On Monday Marcus Wong found a media release from the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) that announced the construction of a third platform at West Footscray Station on the Sunbury line as part of the Metro Rail Tunnel project.

The Metro Rail Tunnel is the proposed construction of a cross-city rail line connecting the Sunbury line to the Pakenham/Cranbourne line via a tunnel through the centre of Melbourne. It is needed to address capacity constraints that are forecast to cripple the City Loop.

On the face of it such a side project looks odd. Why terminate trains so close the city, surely there is not the passenger demand for a whole train just from West Footscray to Melbourne? But looking deeper it appears the MMRA is looking for a way to terminate the many trains from the Pakenham/Cranbourne line, not all of which are needed yet on the Sunbury line. West Footscray is the first location heading west from the city with enough room to terminate these extra trains without delaying the mainline or acquiring property.

The frequency for the Metro Tunnel would still be in planning, but we do know that the line will be fitted with high capacity, in-cab signalling which elsewhere in the world allows 30 trains per hour, or one train every two minutes. As seen from Public Transport Victoria’s Network Development Plan, it is intended to run lines though the tunnel that are yet to be constructed as well as the existing Sunbury, Pakenham and Cranbourne lines. From the west, lines that would use the tunnel are Melton, Sunbury and the Airport. From the east; Rowville, Pakenham and Cranbourne. This effectively creates three end-to-end lines.

So, 30 trains per hour divided by three lines is 10 trains per hour per line. 60 minutes divided by 10 trains gives a frequency of one train every six minutes per line. It is unlikely that there will need to be trains every six minutes to the end of all these lines so it would also be expected for some of these trains to terminate short at Watergardens and Westall.

Before these new lines are running, however, there will be more trains coming from the Pakenham/Cranbourne line than would be needed on the Sunbury line and this brings us back to the third platform at West Footscray and the problem it solves for the MMRA.

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I have always known that Melbourne’s rail system is a bit confusing to new users due to the irregularity between line names and the ultimate destination of the train. This was never really a problem for me because I have memorised all the places which Melbourne trains terminate (and there’s quite a few in peak that bear no resemblance to the line name), but when I was trying to tell my Dad how to get to Watsonia Station on the weekend I hit a hurdle.

Watsonia is on the Hurstbridge line and, due to the way the line is engineered, not all Hurstbridge line trains can go all the way to Hurstbridge. Instead Metro alternate the terminus between Hurstbridge, Eltham, Greensborough and Macleod. I couldn’t expect my Dad to remember all of those names so I had to look up a train that he would probably connect with and told him just to look for that one.

Since not all visitors to Melbourne have my telephone number, the above solution is just not reasonable, but clearly identifying the lines with a letter (and number in some circumstances) would be.

I decided it would be best to letter the lines alphabetically and clockwise starting with Williamstown. This is simpler and easier than line-significant lettering (for example; S for Sunbury, F for Frankston) because some lines start with the same letter as other lines. This also removes the need to re-letter a line if the main terminus is changed.

Let us begin.

A for Williamstown, Altona Loop and Werribee

Newport

This first example also showcases the use of numbers and letters. I thought it would make sense that lines which share a significant part of their route should also share a letter with the ultimate terminus identified by a number. This allows someone travelling to Scienceworks, for example, to be told to catch “any A train and hop off at Spotswood”. But I should note that most Werribee trains run express through Spotswood in peak.

B and C for Reserved

Geelong-Melton

Placeholders for Geelong and Bacchus Marsh.

D for Sunbury

Sunbury

Every second Sunbury line train terminates at Watergardens so identifying this line with a letter is extra useful.

E for Reserved

Airport

I was tempted not to reserve the letter E. Will we ever get a train to the airport?

F for Craigieburn

Craigieburn

Some peak trains terminate at Broadmeadows.

G for Upfield

Upfield

One day this line will be extended to Wallan if Labor let PTV do their job.

H for South Morang

South Morang

Soon to be H for Mernda.

I for Hurstbridge

Hurstbridge

The inspiration for this post.

J for Reserved

Doncaster

Doncaster.

K for Belgrave, Lilydale, Blackburn and Alamein

Ringwood

I included Blackburn due to the somewhat consistent stopping pattern during the week on the Ringwood corridor.

L for Glen Waverley

Glen Waverley

I actually forgot Glen Waverley. I had to re-letter the lines after it.

M for Reserved, Pakenham and Cranbourne

Dandenong

Rowville could happen now with high capacity signalling from the city to Caulfield and quadruplication from Caulfield to Huntingdale. You would have to remove Frankston from the City Loop, though.

N for Frankston

Frankston

Not all trains terminate at Frankston in peak.

