Footscray in the Middle

Some stations are shiny new – others have barely changed in a century.

Making the most of the Metro tunnel when it opens includes boosting services, and ensuring that not just the new tunnel and stations are up to scratch, but also the existing line and stations out to Sunbury and Cranbourne/Pakenham that the trains will serve.

Some stations have been completely rebuilt (thanks to level crossing removals or the RRL project), and many others have or are receiving upgrades.

Less visible are the power and signalling upgrades to cope with more and longer trains – in fact half the Sunbury line is closing for much of June to get this work done.

Sunbury line upgrades for the Metro tunnel
Sunbury line upgrades for the Metro tunnel. Source

Some stations, apart from planned platform extensions for the 7-car trains, seem to be getting nothing, and it’s striking. Middle Footscray is one of them. It doesn’t have a level crossing so it appears not to be a candidate for rebuilding.

I assume “Middle” was convention at the time for a station that was in the geographic middle, but wasn’t the “main” shopping/business area of a suburb. Middle Footscray is between Footscray and West Footscray stations.

After originally opening in 1906, Middle Footscray was rebuilt in 1927 as part of works to provide a parallel goods line and grade separate Victoria Street. This Parliamentary report notes that the station was moved across the street at this time, which explains why it was so close to West Footscray until that station moved slightly west in 2013 for the RRL project.

Middle Footscray station entrance

This 1926 Age article says patronage at Middle Footscray was 489,319 in 1925-26. Assuming the numbers are comparable, patronage immediately pre-COVID (in 2018-19) was a fair bit lower, 279,700, but probably more concentrated in peak hours. There are more trains running now than in the 1920s, but off-peak service needs to be more frequent to compete with widespread car ownership.

The station is largely unaltered since 1927. The entrance is in the Victoria Street underpass, with a ramp leading up to the ticket machines and old booking office.

Unfortunately when I was there recently, the old building was extensively tagged on one side.

Middle Footscray station, platform 1

I suspect this is one of the very few stations left with absolutely no Passenger Information Displays at all. Most have at least LED displays, or small flat screens, and many have network status screens. Real-time information is available on phones, but having it displayed to passengers is very valuable.

The entrance ramp is quite steep. But at the top there is a fair bit of level space – perhaps enough to rework it to meet modern DDA standards of a 1:14 gradient and a maximum 9 metres between landings. The other issue might be the street access that leads to the entrance.

Middle Footscray station, ramp to exit

The island platform is surrounded – by the RRL (V/Line) tracks on the south side, and the Standard Gauge freight/North East line on the north side.

The platform is tapered towards the western end, and there isn’t a huge amount of shelter – just the old building and a small additional shelter further along the platform.

So with passenger information, shelter, and accessibility, there’s a few potential upgrades that could be made.

Importantly, the recent State Budget included investments in upgrading the train service to run through the Metro tunnel, as well as planning money for upgrades at Caulfield to help passenger interchange.

Hopefully there’ll continue to be service and station upgrades around the network, to bring all stations up to modern standards.

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.

16 replies on “Footscray in the Middle”

Beaconsfield is another one on the Metro route that got a bare minimum platform extension upgrade. No platform information displays, no shelter except the eaves of the old station building (taken over by PSOs), the PA system can only be heard about a third of the way down the platform and integration with the car park and buses is not great.

It wouldn’t take a big spend to make a big difference to the passenger experience. It aggravated at the moment by a lot of extra people diverted from Berwick where parking is extremely limited for the rest of this year at least.

I’m starting to notice steep ramps at stations. Eg South Yarra and North Richmond. I was recently at Oakleigh Station and there did not seem to be any external information to indicate trains and platforms. Oakleigh was once an important station.

@Chris, Beaconsfield is interesting because there’s a level crossing removal happening, but they’re building a road bridge over the rail line, and not replacing the station.

