Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel from all angles

Normally Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel is viewed from the front entrance on Spring Street.

Melbourne's Hotel Windsor on Spring Street

Where trams trundle past on their loop of the city.

W7.1020 heads north on Spring Street outside the Windsor Hotel

You might look at it from the south-east corner, where Little Collins and Spring Streets meet.

Corner of Little Collins and Spring Streets: Melbourne's Hotel Windsor

Or from the steps of Parliament House, where numerous skyscrapers loom large overhead.

Skyscrapers tower over Spring Street and Melbourne's Hotel Windsor

However the side people don’t normally see is the brick wall along the back laneway.

You normally don't see the Hotel Windsor from this angle...

Come November 2014 everything seen above will be history, demolished as part of the $325 million redevelopment of the Hotel Windsor that will see a new 27-storey tower erected behind the heritage listed facade.


My photo showing the rear of the Hotel Windsor was taken from the top floor of the multistory car park located at the corner of Little Collins Street and McIlwraith Place. Originally known as ‘Kings Parkade’, Wolfgang Sievers photographed the car park when it opened way back in 1966.

First aiders at Melbourne railway stations

For a number of years major Melbourne railway stations have had first aiders specially assigned to them. So what benefit does a rail operator get from spending money on something that at first glance, has nothing to do with running trains.

St Johns Ambulance first aider on standby at North Melbourne station during morning peak

This 2008 article from The Age details how just one sick passenger can delay a rail network.

Packed trains adding to ill-passenger delays
Clay Lucas
May 14, 2008

A peak-hour train was delayed for 20 minutes at Alphington yesterday morning because a passenger had a fit.

The train remained at the station until an ambulance arrived, with other train services backing up behind it. When the ambulance arrived, the passenger did not want to be transported, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Ambulance Service said.

Sick passengers are an increasing source of delays and cancellations on Melbourne’s train system. In April, 30 passengers fell ill, causing delays and cancellations to 946 trains.

In March, 25 sick passengers held up 894 services, and in February, 828 services were held up or cancelled because of passenger sickness.

When Metro Trains Melbourne took over the operation of the suburban railway network they actually decided to do something about sick passengers – in June 2010 they contracted St John Ambulance first aid staff to be on duty at five major stations.

Metro’s acting CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said May was a challenging month for the operator’s performance.

“We know we have limited influence over delays caused by external factors such as police operations, trespassers on tracks and speed restrictions, so we need to look at how we can improve in those areas we do have control over. An example of this is how quickly sick passengers are treated.

“Passengers requiring medical treatment on trains was an issue throughout May, with three major cases causing delays. In one case an ill passenger stopped trains on nine of our 16 train lines for up to 30 minutes while awaiting first aid to attend and treat the person.

“Everyone will benefit from reducing the time it takes first aid to arrive and treat the people who fall ill, so starting Monday we’ll have contracted first aid staff provided by St John Ambulance on-hand at five of our busiest stations to treat people who fall ill as quickly as possible. The Level 3 first aid staff will be in place during the morning peak at Parliament, Richmond, Caulfield, North Melbourne and Flinders Street stations.

“By reducing the time it takes to attend to and treat ill passengers, we will reduce the severity of the delays and flow-on delays these incidents can cause.”

Back in 2010 the State Opposition said the number of sick passengers was due to train overcrowding, but the spokesman for Metro Trains said otherwise in an interview with ABC Radio Australia:

Recently, the State Opposition released details of the Transport Department’s 2009 Train Operations Report. It says the number of passengers falling ill on trains has increased, largely due to overcrowding.

But Metro spokesman Chris Whitefield says positioning first aid officers at busy stations is not related to overcrowding, but instead… reducing delays.

“It doesn’t have a direct correlation with the amount of people on a train because ill passengers happen everywhere and any time of the day or night. Most of our ill passengers happen in the mornings and they will be cases of people who have not eaten their breakfast or do not have enough water, it can be something as simple as eating your weetbix and that can make all the difference to how you’re feeling”.

Since the trial began, St John Ambulance has treated several commuters, mainly suffering nausea and light headedness.

Theron Vassiliou of St John Ambulance says it’s too early to speculate if the cases of illness are linked to overcrowding.

“They’re very general incidents and they’re the sorts of things that can happen anywhere, anytime – workplace, home, on railway stations. We’re two days into the trial, we would have to see if that was the case or not”.

