet another site which has said F.U. to the desktop PC and redesigned itself for mobiles only? And this one of all? I need eye bleach after visiting here today. Sorry, I don’t have anything to contribute about Southern Cross (apart from it being a giant cluster$%#@ ever since the name change, and the only CBD station I try to avoid), the phone-centric redesign of the site just really irritates me, there is more white space than text, which itself is unnecessarily large. I gather however that this is just yet another copy-pasted mass-market web template (or even an automatic WordPress update) with no provision for anything but vertical displays rather than a deliberate action, as the same thing is happening practically everywhere. It’s almost becoming an accident that a display wider than it is tall can even be used on the internet. It feel like the old 486 days of Windows 3.1 and 640×480 16 colours with the text this large.

@number: Hourly public transport services simply shouldn’t be a thing in this day and age, it’s annoying enough with suburban bus services let alone long-distance trains (and the town of Bendigo is hardly whoop-whoop). But of course, public transport in Victoria is designed to compete with the private car at all costs thus it is forcibly made as hopeless as possible. Thus, hook turns are only in the CBD and one or two other places, while the rest of Melbourne’s trams have to cop all the traffic stopped dead on the tram tracks waiting to turn right; bus lanes are almost mythical, not that it matters since buses are hourly or 40 minutes or thereabouts (and/or not running on Sundays/public holidays etc.); and train lines (even suburban ones) still have single-track sections like it’s the 1800s (and on extremely lightweight rails too, thus we can’t just buy an off-the-shelf train or locomotive because the standard models are too heavy).

For those lamenting the lack of screens with platform numbers:
-PTV app for platform numbers at Metro stations
-V/Line app for platform numbers at V/Line stations
If you want to know what platform your Metro service will *arrive* on (so you can plan what carriage/door to position yourself to make a quick interchange), you can use the PTV journey planner.

@number, there’s a long term strategy to increase all-day frequency on the main V/Line routes: Geelong is already at 20 minutes on weekdays obviously, but the others are aiming for 40 minutes. (Why 40 not 30? Probably to fit with the 20 minute frequency to Geelong and the 10/20 minute frequency on the Metro lines.)

@Hisashi, but if Metro services are arriving every few minutes, how would you guarantee a connection to an infrequent V/Line service? And how would holding the V/Line departure potentially mess up its path and other connections?

@Heihachi_73, sorry, the old template was not that different (a little wider, sure) but had problems. I will keep looking around for something that does provide for a wider display on desktops. (And the comment numbering isn’t quite working – my comments don’t get numbers!)

If you’re wondering users on this site in the last 30 days were 55% mobile, 39% desktop, 6% tablet.

@Nick, the very fact that V/Line departure platform numbers are for some reason exclusive to the V/Line app, not provided in the PTV one, is problematic.

But Nick, An awful lot including myself are NOT into apps.
A mobile phone to me is basically that….a mobile phone, as I will think you will find it is to a lot of other older aussies.

I’m certainly not suggesting that information should be exclusive to apps, just pointing it out as an additional source for those who aren’t aware.

On Twitter, Metro is very quick to promote the Metronotify app, which can sometimes be helpful for disruptions, but the real time info on the PTV app is a lot more useful day to day. Metro could promote that this information is available, but they’re very quick to distance themselves as they don’t ‘manage’ the PTV app. I’m sure many people still don’t know about being able to track trains on their phone in real time.

That issue with passenger information displays, seems to be typical of all government operations, not just a very much so thing here, but, also as far as Perth, and I bet all other citites too.

One question could be is , would the old subway have been quicker for that passenger. He may have been just in time if he still had the subway as an option.

On the matter of escalaters and what way they are going, we need a sign over the top like they do at Melbourne Central and etc.

A reopened subway, or equivalent footbridge are needed to handel the passenger numbers. A North Melbourne* station-Docklands tram connection would also help deal with passenger numbers at Southern Cross (although of the V-Line passengers only Seymour/Shepparton line passengers would benefit, because of the lack of North Melbourne RRL platforms).

The inside the paid area screen proposed in comment 6 sounds like an excellent idea that should be implemented ASAP.

*With Melbourne Metro 1 under contraction, it would cover both the existing North Melbourne station (to be renamed West Melbourne) and from 2025 the new North Melbourne station.

hurtling miles from platform 8 east/woop woop to the Kyneton train I needed & which had been changed at the last minute to the platform furthest from 8 WoopWoop, it departed leaving me & others younger running & almost there.
The Vline employee at that point, listened to our rage & his view was that station management like us stuck there for 2 hours so we buy coffee lollies & papers from their tenant shops.

Daniel: I admit I don’t have a good answer, but let me try. First thing first, at least make the off-peak metro trains run to a timetable that can be repeated every hour (like Sydney does – they were 30 mins x 2 or 15 mins x 4 when I previously lived near Campbelltown) – assuming v/line trains also run hourly. And then tie certain trains from certain metro routes to certain v/line trains. (Basically tie services that come from opposite directions that arrives within 5-10 mins from each other eg Bendigo with Frankston, or Cragieburn with Tralgon/Sale.) And if there are any delays to that particular metro service then hold back the connecting v/line train up to an extra 5 mins? Of course the other way would not work for obvious reasons.

I’m a regular user of the Gippsland line (usually to Traralgon then drive to Sale as trains past Traralgon are very infrequent). This is a line with many problems, the easy to fix ones are bundled into the upcoming line upgrade, but none of it will solve the fundamental lack of paths out of the Metro area. Frequency on the line is appalling, with mostly 3-car V/locity sets even in the peak. Last week I was on the 16:58 from Southern Cross, normally a 6 car set, but shortened to 3 cars. On top of that the 16:16 had also been cancelled so imagine what that train was like! But I digress….

Totally agree with the comments here than the V/Line app being the sole source of truth is problematic. Regularly if the train forming the 16:58 is late arriving into Southern Cross they will terminate the train from Bairnsdale at Flinders St and have everyone at Southern Cross meet it there. The problem is that you can get into Southern Cross from the Collins St end, dash to Platform 15 endure the long escalator ride down only to see the screens showing the Kyneton service that runs from the other end of the platform. At this stage you think to check your phone and see alerts telling you to head to Flinders on a Metro train that is about to leave on Platform 13 – no way to interchange platforms fast enough. Southern Cross is an unfriendly station for interchange purposes, but the operators don’t make it easier with substandard communication.

Southern Cross was compromise after compromise and represents apparently award winning architecture that is a bit of a joke in terms of public and passenger amenity
– Reduced platform access (vending machine re-suppliers got the underground access ramps not passengers)
– 6 car platforms constraint issue not addressed (and locked in for future)
– Terrible ventilation for a structure that collects and concentrates diesel fumes
– Information displays directly in front of and obscured by poles
– The worst PA implementation in the country
– never clean (just look up at the dust collected in the roof structure)
– lack of lighting (much of the minimal lighting provided is out)
– Tram interchange not incorporated in the design – you have to cross traffic and stand in the rain to get a tram
– Lack of all weather (covered or underground) access to the city and to docklands precinct
– ticket booths under cover/eaves while queues are out in the weather (see Bourke St footbridge).
It is just a shame to have so many misses from such a big public infrastructure project.

Have you seen the new PID screen displays this week on the metro platforms at SXS. Awful. Small text, lines. Very difficult to read from close up let alone far away.

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