Melbourne’s misleadingly named housing estate

Melbourne’s property developers have a habit of stealing names from New York when branding their new apartment complexes – “Tribeca” and “Upper West Side” are two recent examples. However they have managed to outdo themselves, with the “Manhattan Place” housing estate in the outer western suburb of Tarneit.

Advertisement for the 'Manhattan Place' housing estate in Tarneit, Victoria

This is Manhattan. Big city, tall buildings, and a vibrant nightlife.

View of the Empire State Building - by Francisco Diez from New York City, USA

Photo by Francisco Diez from New York City, USA, via the Wikimedia Commons

And this is Melbourne’s “Upper West Side” – a collection of cookie cutter apartment towers built atop the former Spencer Street Power Station at the arse end of Lonsdale Street. Comparing it to New York is a long bow to draw, isn’t it?

Display suite for Melbourne's new 'Upper West Side' development

However this is “Manhattan Place” in Tarneit – a housing estate located on some empty paddocks out the back of Werribee, located about 25 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD, and with no shops or jobs available unless you jump in your car.

Aerial view of the 'Manhattan Place' housing estate in Tarneit, Victoria - March 2009

The main selling point of the estate is the block size, which the since closed website for Manhattan Place points out:

Land that gives you room to breathe, with plenty of space for the kids to play and for you to entertain friends.

Manhattan Place in Tarneit is where you have the rare luxury of living on 700m² plus allotments that give you room to breathe.

Finding an affordable apartment that is 700 square FEET in the real Manhattan would be a tall order!

For those of you using real units of measurement, 700 square feet is just over 65 square meters – roughly a one bedroom apartment.

The developers then move their pitch towards families looking for their second or third homes, and invoke a comparison with New York.

Be among neighbours with the same strong family values. People who value success from working hard ~ and who truly appreciate the style, elegance and sophistication that Manhattan is famous for.

Since the estate is out in the middle of nowhere, and not the middle of the city, the developers have to point out the real world is only a short trip away.

Your home will make entertaining a pleasure, swift freeway access to the theatres, restaurants and social life of the city. A short trip to magnificent ocean beaches, the world class Werribee Park Zoo, ready access to excellent schools, shopping, public transport and local sporting and fitness facilities.

And then mention the restrictive covenants in place to prevent people “not like you” from trashing the place.

Part of the charm of buying land at Manhattan Place is the freedom you have to choose your own architectural design and builder to create the luxury home of your dreams. There is the reassurance of knowing that the building and landscaping standards guarantee an environment of quality and character that protects your investment. It all combines to make Manhattan Place the place to live.

Manhattan Place is located at the corner of Sayers Road and York Avenue, Tarneit – Melway reference 234 K4.

A dead ringer for New York, isn’t it?

Diagram of the 'Manhattan Place' housing estate in Tarneit, Victoria

If the devil drove a train – the number would be?

If the devil drove a train – would it be numbered 666?

Comeng 666M with a 'temporary' style Metro logo on the front

Or have devil horns on the roof?

Another look at the 'Devil horns' on the Siemens with GSM-R equipment

Bonus content

A contact has since supplied me with a photo from inside the cab of 666M – it appears train drivers like to joke about as well!

Inside the cab of Comeng 666M

Some background

Melbourne’s suburban train carriages are numbered from 1M all the way up to 966M, with a lot of gaps in between.

As for the ‘devil horns’ on the second train, they are actually antennas for the GSM-R digital train radio system which is slowly being deployed across the metropolitan area.

Taking the politics out of transport planning?

Back in 2010, then leader of the Liberal Party, Ted Baillieu had the following to say about transport planning in Victoria:

Victoria badly needs a new, independent, statutory authority to plan, co-ordinate and manage our public transport system. Despite Labor’s many plans and announcements, Victoria’s and Melbourne’s public transport needs have been poorly planned for and badly financed. John Brumby has not provided the safety, reliability and efficiency that Victorians deserve.

At the 2010 State Election the Coalition won government, and their promise for a independent, statutory transport authority was one that actually was fulfilled – in April 2012 ‘Public Transport Victoria’ came into operation to coordinate, promote and expand the bus, tram and train networks. So what plans have the government put into place since then?

PTV liveried Transdev bus #423 rego 7523AO at William and Flinders Street

PTV Network Development Plan

In March 2013 Public Transport Victoria published their ‘Network Development Plan’ – a strategy for growing capacity on the rail network over the next 20 years. Public Transport Terry Mulder had the following to say when it was released:

Mr Mulder said that the Victorian Coalition Government’s creation of Public Transport Victoria (PTV) a year ago as an independent statutory authority, was now bearing fruit.

Mr Mulder said Public Transport Victoria (PTV) was established by the Coalition Government to improve public transport and properly plan for the future. PTV is responsible for planning, procuring and delivering Victoria’s train, tram and bus services, infrastructure and assets.

