As part of the Regional Rail Link project, platforms were built on the new tracks at just two stations: Footscray and Sunshine. With an inconvenient interchange at Footscray and no platforms at North Melbourne, Sunshine is the stand out station for passenger convenience.
Citybound V/Line services stop at platform 3, where it is just a short walk up the stairs to the overhead concourse, then back down to platform 1 for a City Loop services – with no need to exit the paid area.
However the number of V/Line passengers able to use Sunshine station is small, due to the limited number of services that stop there.
The vast majority of Ballarat line services stop there to drop off inbound passengers who want to change for a suburban train at Sunshine, and pick up outbound passengers for the country.
However the current Bendigo line timetable doesn’t have any stops at Sunshine – V/Line passengers need to change trains at either Footscray or Sunbury.
For the purposes of comparison, the current Geelong line timetable has three stops in the suburban area – Footscray, Newport and Werribee.
So should all V/Line non-express services stop at Sunshine? From an interchange perspective, I say the answer should be yes – as the meeting point of all three V/Line routes that use Regional Rail Link, changing trains at Sunshine will save passengers at least 15 minutes compared to changing at Footscray, and even more time compared to changing at Southern Cross. In addition, Sunshine is also a major station on the suburban services towards Sunbury, saving country passengers the ~15 minute trip into Footscray, just to catch the train back out from the city.
Finally, Sunshine has been designated as one of nine ‘Metropolitan Activity Centres’ in the Plan Melbourne metropolitan planning strategy released in May 2014 – the same designation as Footscray.
Sunshine was also designated as one of 25 ‘Principal Activity Centres’ in the now-defunct Melbourne 2030 planning strategy released in October 2002.
With Geelong trains due to start using the new Regional Rail Link tracks via the back of Werribee from mid-2015, it would seem like a sick joke if passengers boarding V/Line services from the new stations of Tarneit and Wyndham Vale have to travel all the way into Footscray just to catch a suburban train back out to Sunshine!