Politics and activism transport

The Big Build on pause

Nothing stops the Big Build… except for the election.

Going into this Saturday’s State Election, Labor has sold themselves on their transport infrastructure record, which is formidible.

So you might expect the Big Build to be powering on ahead through the election period. You can’t stop progress, right?

Turns out no.

Let’s rewind to September, and look at the calendar for Metro train disruptions from the Big Build web site. Lots of bustitutions right through the month. (And for some crazy reason this doesn’t show some evening closures for Metro maintenance.)

October was a bit calmer, but plenty of Friday night to Sunday night weekend closures (with some evening closures not shown):

And… here’s this month, November. It’s not your imagination; train travel has been smoother this month, with virtually no line closures/bus replacements anywhere on the Metro network.

There have been a couple of evening line closures, and one weekend day on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line on Sunday 6th – oddly these don’t appear on the Big Build calendar, but are on Metro’s. (This is an ongoing problem; it appears the BB only shows project works, not maintenance works… as if to passengers the difference matters.)

There have been some V/Line bustitutions during November, but virtually nothing for Metro. The difference is striking compared to previous months.

It all cranks up again the day after the election. On Sunday 27th November:

A source tells me that avoiding almost all metro train bus replacements for most of November has been pretty messy. The coordination of all these projects is difficult at the best of times. The intricate scheduling of many interconnected jobs has been severely disrupted.

Perhaps the government wants to avoid making voters grumpy about being bustituted just before the election – remember 2010 when seats swung all down the Frankston line, which was closed for maintenance on election day?

Rail works, Footscray

Line closures and bus replacements are a pain, but they’re also the price of progress – level crossing removals, which include wholesale infrastructure replacement, and also routine maintenance, and bigger projects such as the Metro tunnel, all of which make the network better.

Authorities do need to manage and resource bustitution more effectively, to better minimise the often painfully long delays for passengers. But perhaps they shouldn’t be so afraid of progress.

Postscript: I realised just after posting that a story about this is in the Herald Sun today (Paywall).

Happy voting for tomorrow’s election!

  • My blog on transport policies
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  • The Melbourne On Transit blog has a scorecard specifically on public transport services

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.

2 replies on “The Big Build on pause”

As you point out briefly, there has been V/Line distruption throughout November. The Warrnambool line has been closed from Geelong Down for almost the entire month.

In my exposure to track occupations (bustitution periods), they are normally planned well in advance (in excess of 12 months in advance), and are unfortauntely not well communicated between organisations. Metro may just grab a weeknight or weekend that they need with only a fortnight’s notice, and not formally inform Big Build or anyone else. I also assume therefore that this November ‘shutdown’ was very pre-meditated and not just a last minute political stunt. If anything, it was a well thought out in advance political stunt!

The Glen Waverley line has bus replacements for 7 of the 8 nights after election day. Of course this coincides with the start of the St Kilda Rd tram shutdown. As someone who can usually get a 6 or 72 tram from the city when trains are disrupted, it is maddening if this could have been avoided except for politics. There was plenty of time to think about this last night on my 30-minute frequency standing room-only train.

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