The return of taxi advertising in Melbourne

When I was younger seeing Melbourne taxis with advertising panels attached to the rear boot was normal, but then they died away. Apparently somebody out there missed them, as this “Back by popular demand” advertisement seems to suggest.

'Back by popular demand' they say? Back of taxi advertising from 'Rova Taxi Media'

I’m guessing that person was the Victorian Liberal Government, as their ‘Moving Victoria’ propaganda is now covering taxis across Melbourne.

Rear taxi advertising from 'Ultimate Media'

As well as the traditional panel on the boot, A-frame boards on the roof have also popped up.

Rooftop taxi advertising from 'Ultimate Media'

The conspiracy theorist in me wants to link this sudden explosion in advertising is due to someone in the Liberal Party owing a taxi advertising company.

Advertising on the back of Melbourne taxis

Some background

Advertising on Melbourne’s fleet of taxis ended in 2005 with the passing of the Transport (Taxi-Cabs) Regulations 2005, Regulation 23(4) of which prohibited operators from attaching non-approved fittings to the inside or outside of their vehicles without approval.

These regulations were reversed in September 2013, following the 2011 Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry which recommended that advertising should be allowed, subject to size, placement, subject matter and other requirements set by the Taxi Services Commission.

Today there are two different companies selling advertising space on taxis in Melbourne – ‘Rova Taxi Media‘ appears to have contracts with television stations.

Back of taxi advertising from 'Rova Taxi Media'

While ‘Ultimate Media’ and their ‘Taxi Network‘ of advertisement are making a mint from Denis Napthine’s desperate attempts to win the 2014 Victorian state election.

Rear and rooftop taxi advertising from 'Ultimate Media'

When a fire hose crosses the railway track

Earlier in April a photo did the rounds of social media, which showed a fire hose passing over a railway crossing, with plastic humps put over the top in an attempt to allow trains to pass by. The most popular version of the photo on Twitter was posted on April 7, and has since received over 11 thousand retweets, and almost 5 thousand favourites.

Much discussion ensued about what country the photo was taken in, and whether the fire fighters had a clue about what they were doing.

As it happens, the photo was taken in Belgium by a fire fighter named Tom Bongaerts, who posted it to Facebook on April 5:

Fire hose over railway tracks (by Tom Bongaerts)

And the reason for the hose over the tracks – it was a prank played by the fire brigade, as Tom writes in a follow up post:

Hey, this past week our funny photo went viral throughout the whole world. Thousands of shares and likes in many different countries! Once and for all: the picture was taken in Belgium, in a small village called Bornem.

After a minor intervention, we had some time left near the railway to make this picture. Since there were no trains running at all for a week due to maintenance works, we can state that our joke was a real success! Thanks to our entire team, 2nd sqdn Firefighters Bornem!

Back in the real world, a fire hose over the tracks doesn’t cause any trouble to a passing train – just a chopped hose.

The cause of this incident in the United States was the fire department calling up the wrong railroad company to stop the trains.

Fire hoses are unlikely to bother trains because they cross roads on an infrequent basis, but trams are a different matter – they run down the middle of ordinary streets lined with buildings, increasing the probably of an encounter with the local fire brigade.

In 1895 a Samuel B. Sweeney came up with a solution – US patent 556382 for a ‘Street-car bridge for protection of fire-hose’ – allowing normal tram services to keep running while avoiding the hose damage seen in the video above.

Usage of hose bridges soon spread, as this scan from the 1926 ‘Ohio Brass Company’ catalog shows:

Emergency tramway hose bridge from the Ohio Brass company

Designed as a ‘knock down’ kit of parts, the bridge was intended to be stored with a tramway’s emergency equipment wagon, allowing it to be deployed as needed whenever fire hoses blocked normal services.


A photo of an electric tramcar on the Richmond, Virginia system of the late 1880′s traversing a hose bridge – note the perilous angle!

Expanding Melbourne’s suburban train fleet

In recent years patronage on Melbourne’s rail network has skyrocketed – 94 per cent over the 12 years from 1998-99 to 2010-11. So how did all of these passengers get moved on a fleet of trains that has stayed relatively constant?

Comeng, Siemens, Comeng, Siemens, Comeng, Siemens... 8 trains stabled at Melbourne Yard, and all alternating like so!

Annual metropolitan train patronage peaked at 182.6 million trips in 1949-50, then went into a long decline that was not arrested until the start of the 1980s, when modern air-conditioned trains entered the fleet and the City Loop opened. In the years that followed patronage started to grow slowly, but the train fleet did not – every new train that arrived was just a one-for-one replacement for older models.

