Station shelter: mind the gaps

Am I miscounting? Is there really only one station with all-over platform shelter?

Ten years ago this year, the Station User Panel – which brought together community representatives including PTUA – reported back to the State Government with a set of usability principles, recommended for implementation into new railway station builds.

It came after criticism of then-newly renovated stations like Laverton, which when rebuilt in 2010 got a design which technically met the then standards (including DDA requirements), but had numerous practical problems – such as extremely tall steep steps, lifts which are prone to breakdown and can’t fit ambulance trolleys, and bus bays located further from the station entrance than many of the car spots.

The Panel’s work resulted in a number of recommendations – including highlighting the importance of adequate shelter:

A lack of proper shelter and comfortable seating both on the platform and elsewhere in the station precinct exposes users to weather extremes.

Subsequently the government adopted a standard for shelter on platforms: 60% of the citybound platform; 30% of the outbound platform, an improvement over past practices.

But is it good enough?

Watching the Sydney “slow TV” video of the train journey from Bondi Junction to Wollongong, it’s very noticeable the amount of shelter on most citybound Sydney train platforms.

In Melbourne we’ve only seen that amount of shelter retrofitted at a handful of locations, such as at Richmond. It hasn’t been done at North Melbourne, despite that becoming an important interchange.

In fact if you exclude underground stations, you could probably count the number of stations in Victoria with platform-length weather protection on one hand:

  • Richmond
  • Flinders Street (except the western ends of platforms 2 and 10)
  • Southern Cross (except the northern ends of a couple of the very longest platforms)

So strictly speaking, just Richmond then? Have I missed any?

Apart from the amount of shelter, the design can be a problem. Recent installations feature a roof that is well short of the tracks, meaning a big gap between the shelter and the train that lets the rain in. This seems to be related to modern safety and clearance standards, but has an obvious impact on effectiveness.

Station shelter compared: old style at Footscray; new at Bentleigh
Left: old platform shelter, Footscray. Right: new platform shelter, Bentleigh

The big wraparound designs in many of the skyrail provide far more effective shelter, but only cover a fraction of the platform – with smaller less-effective structures providing the rest of the required 60%. It’s a shame they didn’t invest in more coverage.

Train arriving at Noble Park station

Lack of shelter may also be a barrier to widespread installation of platform screen doors in the future – which would help reduce the number of delays due to trespassers and accidents. (From what I’ve seen, PSDs are normally installed under cover – that said, Sydney has some stations with them in the open.)

Station concourses tend to have good coverage, but often there’s a lack of shelter for people getting to connecting buses – in part because placement of bus stops is sometimes quite poor.

On the platforms, plentiful shelter can help encourage passengers to spread along the platform in wet weather, reducing station dwell times and train crowding. Shade can make it more pleasant to use the trains in the heat of summer.

With many stations being rebuilt as per of level crossing removals, more extensive effective coverage would be a minor additional expense, with big benefits for passengers.

There’s been progress since the Station User Panel delivered its findings back in 2012, but it would be great to see further improvement.

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.

12 replies on “Station shelter: mind the gaps”

Sydney metro would represent current best practice, shown in the opening minutes of this video:

As you can see, there is no obstacle to platform screen doors being in the open. On the Bankstown section they will be installed completely uncovered under legacy canopies that don’t extend to the platform edge. Where there are new canopies, these seem to extend over the train doors, so that there isn’t a gap in shelter. In Sydney, on the double deck lines, they were extending canopies right along the platform to encourage crowds to spread out because, once you’re in a double deck train, it’s difficult to relocate along it. The canopies aren’t as long on the metro presumably because the much greater freedom of movement inside the train allows people to redistribute pretty quickly.

There is no reason why there needs to be excessive gaps between train roofs and station cover. Just make it clearance for the highest and widest train roof.

Footscray; for Flinders Street, Southern Cross and South Yarra I want to be at the front of the train but there is no shelter from the rain or sun.
South Yarra I want to be near the end of the platform for say Carnegie. No rain or sun shelter.
From Caulfield and Carnegie, I want to be at the back of the train for South Yarra. No shelter.

We do have the occasional sunny winter day when it is nice to sit in the sun, but they are rare.

Classic form over function and cost saving, not that our new stations are particularly attractive.

