The bastardisation of Southern Cross Station

Meet Southern Cross Station: a now familiar landmark for all Melburnians. Her early years were difficult, as she had a bad reputation to shake off, and everyone still called her “Spencer Street Station”. (It probably didn’t help that Steve Bracks declared her open for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, when in reality she was still in the middle of getting dressed.)

Main entrance

Despite the naming controversy, the wide open spaces of the new station were a relief from the rabbit warren that was the old station, making it easy for the everyday commuter to get from home to work each morning, and back again of an evening.

Wide angle overview from the Collins Street concourse

Over the next few years people got to know and appreciate the reborn station, as well as her ever changing layers of advertising. Unlike the other railway stations in Melbourne, Southern Cross was managed by a public-private partnership: Civic Nexus on the money grubbing side, and the Southern Cross Station Authority trying to keep them under control.

Fortunately for the passengers, the advertising on the concourses usually stayed out of the way of those people just wanting to get to somewhere else.

Honda advertising stand in the station concourse

Some very imaginative advertisers managed to find a way to get under the feet of commuters, but never in their way.

Artificial grass on the Collins Street concourse

However there were also a number of less intelligent advertising concepts, which just turned into an OH&S hazard.

Security guard in attendance so no more letters get swiped

They say nothing lasts forever, and regrettably for Southern Cross this adage again proved true.

With the rollout of the new Myki smartcard ticketing system across Victoria progressing, the government authority responsible for it (the Transport Ticketing Authority) decided it was too convenient for V/Line passengers to just stroll on and off their trains, and that they would need to be funnelled through ticket barriers like cattle. (We can’t trust those country bumpkin commuters to pay their fares, can we?)

The construction of a fence around the country platforms commenced in November 2009 with no fanfare: it just appeared one day bolted to the floor. At least in the beginning there were a number of openings for passengers…

A ray of sunshine penetrates the gloom

It took a month for signs explaining the fence to finally appear: they read as “some changes to how you enter and exit”, because phrases like “easier” or “more convenient” would be outright lies.

They say

As time went on the fence became more permanent and the number of openings diminished: the passengers were now lobsters in a pot of boiling water.

Long way around to exit the country platforms at Southern Cross (note the tactile paving that keeps on being moved)

By December 2010 the plan appeared complete: V/Line announced that ticket checking would soon commence at the main entry to the country platforms, with all other openings closed for good. There was the slight problem that the new Myki system had yet to be rolled out to the V/Line network, but that is just splitting hairs in their eyes.

Sign informing passengers that ticket checking will soon start on the country platforms

With only one way into the country platforms, you might have though that Southern Cross Station had no innocence left to lose. However, private enterprise was not to be outdone, when they allowed a skateboarding display to block the main entrance one Saturday morning.

Skateboarding display blocking the main entrance to the station

For me that was a low blow, but things got even worse in June 2011 when the food court operator pulled out.

Southern Cross food court on the mezzanine floor: only two stores left after former operator Delaware North bailed

Since the signing of the public-private partnership contract to operate the station in 2002, a company called Delaware North had been responsible for operating the food court and cafes there. For most people that name is unfamiliar, but their money grubbing ways are not: Delaware North are the rip-off merchants responsible for the exorbitant food prices at Australia’s airports, football grounds, and tourist attractions. (You can find the full list of places to take a bagged lunch to here.)

Delaware North operated 4500 square metres of retail space at the station, with the following food operations:

  • Biglietto (Italian)
  • Diesel Foods (deep fried crap)
  • Billie Chu (Asian)
  • Café Arome (coffee and cake)
  • Red Relish (sandwiches)
  • Batman Hill Café
  • Fresh Connections (bakery)

Nando’s and Hungry Jack’s franchises also operated in the centre, but the final useless piece of the puzzle was Loco Bar: it never seemed to open past 7:30pm of an evening, even if a football game was being played across the bridge at the Docklands Stadium.

The useless Loco Bar closed for good - it was never open beyond 7:30 even on Friday nights...

The withdrawal of Delaware North left a hole in the station tenancies, so what did station manager Civic Nexus do a month later? Board up half the concourse and advertise some “Exciting New Retailers”.

I hope these

Once upon a time you could queue for a ticket outside the V/Line office before you boarded your train.

A long wait in the V/Line ticket line

Now you can’t even see the booking windows!

I thought railway stations had ticket offices out the front, not 'Exciting New Retailers'?

How many V/Line commuters can you squeeze between these ‘Exciting New Retailers’? I hope it is a few, as this is now the main access to the south end of the country platforms.

How many V/Line commuters can you squeeze between 'Exciting New Retailers'?

Want to enter Southern Cross Station? Try again!

Want to enter Southern Cross Station? Try again!

On the other side of town it took 22 years for Melbourne Central Station to be bastardised by a shopping centre operator: it has only taken 5 years for Southern Cross Station to receive the same treatment – with increasing patronage on Melbourne’s rail network, I hate to see what the future holds.

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12 Responses to “The bastardisation of Southern Cross Station”

  1. Spazzing says:

    One word comes to mind instantly – wankers.

  2. Matt J says:

    Are you sure the food court had a Hungry Jacks? I can’t recall there being one.

    Another place not mentioned, the convenience store near the escalators to Platforms 13/14 at the Collins Street end…………I’d say it was open for 6-12 months if lucky, before going. Last time I checked, all the shelving and price tags are still in there!

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Matt J – the Hungry Jacks is at the Bourke Street end of the station, near the bus terminal. It’s still open and serving up the same greasy crap as before.

      Up on the Collins Street concourse were a number of shops, a few of therm have never been occupied. I think the Virgin Megastore only closed a few months ago, the food shop you mention near platforms 13/14 was called “Batman’s Hill Grocery” or similar.

  3. Adam S says:

    Well done Marcus, a great write-up.
    The comparison photos prove your points perfectly.

  4. Adrian says:

    Would love to see a full write-up / blog entry regarding Museum – Melbourne Central station.
    Early History into shopping centre chaos.

    Used to have a nice open upper concourse.

  5. […] Southern Cross Station recently, you have probably noticed a lot of construction going on as you try to find your way to the platforms.Thankfully, The Age published an article last week titled Next stop, a bit of retail therapy that […]

  6. […] Civic Nexus Pty Ltd to design, construct and manage the redeveloped station for 30 years. I’ve previously posted how commuter access has been bastardised, but the 2012 Grand Prix gave me an even more outstanding example, when they set up a merchandise […]

  7. […] Southern Cross Station: over the past few years it seems like all they have been doing is construction work, but according to the Victorian Auditor General, the station was actually ‘completed’ […]

  8. John says:

    Hi, please make mention or link to us, in regards to this stations horrible, disgusting diesel fumes problem. Our organisation is advocating to have something done about this. Please search face book for exhausting diesel fumes or visit our site, http://www.apsl.org.au

  9. […] the years I have been following the slow bastardisation of Southern Cross Station, as ticket barriers funnel passengers through narrow passageways, shops fill previously open spaces, and ‘pop up’ events […]

  10. […] In addition, I’m not one to immediately dismiss modern architecture – so I’m not overly concerned about a modern looking station building replacing the existing one. I’m a fan of Melbourne’s heritage listed glass skyscrapers as well as the clean lines of Southern Cross Station. […]

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