Eventually the system reached breaking point, when three years of record patronage growth led to a 60-year high in passengers carried being achieved in 2007, all carried by a fleet of trains much the same size as years earlier. Despite the Victorian Government having been warned five years earlier that more trains were needed, the first of Melbourne’s additional trains didn’t enter service until December 2009, as part of an ad-hoc fleet expansion program that continues today.

See the bottom of the page for an explanation for how I came up with the numbers.

The story behind the graph

We start at 1999, when the Victorian Government decided to franchise the running of Melbourne’s public transport system to two private operators, each being assigned half of the network. Hillside Trains (later Connex) was allocated 57 Hitachi and 90 Comeng trains, along with the lone double deck ’4D’ train, to operate services to the north and east of the city; while Bayside Trains (later M>Train) was allocated 58 Hitachi and 98 Comeng trains for their services in the southern and western suburbs.

Hitachi on a Showgrounds service near the Broadmeadows line junction

Under their contracts each of the private operators was required to replace their fleet of non-air conditioned Hitachi trains with brand new rolling stock. Connex replaced their 57 Hitachi trains and the orphaned ’4D’ train with 58 X’Trapolis trains, the last of each entered service in December 2004. M>Train replaced their 58 Hitachi trains with 62 Siemens trains, which after a trouble prone entry to service, the last unit finally entered service in March 2005.

Up XTrapolis climbs upgrade into Heatherdale

The Siemens trains were the first to expand the size of Melbourne’s train fleet: as part of their initial order M>Train included four additional trains (beyond those required to replace the Hitachis) to operate the extended suburban service to Craigieburn, which was funded in the 2002–03 state budget. The Siemens order also included an option for an additional ten 3-car trains, which was taken up by the Victorian Government in 2005. Delivered in January 2006, these trains enabled the full-time operation of 6-car trains on the Upfield line, as well as the running of additional services across the network. Altogether this gave 14 additional trains to cater for patronage growth on an expanded network.

'Wave' fronted Siemens arrives into Newport

2006 was the year that Melbourne hosted the Commonwealth Games, and it was also a year that the government promised that the new trains would have replaced the last of the non-air conditioned Hitachi trains. That never happened, with the twelve 3-carriage sets not yet scrapped were retained to cater for increasing patronage. More desperate measures followed, when in February 2007 it was revealed that the Department of Infrastructure had committed to leasing two 3-carriage Hitachi sets from a railway museum, as the government scrambled to deal with growing patronage.

Hitachi at Newport's Garden Platform

It took until July 2007 for the Victorian Government to realise they needed to buy more trains for Melbourne, when they invited Alstom and Siemens – the manufacturers of the two newest types of train on the network – to bid for a contract to supply 20 new 3-carriages trains to Melbourne. Alstom won the contract with their X’Trapolis trains, the first of which entered service in December 2009, soon after the Victorian Government had taken the credit for outing Connex and installing Metro Trains Melbourne as the new suburban rail operator.

3M leading the train stopping-all-stations back to the city

Since 2007 additional X’Trapolis trains have been ordered and entering service on a regular basis, enabling additional services to be added in each timetable revision; as well as the gradual removal from service of the last Hitachi trains, last seen in revenue service back in December 2013. As of the most recent order placed in 2013, the X’Trapolis fleet will soon number 164 3-carriage sets – just short of the Comeng fleet built back in the 1980s. It also takes Melbourne’s suburban fleet from 304 train sets back in 1999, to a total of 422 train sets.

Data sources

You can find the raw data and calculations used to generate the above graph in this spreadsheet: Melbourne suburban train fleet growth (1999-2015). Delivery dates were sourced from the Vicsig website by Chris Gordon. I made a number of assumptions when collecting the data, which reduces the accuracy of the graph – the main one comes from not tracking the delivery and scrapping dates of each individual train set!

Instead the delivery date for each group of new trains has been taken from the delivery date of last of each group, resulting in accurate numbers only at the actual ‘census’ dates, and an unreliable estimate of fleet size between data points. In addition, I have not tracked the scrapping of the Hitachi trains, instead making the assumption that the delivery of each new train enabled the scrapping of one Hitachi, with the exception of the last 12 sets.

Some further explanation of the data:

  • All figures are based on 3-carriage train sets – for the past decade virtually all services use 6-carriage sets.
  • The ’4D’ train is actually 4 carriages long, but I count it as a single train.
  • 1999: this start date was chosen to coincide with the change to private operation of the Melbourne suburban network.
  • 2002: the loss of a single Comeng train was due to a fire lit by vandals.
  • 2002/03: the decline in the Hitachi fleet to 108, then 16 and finally 12, was chosen arbitrarily – each new trains enabled the retirement of a Hitachi.
  • The orphaned double deck ’4D’ train spent much of the early 2000s out of service for repairs, until it was scrapped in April 2006.
  • December 2007: a single Hitachi train was acquired from a heritage railway group.
  • Not all seven Hitachi trains have been available for service at one time, but they remain in the spreadsheet.
  • November 2012: a single Comeng train was damaged beyond repair in a fatal level crossing accident at Dandenong.
  • December 2013: last recorded usage of Hitachi trains in revenue service, so I have listed them as withdrawn.