O for Sandringham

Sandringham

Not much to say about this one. Brighton Beach is nice.

Displays and announcements

Imagine the letter as you see them above, always sitting to the left of the train’s destination on platform displays, train heads, signage and network maps.

For announcements the only change needed would be to include the letter with the train destination so instead of, “Your next service to depart from platform one will be. The five thirty four. Frankston,” you will hear, “Your next service to depart from platform one will be. The five thirty four. N service to. Frankston.”

And, if I understand the system correctly, the train knows where it is going and its stopping pattern by the driver entering a unique code in the driver’s cab. Theoretically this could also inform the passengers of the train’s destination after Flinders Street so when a train departs Richmond the train should announce, “The next station is Flinders Street. From Flinders Street this train will form an. A one service to. Williamstown.”

Congratulations on reading all this way. Your prize is the story of a UFO above Westall.

Mia Mia Creek in flood - Nov 2010

Mia Mia Creek in flood – Nov 2010

I was sad to see last weekend that the rotunda at Newstead’s Rotunda Park had been demolished. It was not a shock, the structure had been fenced off for many months with fears for its integrity following a termite attack, but locals fear it will take months for a new building to be funded if one is at all.

Geoff Park - geoffpark.wordpress.com

Geoff Park – geoffpark.wordpress.com

There had been a rotunda at the site for over 100 hundred years, though some say it was rebuilt anew sometime in the 1980s or 90s, while others say the original building was restored and was in place until recently.

The site has quite a sentimental significance for myself and the town. I grew up across the road from the park and played there countless times. Every few months we see the Newstead Market with a band set up in the rotunda, and on other occasions a large, white screen would be strapped to the side for an open-air cinema night.

Cluey travelers who spent the night in the park would have found the free water and electricity accessed from underneath the rotunda quite useful too.

Demolished

I suppose we call the place “The Park” now.

NEWS AND REFLECTIONS FROM THE COUNCILLORS DESK

A meeting was held recently at the Newstead Rotunda Park, looking at the present state of the Rotunda building and discussing its future. Representing our area/ region were Garry and Karen Pierce, Helen Watters, Peter Skilbeck, Margaret Lewis, Stuart Reid and Michael Redden. From Council Ben Grounds (Manager of Infrastructure) and Don McKie (Building Officer).

As you will be aware, the Rotunda has been fenced off for many months, on the basis that it is structurally unsound. The main problem is that termites have attacked it and the lower half of the building is badly affected. The upper section seems quite sound (at least according to the Newstead residents!). Council has issued a demolition order on the structure but the meeting discussed how this might proceed. A discussion resulted in the suggestion that the top half of the building be cut off and preserved, while the lower section be scrapped. Stuart Reid expressed interest in trying to preserve some worthwhile material from this process. Ben Grounds informed us that Council will develop plans for this demolition and come back to the community for comment.

The question arises as to what will replace the Rotunda. Council has undertaken to consult us about this issue, while being told that most people seem in favour of replacing it with a similar building. Ben said that there is no funds set aside for this is the 2015/16 budget and indicated that the building is not high on Council priority lists. We will need to push hard for a timely replacement, backed by sound arguments. At the meeting, Karen Pierce presented the Council officers with much historical detail, including photographs of the Rotunda going back almost 100 years. This seems to firmly establish the heritage value of the building.

The council’s draft budget for 2015/16 is now out for public comment . You are invited to make comment on the budget, through written submissions or direct to me, as your Councillor. The suggested rate rise is 4.5%, the lowest for many years. In fact the rate rise (based on property values) for residents and farmers is 3.3%, while the rise for waste management is 7%. This second figure results from the orders given to council by the EPA to recap two previous “cells”.

Michael Redden

I have no idea if the top half of the rotunda has been saved, but I doubt it would have been.

Western Distributer

On the face of it the Western Distributor, proposed by Transburban on Thursday 30 April 2015, appears to be quite a compelling and clever project. The new road would spur from the Westgate Freeway near Williamstown Road and head north-east by tunnel and viaduct to Footscray Road and CityLink and would be funded two-thirds by Transurban and one-third by Government. No homes would be acquired, the inner-west would no longer lie sleepless with the sound of trucks through residential streets, but it is the impact on Footscray Road and Docklands which has raised my concerns.

After the road surfaces it would travel by viaduct over the Maribyrnong River and above Footscray Road which is already eight lanes wide with a central median and east-bound service road without the addition of six lanes raised above. A viaduct here is clearly overkill and would look so disgusting that it would attract anti-social behaviour and repel developers when the port and distribution centre have moved on.