“This is PTV’s strategy for growing capacity on the rail network over the next 20 years, and it takes into account all parts of Melbourne, particularly areas of growth,” Mr Mulder said.

“It is a very detailed plan – in fact no Government has released a plan this detailed and this transparent since 1969. This is exactly why we established an independent public transport body – a detailed rail strategy like this is just what we expected and wanted.

“The Network Development Plan is a carefully considered, holistic, strategic plan for development of our rail network during the next 20 years, which will be used to help inform future funding decisions.

“Many initiatives identified in the plan for the next decade are already being planned in detail, such as the introduction of high capacity trains and signalling and Melbourne Metro.

Key components of the plan included:

  • New high capacity trains, able to carry up to 1100 passengers,
  • High capacity signalling trial on Sandringham line,
  • Melbourne Metro rail tunnel project,
  • Dandenong rail corridor upgrade,
  • High capacity signalling on the Sandringham, South Morang and Hurstbridge lines, and between Sunbury and South Yarra.

So how about the implementation?

Bayside Rail Project

In May 2013 Premier Denis Napthine announced the $100 million ‘Bayside Rail Project’ with the following headline:

$100 million Bayside rail upgrade brings newest trains to Frankston line

Then elaborated further:

“Since the November 2010 election, the Coalition Government has announced orders for 15 new X’Trapolis trains, but these trains could only carry passengers on the Alamein, Glen Waverley, Belgrave, Lilydale, Hurstbridge and South Morang lines due to the different position in which the driver sits in the cab, affecting the ability to see some signals.

“This $100 million will mean the Frankston line will also be able to accommodate the X’Trapolis trains, giving passengers the fastest, most reliable and most comfortable commute to and from the city,” Dr Napthine said.

Before the announcement of the Bayside Rail Project, the only people who cared about what kinds of train operated on a a given railway line were railfans who lacked a grip on reality – the average passenger just wants a clean and comfortable train that runs on time. Now we have a politician throwing $100 million at a problem that doesn’t exist.

Free CBD trams and cheaper fares

In March 2014 Premier Denis Napthine announced “free CBD trams, cheaper trains and buses for Melbourne“:

Dr Napthine said the changes would provide significant cost of living relief for families as a result of commuters being able to travel in Zones 1 and 2 for the price of a Zone 1 fare.

“Tram travel within the CBD and Docklands will be free in a move that will enhance Melbourne’s reputation as an international city.”

The changes will come into effect from the 1 January 2015 and will make public transport more accessible for commuters and tourists and make it easier to move around Melbourne.

This initiative will cost around $100 million per annum and will be accounted for in the upcoming State Budget.

However when making the announcement, Dr Napthine forgot to tell one important group of people – the companies that actually run Melbourne’s trams, trains and buses. The Age went on to say:

None of the train, tram and bus companies that operate Melbourne’s public transport system were consulted or even told about the Napthine government’s decision to change the ticket zoning system and provide free trams in the city centre.

Metro, Yarra Trams and bus operator Transdev began investigating on Wednesday how the ticketing changes will affect their operations, after learning about the policy announcement through the media.

Tram overcrowding in the CBD rose sharply last year, with 14 “rolling hour” load breaches – meaning an hour in which passenger numbers exceed tram capacity – compared with nine in 2012.

Hopefully come January 2015 Yarra Trams have a plan in place to deal with an influx of freeloaders on trams in the Melbourne CBD, otherwise the increased overcrowding will discourage previously fare paying passengers from using public transport.

Cranbourne-Pakenham Rail Corridor Project

Another random transport announcement made in March 2014 was the Cranbourne-Pakenham upgrade project. The media release spruiked the following points:

The massive investment will provide:

  • 25 new next generation trains;
  • 21st century high-capacity signalling along the rail corridor;
  • removal of four level crossings;
  • pre-construction funding for another five level crossing removals;
  • newly rebuilt stations at Carnegie, Murrumbeena and Clayton; and
  • a new train maintenance depot at Pakenham East.

What the government forgot to say is that they didn’t come up with the idea – it was an unsolicited proposal from a private sector consortium, involving a public-private partnership to cost the taxpayer billions over the term of the contract. An investigation by The Age found the following:

The cabinet-in-confidence documents reveal taxpayers will be left to pay up to $360 million a year as “annual service payments” to the consortium until 2034 in “nominal” dollars – the actual amount spent, including inflation. The total payments in nominal terms will be as much as $5.2 billion.

The $2.5 billion figure released by the government is a “net present” figure. In government, politicians tend to cite the net present, or today’s money, figure, pointing out that home-buyers think of the cost of their house as the sale price, not the additional cost of loan repayments and interest over decades.

Expanding capacity on the Dandenong railway line has been a pressing need for years – the first serious government commitment appeared in the 2006 ‘Meeting Our Transport Challenges’ plan, when the construction of a third track between Caulfield and Dandenong was proposed. Now those plans are in the bin, replaced by a concept drawn up by a private company more interested in rent seeking than in a cost-effective outcome for the taxpayer.