Originally the program was only a three month trial, but presumably the expense was worth it, as St John Ambulance staff remained on platforms until 2012, when they were removed from Caulfield and Footscray stations.

Metro cuts peak-hour paramedics at rail stations
Mark Hawthorne
January 10, 2012

Metro Trains has axed morning peak-hour paramedic services across the metropolitan railway network as a cost-cutting measure that will save millions of dollars each year.

The rail network operator last week terminated a deal with St John Ambulance to provide first-aid responder units – teams of highly trained paramedic staff qualified to provide specialised medical assistance – at Caulfield and Footscray railway stations.

Metro has also reduced the number of first-aid responder units at Richmond station from two to one during peak hour.

The only remaining paramedic teams on the metropolitan system during the morning rush will be at Flinders Street, Parliament and North Melbourne stations.

Sources at St John told The Age that paramedic services were already “stretched” during morning peak hour. “I would have thought the need was for more, not less,” one said.

“This is a decision based on the bottom line, rather than on passenger safety or the efficiency of the network.”

Metro Trains spokesman Daniel Hoare said station staff would be trained in basic first aid to cover the loss of paramedics.

“Our assessments conclude that North Melbourne and Richmond stations are the key V/Line-Metro interchange locations which require first aid staff, but they are no longer required at Caulfield and Footscray stations,” he said.

In March 2013 the first aid contract went to tender, and it appears St John Ambulance didn’t retain the contract – a new company called ‘Colbrow Medics’ has taken over the job.

Metro Trains customer service staff beside a contracted first aid officer at Richmond station

Sydney does the same

In June 2014 Sydney Trains followed Melbourne’s example, and deployed first aiders across their rail network:

Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian today announced the rollout of dedicated paramedics on busy Sydney train stations to urgently help sick customers and keep trains moving to reduce customer delays.

A team of paramedics is now located at 14 busy stations in the morning and afternoon peak periods and can immediately respond to medical incidents.

“Around 30 per cent of delays on Sydney Trains’ services are caused when a passenger hops on a train and requires medical attention. We know this can be improved,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Medical incidents can occur unexpectedly and the new team of paramedics mean we can get to customers faster and arrange additional medical equipment quickly – without holding up the rail network.”

Ms Berejiklian said one medical incident on a train can hold up around 20 trains on the network in the morning or afternoon peak – that’s around 20,000 customers impacted.

“By providing a team of paramedics at key Sydney stations – we can quickly provide medical treatment to a sick or injured customer and get trains moving again.”

The new paramedics will rotate through Town Hall, Wynyard, Redfern, Parramatta, Lidcombe, Epping, Strathfield, Sydenham, Hornsby, Chatswood, Glenfield, Blacktown, Bankstown and Wolli Creek stations.

In September 2014 Sydney Trains followed up the rollout with a campaign asking passengers to step off the train when they feel sick, and and ask for help at a station.

One person requiring medical treatment on a Sydney peak-hour train can delay up to 20 trains and make 20,000 commuters late for work.

Passengers who are feeling unwell will now be urged not to get on the train in the first place and seek treatment at the station instead.

In its “Feeling Unwell?” campaign, to be launched on Monday with posters to be hung at more than 150 stations, Sydney Trains is asking customers who feel crook to think twice before boarding the train.

Posters will also appear on selected trains encouraging passengers who are sick to get off at the next station and seek out a staff member rather than staying on board and potentially delaying other passengers.

Route 30 and non-existent tram stops

The other day I was riding a route 30 tram along La Trobe Street, when I looked up at the onboard route map. Unlike the rest of the tram network, route 30 is so short that every single stop can be included on the diagram.

Route 30 map onboard an A class tram

The stop list was:

  • St Vincents Plaza
  • Nicholson Street
  • La Trobe Street / Victoria Street
  • Exhibition Street
  • Russell Street
  • Melbourne Central Station / Swanston Street
  • Melbourne Central Station / Elizabeth Street
  • Queen Street
  • Flagstaff Station
  • King Street
  • Spencer Street
  • Etihad Stadium Docklands
  • Central Pier

But when I looked at the map further, I realised something – the map actually includes extra tram stops than don’t exist in the real world!

Stop 7 for westbound trams at Russell Street was one of them.

Laneway at the east end of stop 7 on La Trobe Street at Russell Street

And stop 2 for westbound trams at King Street was the other.