Adelaide has several stations with all-over shelter. The Adelaide Showgrounds Station has a high roof covering 3 platforms including the trains, and was built for a lower budget than Melbourne’s Southland Station. Other Adelaide stations where the roof structure goes over the tracks include Oaklands, Hallet Cove, Hallet Cove Beach and Elizabeth, thus eliminating the rainy gap between train and shelter. If Adelaide can do all-over shelter, why can’t Melbourne? Such shelter should cover the access ramps, stairs, lifts, passenger information displays, myki readers and at least a couple of carriages. There are likely to be benefits in reduced maintenance for electronic equipment that would otherwise be fully exposed to the weather.

I agree 100% we need more shelters at platforms. The cost of installing these, especially for new builds, are minimal compared to the overall cost of the stations.
Perhaps both MTM and VLINE should look into updating the old standards (60% for Up, 60% for Down) to ensure complete coverage.

Benefits as you have pointed out, include:
1. spreading out the passengers along the platform, especially in adverse weather event, improving safety and even loading of trains
2. reduce over crowding at poorly positioned sheltered locations (near stairs, lifts, entrances)
3. providing more comfortable waiting areas for passengers, especially during off-peak times when trains are less frequent.

It seems it’s only me, but I can’t get excited about more shelters. Yes, maybe in a perfect world, or if stations are being re-built. But I guess I’m used to living with the way things are at present, and aren’t too troubled about standing for a few minutes in the open most days (or moving down the platform from the sheltered area when the train arrives). I think there are more pressing things to spend money on.

It’s worth noting, when comparing Melbourne platform coverage to Sydney that Sydney is far wetter than Melbourne. See Sydney has between 2 and 3 times as much rain as Melbourne nearly every month. And my experience is that the rain seems to come in tropical deluges, not relatively light but long downpours. So you’d expect Sydney to pay more attention to shelter than Melbourne.

As for coverage, I’m not so worried by incomplete coverage. Every passenger has either just come from the street or is going to the street; if it is raining they’ll be using an unbrella or a coat anyway. Perhaps this is because I’m used to the old VR who considered a verandah in front of the main station building – large or small – quite sufficient in all cases.

I’d prefer them to concentrate on making the shelters effective. I’d agree that this is probably for OH&S – on the rare case that it is necessary to work on the roof, the slope is not towards the tracks and the overhead, and the workers can’t get close to the track and overhead. But surely they could put a vertical screen on the edge to just above door height?

I doubt there’s any issue with platform screen doors and lack of protection.

I’d say the lack of shade is a much larger problem than getting wet. Being stuck at an outer-suburban station in 40°C heat for 30 or 40 minutes where the only relief from direct sunlight is a 5×3 metre length of roof is a much bigger health hazard. Yes, it’s an issue that both older and newer stations have – for example Fawkner, Montmorency, Officer, Keilor Plains. Bonus points when the waiting area has the sun shining into it anyway.

West Footscray (island platforms 2 & 3) has almost 100% shelter, but that wasn’t extended to the new platform 1. Rain probably isn’t the biggest issue – the width of the rail corridor, with multiple tracks and car parks either side, mean the platforms are very exposed and make it like a wind tunnel at times.

Geelong is brilliant (but old) with the roof, although it doesn’t extend 100% I don’t think. Feel much less exposed in adverse weather conditions.

One interpretation for ‘short canopies’ is that it’s to leave clearance for the kinematic envelope of the train, to which the common-sense approach is ‘make it just big enough to clear the train roof’. However, the key reason for a short canopy is the grounding clearances required for overhead power in current Metro standards. It’s also why the new Skyrail stations have such a high roof over the train itself. No metal structure can come within 2m of the overhead traction wires, and (this is the unbreakable rule) absolutely nothing within that range can be connected to a structure that a customer can come into contact with, just in case it becomes energised. This is why overhead power gantries are off limits to passengers on platform surfaces, or are boxed in with wood.

Look at the two photos in the blog. In addition to being grandfathered in, the older platform is a wooden structure, while the new structure is steel roofing, steel gutters, on a steel frame. I know it also poses challenges to things such as sighting of signals. There are exceptions (eg Richmond) but designers have to seek deviations to standards to allow it. Station designers would have to completely overhaul their construction approaches (not chic in modern design) or overhaul the standards or both to allow full coverage canopies to platform edge in all circumstances.

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