Furthermore, Transurban propose extending the new road just east of CityLink which would funnel car traffic into Docklands and Melbourne’s central business district – the opposite of what cities around the world are trying to do. Cars are to cities what saturated fat is to your veins. They are the easy way out, your quick and tasty meal. About three cars transporting three people take the space of a small Melbourne tram carrying up to 70 people each, most of which are already stuck behind private transport. The idea that we should further encourage car travel to the CBD is ludicrous, but this is where we hit a wall.

This road should be about providing easy truck access to Swanston and Appleton docks, much like the East-West Link was secretly about providing truck access to the previous Government’s proposed port at Hastings, but Transurban have proposed this project not because they care about getting trucks off the streets in the western suburbs, but because they believe it will make them a profit. Trucks alone are unlikely to do that. If the state Government alter the project to make it socially acceptable it may no longer be commercially viable, which would remove two-thirds of funding from the table and no doubt increase costs because the Government do not have the skills or expertise to construct the road themselves.

Does this mean we should let Transurban go ahead with the full project no matter the implications? No, certainly not. Below is my proposed alternative to a viaduct above Footscray Road whether or not it happens to be cost-effective.

Footscray Rd - Distributer

The diagram is not to scale, but I have removed four sets of traffic lights between Sims Street to the west and Appleton Dock Road to the east (off the diagram). I propose the Western Distributor should end just east of Sims Street with flyovers running into existing ground level lanes. Trucks which need to access Dock Link Road either to the north or south should loop under Footscray Road on the west or east using underpasses which already exist. Ending the new road here would prevent creating an undevelopable squalor, decrease construction costs and, hopefully, not present itself as the next best way to access the city by private transport.

You may have noticed that I have represented the Western Distributer with only two lanes each way. While I expect the tunnels to be constructed with the capacity for three lanes each way, only providing two lanes, at least initially, would help prevent an unmanageable flow which would need to merge onto Footscray Road.

Finally, while I provide reluctant support for the project as I have altered it, I would ultimately prefer taking port trucks off the road completely in the inner-west by moving freight, bound for the Westgate Freeway, by train to a new distribution centre near the proposed port at Bay West. The rail reserves already exist, they require far less manpower to operate and do not leave such a scar on our communities as are left by large, costly motorways.

Melbourne’s Smart Bus operator Transdev (who once ran the trains under the name Connex) has proposed changes to Melbourne’s orbital bus routes. Most of the routes will be broken up and will run to a higher frequency in some sections and to a lower frequency in other sections.

Now, I am not opposed to lowing the frequency in some sections of the orbital routes, especially where they would theoretically connect with trains which run every 20 minutes. It does not work to run the bus every 15 minutes because for half the time an adequate train connection would be impossible.

But what did catch my attention was this line on the Transdev website and I will attempt to examine the truthfulness of the claim:

Better train connections with bus timetables adjusted to meet train timetable frequencies.”

Starting with route 901, proposed to run between Frankston Station and The Pines shopping centre along Stud Road.

Transdev say this route will have a peak frequency of every 10 minutes which is an adequate enough service level to connect with trains at Frankston, Dandenong and Ringwood, but out of peak the route would run every 15 minutes with trains currently running every 10 on the Dandeong and Frankston lines. This would not be an adequate train to bus connection.

Route 902 would run from Chelsea Station to Doncaster Shoppingtown along Springvale Road and would run to the same service level as the 901 and connect with the same lines with the addition of Glen Waverley. As above, it would connect adequately with trains in peak, but there would not be an adequate train to bus connection out of peak except at Glen Waverley.

Route 903, the most important route, from Mordialloc Station to Northland Shopping Centre along Warrigal Road would run every 7.5 minutes in peak (presumably without a public timetable). This route would connect adequately with trains on the Frankston, Dandenong, Glen Waverley, Ringwood and Hurstbridge lines in peak, but as with the others, its service level drops to every 15 minutes out of peak which prohibits adequate connections with trains except at Box Hill in the early afternoon and at Holmesglen.

Route 911 from Box Hill to Airport West Shopping Centre through South Morang (when the ferals have not caused a diversion) is the first of the lowered service level routes. This route would not run to a Smart Bus frequency with a service only every 20 minutes, however, this does allow an adequate connection with trains at Greensborough, South Morang, Epping, Roxburgh Park, Coolaroo and Broadmeadows, especially out of peak, as these lines only run every 20 minutes. But forget about using it on the weekend. It would run every 30 minutes on Saturday (no adequate train connection) and every 40 minutes on Sunday (connects with every second or fourth train theoretically).

