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.
One thing you really notice: even minor Sydney stations have way more shelter along the citybound platform than Melbourne stations. pic.twitter.com/D8gIHMUVUo— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) January 30, 2022
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:
- 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.
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.
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.