Last week another part of the Regional Rail Link project opened to passengers – the pair of V/Line-only tracks between Southern Cross Station and Sunshine. Along with these tracks are two new platforms at Footscray station, which were provided with a new style of next train display screen. Can you spot the errors?
For those playing at home:
- There isn’t any railway station between Deer Park and Rockbank to run express between,
- ‘Parwan Loop’ doesn’t exist either,
- Bacchus Marsh to Ballan doesn’t have any stations to skip,
- Again, there are no stops between Ballan and Ballarat to miss – and finally,
- Ballarat to Wendouree has no stops
So what are the stops?
The inclusion of Parwan as a stop on the Ballarat line isn’t new – the previous train information system included it as a skipped stop between Rockbank and Bacchus Marsh.
A railway station existed at Parwan until the 1980s, but today it is just a empty paddock where trains can pass each other on the otherwise single track route.
As for the gap between Deer Park and Rockbank, Daniel Bowen weighted in with the following:
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 16, 2014
(Caroline Springs railway station has been in the works since at least 2008)
As for the other section of express running between Ballan and Ballarat, a fellow railfan gave me this light hearted explanation:
Rivetcounter in me says they’re missing Wallace, Millbrook and Ballarat East…
Note that the above three railway stations all closed decades ago!
Finding the truth
However the real explanation for the content of the new screen at Footscray is found in the ‘Working Timetable’ – a set of timetables for the internal use of railway staff, that shows all planned train movements in a defined area.
The relevant part of the Ballarat line working timetable can be found here:
If you have never had to read a working timetable before:
- ’8109′ is the train number of the ’0908 Southern Cross to Ballarat’ service,
- Three letter codes to the left are station code names,
- Names in CAPITALS are railway stations,
- Names in italics are just timing points along the route,
- A ‘u’ against a location that the train only picks up passengers from here,
- A ‘*’ against a time indicates that the train doesn’t stop – it runs express through the location,
- The ‘slash’ in the time indicates separate arrival and departure times at a location,
- ‘ES’ and ‘MS’ are abbreviations for the tracks the train traverses between Southern Cross and Noth Melbourne,
- ‘(1)’ indicates that a train takes track ’1′ through a given station,
- ‘-8126′ indicate that train number 8126 in the opposite direction is crossed at this location,
- The same logic applies for ‘-8130′
Putting it all together
So what does the working timetable tell us about the V/Line service I found on the next train displays at Footscray?
The train runs express through Deer Park West junction.
It stops at Parwan Loop to pass a train coming the other way.
But has a clear run through Bank Box Loop.
At Bungaree Loop it has to pass a train on the other track, but doesn’t have to stop.
Followed by a clear run through Ballarat East.
And a clear run where the Ararat and Mildura railway lines diverge at North Ballarat.
The answer as to why V/Line’s new next train displays are displaying inaccurate express running and superfluous station stops – the system is being driven by a raw feed of data that is only intended for the use of railway staff, and the irrelevant pieces of information aren’t being scrubbed out before it is delivered to the public.
Now all that V/Line need to go is go back into the system that drives the new displays, and ensure that it only includes the information that actual passengers care about.