‘Long trams will not stop here’ notice at the King and La Trobe Street tram stop
'Long trams will not stop here' notice at the King and La Trobe Street tram stop

Both tram stops were closed on March 24, 2014 for ‘safety reasons’ – this notice was posted inside one of the tram stop shelters.

Notice of two closed tram stops on La Trobe Street due to 'safety reasons'

Apparently the safety issue was long trams overhanging the safety zone, resulting in passengers from the rear doors stepping out into moving traffic.

Some of the tram stops along La Trobe Street were able to be lengthened, like this one at Exhibition Street.

Lengthened tram stops at La Trobe and Exhibition Streets

However in the case of the King and Russell Street stops, nearby laneways prevented the tram stops from being extended, so removing them from service was the cheapest option.


Closure of the tram stops along La Trobe Street only affects a handful of people – the current service frequency along the north end of the CBD is so useless, any intending passenger could walk to their destination before the next tram turns up!

Trainspotting on a flying visit to Sydney

A few weeks I made a flying visit to Sydney, as I made my way home to Melbourne from Cairns. I might have only spent an hour at Sydney Airport while I waited for my connecting flight, but I did manage to see a few trains along the way.

Looking down Sydney's runway 07/25

My flight from Cairns approached Sydney from the north, so the Hawkesbury River bridge on the mainline to Newcastle was the first piece of railway infrastructure I spotted.

Looking down on the Hawkesbury River railway bridge

We then descended over the North Shore and crossed Sydney Harbour, where I spotted a tram on the Inner West Light Rail through Lilyfield, heading over the Wentworth Park viaduct. Can you see it?

Can you see the tram crossing the Wentworth Park viaduct in Lilyfield?

A few moments later the plane was over the suburbs, and I was looking down on the mainline between Central and Parramatta. Six tracks running side by side, but unfortunately there no trains to be seen.

Looking down on the six track mainline through Stanmore, but no trains!

We continued to descend, and finally I spotted a train – Pacific National locomotive 8173 shunting container wagons at Cooks River Yard. Thankfully the big numbers on the side made it easy to identify the unit!

8173 shunting container wagons at Cooks River yard

And a moment after that, I found two more locomotives stabled in the siding next door – I had to look very closely to see ‘MZ1446′ on the side of the silver unit.

Independent Railways of Australia locomotives MZ1446 and 4498 stored in James Siding, next door to Cooks River yard

my plane then touched down on runway 16R – the main north-south runway – and taxied to the gate. With no more trains to see, it was then time for some planespotting until boarding commenced for my connecting flight.

Qantas 737-800 taxis past the terminal


The tram photo was a bit of a Where’s Wally game, in part due to the red and white Transport for NSW livery. Here is a closer look if you couldn’t see it first time around.

Urbos 2 LRV in the Transport for NSW livery, crossing the Wentworth Park viaduct in Lilyfield

Sydney’s multimodal PT ticketing (or lack thereof)

As somebody who has grown up with a public transport ticketing system that lets you ride the entire network with a single ticket, Sydney’s service disruption messages often focus on apparently trivial information. This selection from the past few months shows what I mean:

Notice a pattern?

[Disrupted Service] tickets are valid on [Other Service]

The reason for this is Sydney’s lack of multimodal tickets on their public transport system – for each trip made on a train, bus, ferry or light rail a separate fare needs to be paid, even when a passenger is using the new Opal smartcard.

Compare this with Melbourne – you can take a bus to the railway station, ride a train into the city, and then catch a tram to your office – and only pay a single fare, even back in the days when Metcard was the only ticketing system in use.

The Transport Sydney blog has more on the subject:

The expansion of Opal into a multi-modal ticketing system will not be accompanied by multi-modal fares. Opal users who travel on just a single mode of transport will pay less than one who travels on two modes, even if their origin and destination are exactly the same.

This penalises passengers for having to make a transfer via higher fares, despite this being an added inconvenience to them. An ideal fare system, one which uses integrated fares, would charge passengers based on the distance they travel, regardless of which and how many modes they use to get there.

The reluctance to integrate fares at this point may be due to the government’s choice to focus on rolling out Opal first, and fixing the fares second.

At least in Melbourne public transport users have the option of moving between train, tram and bus for no additional cost!

Further reading

Sydney-based writer David Caldwell has more detail on Opal’s dysfunctional approach to intermodal fares on his blog. For the purposes of comparison, Melbourne introduced a single ticket for all forms of public transport way back in 1981 – the Victorian Public Transport Ticketing website gives the complete chronology.