I’ve excluded the 25 ‘next generation, high-capacity’ trains that were included in the March 2014 Dandenong railway line upgrade proposal – they aren’t a firm order.

Further reading

Melbourne Central ditches dated advertisements

For the past decade, passengers waiting on platform 3 at Melbourne Central station have been greeted by two increasingly dated billboards.

The first was was ‘Pipeworks Fun Market’, located in the northern suburb of Campbellfield.

'Pipeworks Fun Market' advert still in place at Melbourne Central platform 3

The second was a Metcard branded ‘Concession travel is only for concession card holders’ poster, featuring a Hitachi train still in the green and gold The Met livery.

'Concession travel is only for concession card holders' poster at Melbourne Central (I think it's a decade old now?)

Both advertisers sure received value for money from their marketing budget, with the pair of billboards both outlasting their owners – Metcard was replaced by Myki in December 2012, and the Pipeworks Market closed for good in the same month.

The end finally came in early March 2014 during maintenance work in the City Loop, with the two billboards being removed.

Three empty wall panels mark where ‘Pipeworks Fun Market’ used to tout for customers.

The ancient advert for 'Pipeworks Fun Market' finally removed from platform 3 at Melbourne Central station

And just a dirty smear indicates where the massive Metcard billboard used to hang.

Ancient 'Concession Metcards are for Concession Passengers' advertisement removed from platform 3 at Melbourne Central station

By the time the Metcard advertisement was removed, the middle-aged man using an ill-gotten concession ticket was probably old enough to legitimately hold a Seniors Card!

Tracking the Protective Service Officers rollout

Since 2012 the Victorian Liberal Government has been deploying Protective Service Officers to railway stations across the Melbourne suburban network, and as of this week we have a total of 682 PSOs patrolling 104 Melbourne railway stations – or so says the self congratulatory media release.

With 207 stations to be guarded between 6pm and last train each night, a total of 940 officers have to be recruited and trained to meet the target date of November 2014 – so how is the program actually tracking?

Three PSOs and a police officer on the beat at Southern Cross Station


The idea of Protective Service Officers at railway stations was first proposed by then-opposition leader Ted Baillieu in November 2009, as part of a pledge made in the leadup to the 2010 Victorian State Election.

Originally costed at $200 million over four years, by 2011 the cost of the program had increased to $212 million, as well as an additional $85 million to provide upgraded facilities at each railway station to house the deployed PSOs – $18 million in the 2012/13 State Budget, and $67.8 million for 149 station refits in the 2013/14 State Budget.

Another money pit for the program is advertising – in January 2013 a three month long marketing campaign costing $2.7 million was launched to help recruit additional PSOs, which followed $2.67 million spent on advertising in 2012, as well as $1 million in fees paid to recruiters.

The advertising

So what did over $5 million worth of marketing get us?

Television commercials that make catching a train look more dangerous than it actually is:

Advertisements in the newspaper:

Protective Services Officer recruitment advertisement in the mX newspaper

Billboards beside freeways:

Protective Services Officer recruitment billboard beside the Eastlink freeway

Posters onboard trains:

Protective Services Officer recruitment poster onboard a Comeng train

And trams:

Protective Services Officer recruitment poster onboard a tram

And even recruitment booths outside railway stations during the evening peak:

Two men running a Protective Services Officer recruitment drive outside Newmarket station during the evening peak

How is the rollout tracking?

Melbourne’s first group of Protective Service Officers were deployed on February 22, 2012 to Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations, with other stations on the network following.

I’ve been tracking the rollout across Melbourne with a spreadsheet – the government usually issues a media release each time PSOs are deployed to a new station, mentioning the current number of officers across the network, as well as the number of stations covered.

The result is this graph showing the number of Melbourne suburban railway stations that have PSOs deployed to them. Note the 207 stations to be covered by the target date of November 2014:

A second graph shows the current number of PSOs deployed across the network – again note the target of 940 officers and the upcoming November 2014 deadline.

Looks like Denis Napthine’s Liberal Government are going to have throw some big money at the program if they want to meet their November 2014 targets!

Raw data

Here is the raw data in Google Spreadsheet format – inside you will find the date that PSOs were deployed to each station, the number of active PSOs across the network on that date, and the original source of the data.

More sources