AFL opener at the MCG had a big crowd: 88,084 people.
Here’s a quick timeline of the immediate period after the game, and the trains to the northeast.
21:54. Scheduled regular service from Jolimont to Hurstbridge line (Heidelberg)
Given the match was a draw, there’s a good chance that very few people left early, so probably nobody from the game caught that train.
Equally, with nobody having the warm afterglow of a win, perhaps the immediate surge to the station was quicker and bigger than usual?
From the closest MCG exits, it’s about 4-5 minutes walk to Jolimont station. From other exits it’s closer to 10 minutes.
But the first train wasn’t scheduled until 20 minutes after the game finished.
- 22:14 to Mernda
- 22:18 to Heidelberg*
- 22:22 to Mernda*
- 22:26 to Heidelberg
- 22:32 to Mernda*
- 22:40 to Heidelberg*
- 22:44 to Mernda
- 22:48 to Heidelberg*
- 22:52 to Mernda*
- 22:56 to Heidelberg
- 23:12 to Mernda
*Extra football services. The others are regularly scheduled trains.
So it was mostly high frequency services scheduled between 22:14 and 22:56.
There’s some flexibility here. They can hold trains at the platform if they’re still filling up.
So did it all go to plan? Apparently not. This photo is from 22:21:
The outbound platform is packed, and so are the ramps approaching the station. Even the overpass in the distance looks busy.
Assuming they departed as scheduled, it looks like the first few footy specials were overwhelmed.
To my mind, those extra services started too late. They should have begun around 22:00 or 22:05, not a full 20 minutes after the game ended.
You just don’t get a waiting crowd that big if trains are coming through the platform at high frequency as people arrive.
Even with the special footy services, there were some gaps of 6-8 minutes. If needed they can run more trains. This line has a service every 3-4 minutes every peak hour – though dwell times due to the crowds might mean the mostly 4 minute frequency was as much as is practical.
But given the crowd had apparently cleared by 22:45, I suspect mostly it was about the timing.
Jolimont has the benefit of the “spare” direct track from Flinders Street, not normally used (apart from during Night Network hours), so extra trains can be parked there out of the way until needed.
How was it going on the other side of the stadium, at Richmond?
far from it to be totally honest… pic.twitter.com/h3JkGURnkN— Luke Hildred (@LukeHildred) March 16, 2023
This sort of event should be what mass transit does best. In fact mass transit is the only efficient way to move a crowd this big.
And the MCG is well placed, with two railway stations nearby, with a total of 12 platforms (6 outbound, 6 citybound).
But it only works properly if services are provisioned well.
The base half-hourly frequency on most lines certainly doesn’t help.
Can the infrastructure be improved? Of course. But the only conclusion from a photo showing hundreds of people and no trains (not even any approaching), and with a special timetable that is less frequent than a regular peak hour, is that the immediate problem was the lack of trains, not the infrastructure.
The fact that Jolimont station got so crowded indicates some more thought is needed into how they run this.
…And how they handle these types of crowds in general. The photo is excellent at showing what was going on, but this type of scenario isn’t unique.
Postscript: The Hurstbridge line was terminating at Heidelberg due to planned works. To add insult to injury, the replacement buses weren’t running well either.
Add to it that they decided tonight was the night to do “works” and have bus replacements from Heidelberg for the rest of the line. Knowing the footy crowd was there you’d think they’d have busses ready but no… everyone left at Heidelberg with 1 bus in 30mins— Aaron (@Azzymiller) March 16, 2023