If there is any local consultation, it’d be good for locals to ask what improvements can be made to the station as part of the project.,-august-2021

@Andrew, yeah there are steep ramps all over the system. It’d be good to know what the plan is to resolve them at the many stations that are not going to rebuilt. Balaclava is an example of a rebuild that brought it up to modern standards without a level crossing removal, but there haven’t been many others recently.

Before Footscray station was built at the rail junction, there were two Footscray stations – one on the Williamstown line and one on the Bendigo line – at some stage the station on the Bendigo line was renamed Middle Footscray. When the new station at Victoria St was built a few years after the two Footscray stations were moved and amalgamated at the junction, apparently there was a proposal to call it Victoria but that got knocked on the head, and seeing as the name of Footscray West wasn’t changing (until it was later changed to West Footscray, that is) the Railways settled on Middle Footscray again. So the current Middle Footscray is the third station of that name located between the current Footscray and West Footscray stations.

Definitely an interesting level crossing removal at Victoria St, which of course fills with water when it rains and traps cars. The station really needs a redevelopment, including I would argue an entrance at the western end.

Other “Middle” stations in Victoria were Brighton, Creek, Gorge, Gully, Northcote and Park; of those, Middle Brighton is the only other remaining site, as Middle Northcote was changed to Northcote in 1906.

Nearmap shows that along the curve, Middle Footscray’s platforms were 165.52m until around November 2019, then the down platform was extended by 17.85m and the up platform by 7.25m, with the remainder of the structure left as-is except a small section of platform coping missing from just beyond the down platform. The full structure at present is 165.52+44.81=210.33m, less than the necessary 230m for 10-car HCMT sets (though that number could change depending on how accurately the trains can stop in automated mode).

It looks like the platform could be made wider but not significantly longer at the down end by slewing the down suburban track and leaving the other five lines in situ (provided that platform screen doors permit curved platforms), but ultimately it looks like 106-116 Buckley St will need to be acquired and demolished to slew the down suburban, up and down regional tracks south, making room for a longer and straight(er) Middle Footscray platform. Without that, I can’t see the station staying open for more than another 10 years?

On the other hand, when the level crossings were removed at Main Road West and Furlong Road, they left a gap at one end of the new stations. This was done on purpose so they could eventually extend the platforms. And they are also extending Platform 1 at Watergardens as if you look, there is basically a frame for the extension there.

@David Stosser – Middle Creek, Middle Gorge, Middle Gully, and Middle Park stations weren’t “Middle” stations – they are all proper place names, not a modifier applies to an existing place name like Middle Brighton and Middle Footscray.

Yet another example of a pointless station that should be flattened along with Willison, East Camberwell, Chatham and what’s left of Paisley, Sydenham (original) and General Motors. The distance between the much more usable West Footscray, Footscray and Seddon stations, the lack of DDA compliance (steep ramp), and the fact it has curved platforms all go heavily against its continued existence in the 21st century. What is it, 500m from West Footscray? You could practically walk from one station to the other in five minutes.

Google tells me it’s 850 metres walking from the entrance to Middle Footscray station on Victoria St to the top of the overpass at West Footscray station. It’s 2km from West Footscray to Tottenham – so you could argue that West Footscray could’ve been moved even further to the west, with a western entrance to Middle Footscray to compensate. But noting also that West Footscray station is the only pedestrian rail crossing between Victoria St and Ashley St – a distance of almost 3km.

Middle Footscray is about 1km walking distance from Footscray.

There’s quite a few railway station pairs that are less than a kilometre from each other. From a quick look…

Most of the stations between Jolimont and Clifton Hill

And I’m sure there are more.

You probably wouldn’t build them that close nowadays, but if they have their own distinct catchment (and/or activity centre built around them and/or connecting buses/trams) you wouldn’t get rid of them.

Surrey Hills/Mont Albert is an obvious exception where they have chosen to do that, though it’s probably more down to the requirements around straight platforms.

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