Route 912 from “ Box Hill to Airport West Shopping Centre” will actually run from Doncaster Shoppingtown to Melbourne Airport (a mistake on Transdev’s part). This route will run to the same service level as the 911, theoretically providing an adequate train connection during the week at Greensborough, Keon Park and Broadmeadows stations, but not on the weekend.

Route 913 from Northland Shopping Centre to Essendon Station would run every 15 minutes during the week and every 30 minutes on the weekend prohibiting entirely an adequate train connection out of peak and on the weekends at Preston and Essendon and always at Coburg.

And finally, route 933 from Essendon Station to Altona Station through Sunshine, the western suburbs’ only Smart Bus. This route would run every 20 minutes in peak, adequate enough for those transferring from bus to train at Essendon and Sunshine and for those transferring from train to bus or bus to train at Altona, but out of peak the route would only run every 30 minutes, completely in contradiction of Transdev’s claim that the changes would see “better train connections with bus timetables adjusted to meet train timetable frequencies.”

I have provided two tables for your convenience.

Adequate bus to train connection?

Route

Peak

Out of peak

Saturday

Sunday

901

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

902

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

903

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

911

Yes

Yes

No

Yes*

912

Yes

Yes

No

Yes*

913

Yes

No

No

No

933

Yes

No

Yes*

Yes*

*40-minute service level

Adequate train to bus connection?

Route

Peak

Out of peak

Saturday

Sunday

901

Yes

No

Yes*

Yes*

902

Yes

No

Yes*

Yes*

903

Yes

No

Yes

Yes*

911

No

Yes*

No

No

912

No

Yes*

No

No

913

No

No

No

No

933

No**

No

No

No

*Every second train

**Connection possible at Altona

It is law in the state of Victoria that no passenger railway, outside of the city, should terminate at another, connecting passenger railway (satire). In fact, it is a twisting of the law, merging the Werribee and Altona lines, that allows the Altona loop shuttle to terminate at Laverton Station, but Metro Trains compensate this irregularity by ensuring a train to Werribee departs just before a train from Altona arrives, but I wander into field of shouting gunzels.

The Regional Rail Link, the separation of V/Line and Metro services between Southern Cross and Sunshine and a new railway from Ravenhall to Werribee forming the new Geelong line, promises to comply with this law. The new railway, which will do great things for city to city travel, will run just north of Werribee and join the existing line less than eight kilometres west of where the existing Werribee line terminates and which the current Geelong line services. When the new railway opens, passengers from Newport, Werribee and the metro stops at Laverton, Williams Landing and Hoppers Crossing, will lose their train service to Geelong.

Werribee-Wyndham Vale

The original design of the new railway included extending the Werribee line to the new Wyndham Vale Station, which would allow the old and new lines to connect, but the new Baillieu Government, having seen the breach of state law that such a connection would make, cut the Werribee line extension from the project. Provisions have been left to allow the line to be extended without altering the new infrastructure if the law should ever be changed, but for now passengers on the Werribee line are promised a train and bus and another train for their trip to Geelong.

Other examples of short-termination:

Alamein

Alamein-Oakleigh

Sandringham

Sandingham-Mentone

Upfield

Upfield-Roxburgh Park

Route 86 Tram

86 Tram-South Morang

Route 3 Tram

3 Tram-East Malvern Station

Route 5 Tram

5 Tram-Darling

A TERRIBLY WORRYING THING BY AUGUSTUS BROWN.

As many of Melbourne’s regulars would know, all of the tram stops on Elizabeth Street have been “upgraded” to fully accessible platform stops, except the terminus. Leaving aside the issue of the platforms being so long and fenced for the full length that they impede pedestrians’ movability, and so wide that they endanger the lives of cyclists, many of the new platform stops have done away with the convention that trams stop before a major intersection, at a red light, to allow passengers to alight and board before continuing.

For many of the new platform stops, trams now stop after, not before, major intersections, but if Yarra Tram’s drivers miss their chance at the terminus, they will find themselves stopped at a red light before a major intersection, wasting time while passengers in the tram and just a few metres ahead on the platform must wait before they can alight and board safely. But there is a way, “a better way”, and it can be taken advantage of right now.

A warning, what I am about to tell you, great tram driver, is not for the faint hearted. If there is but one delay, but one self-absorbed passenger, car driver or street sweeper, you will not succeed. You will be left behind.

Your great journey begins at the terminus at Flinders Street. Do not worry about departing slightly late, instead give most of your attention to the traffic lights at Flinders Lane. Your one and only chance depends on this. Once the lights change, giving Flinders Lane the right of way, slowly move your tram out of the terminus and wait for the green.