Melbourne Rail Link

Yet another example of established plans being thrown in the bin can be found in May 2014, when Premier Denis Napthine announced a new rail tunnel running from Southern Cross to South Yarra, via Fishermans Bend and the Domain. The media release had the following glowing words for the new project:

The Melbourne Rail Link will do for rail passengers in the 21st century, what the City Loop achieved last century – high frequency rail services moving more people, more often and more conveniently.

What the government forgot to say is that their new plan was a replacement for the previous ‘Melbourne Metro’ scheme – which The Age revealed the government had still endorsed as late as February 2013:

The original Melbourne Metro was being strongly backed by the state government just a year ago, with Transport Minister Terry Mulder indicating engineering issues around Swanston Street had been resolved, new documents reveal.

The February 2013 letter, from Mr Mulder to then treasurer Kim Wells, said the business case for the multi billion-dollar project had been completed and a comprehensive impact statement would be completed by the end of 2013.

The letter, obtained by The Age through freedom of information, said “significant work was undertaken during 2012 to update the Melbourne Metro business case and ensure it met the requirements of the high value high risk process, Infrastructure Australia guidelines and federal government requirements. This work has proved critical to resolving key issues, including the vertical alignment along Swanston Street.”

Once again, we have see a previously agreed upon transport project tossed in the bin, replaced by a hastily conceived replacement that appears to be favouring the interests of the private sector instead of the public.

Transport planning is off the rails

After looking at the half-baked projects found above, it makes you wonder what was the point in creating an independent public transport authority, when their carefully made plans just get thrown in the bin by politicians as soon as votes or vested interests get involved.

Pantograph fully extended on a derailed Z3.229, having left the contact wire

What is inside a PSO pod?

Have you ever wondered what lurks inside the blue and white buildings that have appeared at most railway stations across Melbourne? They are used by Protective Services Officers once they start duty at 6 PM every night, and cost a shitload of money to build.

Completed Baillieu Box at Newmarket station

A look inside

This presentation from the ‘Department of Transport Planning and Local Infrastructure’ (DTPLI) given an inventory of what is inside the average Protective Services Officer office.

Protective Services Officers - presentation by DTPLI

First off they have a desk and a phone for completing paperwork.

Inside the PSO office at Montmorency railway station

And a kitchenette.

So PSOs posted to the middle of nowhere can have a warm cup of tea on a cold Melbourne night?

Kitchenette inside the PSO pod at South Yarra station

Then to the side, an internal door leading to what is officially known as the ‘handover room’.

Office inside the PSO pod at Macleod

In reality the ‘handover room’ is a holding cell where Protective Services Officers lock up the people they arrest, until a sworn Victoria Police officer is able to attend. They are easy to spot from the outside – the same style of ‘NO ENTRY’ sign appears on each one.

PSO pod retrofitted into the otherwise unused station building at Tottenham

Now I’ve just got to travel around Melbourne and collect them all!

PSO pod incorporated into the new station building at West Footscray

They can try and hide them by painting them different colours.

Brown painted PSO pod on platform 1 at Essendon

By cladding them in weatherboards and adding a gabled roof to the top, when a railway station is heritage listed.

PSO pod at Newport station: standard layout but with a gable roof and weatherboard cladding

Retrofitting them into existing heritage structures.

Heritage styled PSO pod on platform 2 at Clifton Hill

Or inside 1980s brown brick abominations.

PSO pod inside the disused station building at Blackburn platform 3

But if you know what to look for, they stand out like dogs balls.

PSO pod on the island platform at Camberwell

Construction cost

Originally $17 million was allocated in May 2012 to fund the construction of facilities for Protective Services Officers at 66 railway stations around the network, at an average of $268,000 per station.

The 2013 budget allocated an extra $67 million in funding to build another 149 structures, with the average cost rising to $455,000 per station.

$2.5 million has also been allocated each year in cleaning expenses – around $12,000 per pod per year, and the toilets aren’t even open for the public!

And graffiti removal

Turns out putting a symbol of ‘The Man’ at every railway station attracts vandals – according to The Age around 20 of them are graffitied every month.

On the nickname

I’m a fan of the ‘Baillieu Box’ nickname – it commemorates Ted Baillieu, the former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu who decided that putting two ‘almost’ police officers on every railway station after 6 PM would win votes for the Liberal Party.

‘Moving Victoria’ and changing billboards

Back at the end of 2013 I found this billboard beside the Deer Park Bypass at Caroline Springs, featuring yet another advertisement for the Liberal Government’s ‘Moving Victoria’ program.

'Moving Victoria' billboard promoting Regional Rail Link beside the Deer Park bypass at Caroline Springs

Fast forward six months, and look at how the government’s priorities appear to have changed – the advertisement for Regional Rail Link has been replaced by one for the East West Link .

'Moving Victoria' billboard promoting the East West Link beside the Deer Park bypass at Caroline Springs

Government propaganda – it never stands still.