The lights change and you are off. You may have noticed that Collins Street gave you the right of way before Flinders Lane, but not to worry, just stick to the 40 kilometre per hour speed limit and you will cruise through arriving at the first platform stop — Collins Street at Little Collins Street.

If everything ran smoothly and there is not a tram ahead, you will have arrived at Little Collins Street at a green light, but do not be tempted, while your passengers are alighting and boarding at their brand new platform stop, the lights will change to red. It is possible for tram drivers who were caught up earlier to re-enter the race at this red light and any red light at a platform stop, but their chances are not great, they will have less time to pick up passengers.

With all passengers aboard and a green signal, you can proceed to Bourke Street Mall. The procedure is much the same as before. Cruise through Bourke Street and arrive at a green light at Little Bourke Street, which will change to red a few moments later.

Lonsdale Street is different, the old safety zones have been removed, but not replaced with a platform stop, instead you must make it though two sets of lights to the next stop — Melbourne Central at La Trobe Street. So long as you leave Little Bourke Street at the beginning of the green cycle you should make it though to Melbourne Central, but keep an eye on the lights ahead, if they are already green, step on it.

Now you are almost out of the central business district, but do not lose that adrenaline rush, you are yet to encounter your toughest challenge — Franklin Street.

Like Lonsdale Street, Franklin Street was once a tram stop, but the old safety zones were not replaced with a platform because the stop for Queen Victoria Market is just a few metres further north, however the light sequence does not appear to have been altered to reflect that. In order to make it through, like at the other stops, you must leave Melbourne Central immediately upon receiving a green signal and travel at the full speed limit, 50 kilometres per hour, in order to make it through three intersections including Franklin Street which is likely to change to orange as you pass through. Any tram immediately behind will not make it, but you can and you will.

You have now arrived at Queen Victoria Market and this is where I leave you to continue alone your great tram journey to bridal shop land, or that shopping centre by the Ring Road, or that massive top secret government defence facility near Highpoint. Before I leave though, here are a few notes for travelling south-bound, from Queen Victoria Market to the terminus.

As with travelling north, ideally you want to arrive at the stop at a red light and depart immediately upon receiving a green signal, however, due to heavy loading and quick light cycles at Queen Victoria Market (featured above) it is unlikely that you will make it to Melbourne Central without having to stop at one or all of three signalised intersections and this in turn inhibits the journey further to the terminus. Perhaps one day the lights across Melbourne will be properly timed.

A TERRIBLY INTERESTING THING BY AUGUSTUS BROWN.

Leadership tensions did not come to end after the failed Labor leadership spill in March, instead the speculation and media obsession grew stronger as the polls for Labor continued to fall. At the end of June the push to return Kevin Rudd had grown to the point where Rudd felt he had the numbers to lead a successful challenge against the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and so he did just that.

Rudd’s camp collected signatures from caucus members to petition the Prime Minister to call a spill. This petition has not been released to the public, but as it happened, Julia Gillard, speaking to Sky News, called the spill for 19:00 AEST without ever seeing it.

I have compiled the day’s statements and press conferences. Anything that I have not uploaded myself will be accompanied with a link to the source. I have not included Julia Gillard’s interview with Sky News.

Gary Gray walk and talk. Who is he anyway?

Kevin Rudd says he will challenge.

Bill Shorten announces support for Kevin Rudd.

Chris Hayes, Returning Officer.

Outgoing PM, Julia Gillard, statement.

Outgoing Deputy PM, Wayne Swan, statement.

PM-elect, Kevin Rudd, statement.

Deputy PM-elect, Anthony Albanese, statement (via NewsOnABC).

It seems like a lifetime ago, but back in March, 2013, former Labor Party leader, Simon Crean, called on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to hold a spill allowing Kevin Rudd to challenge, the only problem being that Kevin Rudd was not ready. Crean had apparently missed a text message from Rudd that said his position had not changed, Rudd did not have the numbers to lead a successful challenge.

I have compiled the day’s media statements and press conferences. Anything that I have not uploaded myself will be accompanied with a link to the source.

Simon Crean calls for a spill (via NewsOnABC).

The Prime Minister calls spill for 16:30 that afternoon (via NewsOnABC).

Kevin Rudd says he will not stand.

Chris Hayes, Returning Officer.

A short statement from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, press conference.

Simon Crean speaks with Leigh Sales.

I rediscovered this little gem while organising one of my hard drives. The Katter Party’s founder takes on The Greens’ Scott Ludlam over live cattle exports with a bit of nuttery slipped in. I think Katter damaged his microphone.

Originally broadcast on the ABC’s Capital Hill television programme. The audio is via SoundCloud.