Those new travel time signs around Melbourne

One things I’ve noticed in the past year or so around Melbourne is a plague of variable message sign trailers parked beside main roads. Each one offers travel times to a single random suburban destination, via two different routes. So what gives?

Travel time sign on Anderson Road, Sunshine - 17 minutes to Taylors Lakes via Sunshine Avenue

The example I found was on Anderson Road in Sunshine, and offered travel times to Taylors Lakes.

Travel time sign on Anderson Road, Sunshine - 18 minutes to Taylors Lakes via Station Road

Via two routes – McIntyre Road and Sunshine Avenue through Keilor, or Forrest Street and Station Road through Deer Park.

Someone mentioned they first started seeing them between Melbourne’s first two lockdowns, and then I remembered the ‘Keeping Victorians Moving’ package that the Victorian Government blew $340 million on back in June 2020.

Keeping Victorians Moving During Coronavirus
30 June 2020

The Andrews Labor Government is making it easier for people and goods to get around Melbourne with better technology, more specialist staff and stronger enforcement of clearways in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll today unveiled a $340 million package of measures to make it easier for people and freight to get around on our roads.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the way Melburnians move around the city with more people now expected to use cars to get around.

The number of people making trips on Melbourne’s roads each day is increasing, with road traffic now only 17 per cent below normal levels, while passenger numbers on public transport are 71 per cent less than the same time last year.

To keep Melburnians moving during this time, we’re ramping up direct traffic interventions by tasking more response crews and traffic engineers with tackling congestion hotspots, incidents and blockages on the network.

Three key traffic hotspots in the western, eastern and south eastern suburbs of Melbourne will also be blanketed with the technology and resources to help keep traffic moving, reduce delays and provide drivers with better traffic information.

Almost 700 CCTV cameras will be installed to identify bottlenecks as soon as they start and more than 200 wireless travel time sensors and 40 new visual message boards will put live traffic data in the hands of our traffic management centre and drivers.

Six extra incident response crews and dozens more specialist traffic engineers will be hired to keep our roads moving around the clock – creating jobs and reducing delays from unexpected events.

The timing of hundreds of traffic lights – along with traffic patterns and crash data – will be analysed and re-sequenced to maximise traffic flow along some of the busiest routes in the targeted areas.

So that’s one of the 40 visual message boards installed around Melbourne – at a cost that had increased to $388 million when it was included in the 2020-21 Victorian Budget.

The Department of Transport started the objective of the initiative was:

To maximise arterial road performance and minimise unnecessary delays for all road users with more dedicated onroad capability and technology.

And detailed their progress as of May 2021.

Key activities include:

• Roll out of 691 CCTV cameras, 210 Bluetooth travel time detectors, 42 live travel time signs and 75 dynamic pedestrian detectors and perform signal route reviews on 759 sites and provide greater visibility of the road network
• Procurement of a situational awareness system, implement an improved data fusion model and deploy 7 fixed and 4 mobile Air Quality emissions stations across metropolitan Melbourne.
• Recruitment of 154 roles, including congestion managers and surveillance staff.
• Procurement of additional new vehicles for the onroads teams.

Progress achieved against key Government outcomes:

• Asset deployment team has delivered 520 CCTV cameras, 193 Bluetooth detectors, 26 permanent variable messaging system (VMS), 27 dynamic pedestrian detectors and 2 vehicle detectors.
• The draft data fusion model is in operation, Trial Air Quality emissions station has been deployed and a contract for four mobile Air Quality stations has been awarded.
• Six Incident Response vans have arrived and are undergoing fit-out.

And the breakdown of funding per budget year:

2020-21
$108.7 million

2021-22
$45.7 million

2022-23
$28.9 million

2023-24
$28.9 million

That only adds up to $212.2 million, so what about the other $176 million – perhaps another six years of operating costs, at $28.9 million per year.

Another OCR adventure with Google Image Search

A few years ago I discovered that Google Image Search applies OCR to indexed images, enabling it to return results for text that have never appeared online. Well, now I’ve found another example.

Some detective work

The story started two months ago, when Victorian residents were allowed to go further than 5 kilometres from home and dine at restaurants – I headed down to the Bellarine Peninsula to see The Q Train, where South African Railways class 24 steam engine 3620 was ready to haul the lunch session out of Queenscliff station.

South African Railways class 24 steam engine 3620 ready to lead The Q Train out of Queenscliff

While around the corner, I found this open air carriage parked in the sidings – the only identifier on the side being ‘OXK 34689’.

Observation carriage OXK 34689 for 'The Q Train' at Queenscliff

That wasn’t a wagon code I’ve heard of before, so I put it into a Google search – and got no web pages of note.

But the image search results turned up something interesting – a photo of the same carriage that I had photographed.

I clicked through the link, and ended up on the Facebook page for The Q Train.

And if you take a closer look at the photo – Google had indexed the ‘OXK 34689’ code on the side of the carriage.

But what about the carriage?

I ended up getting an answer the old fashioned way – asking a bunch of rolling stock nerds on Facebook whether they knew the back story of the carriage. The first lead:

It came from Cairns along with the South African steam locomotive.

That service ran for four months in 2004 between Cairns to Kuranda in Queensland.

Before lower than expected patronage numbers saw the service withdrawn. The rolling stock laying idle until 2020 when it found a new home at Queenscliff.

As for the identity of the wagon, I got a second lead.

Queensland Rail steel H class (HJS/HWA) open wagon is my guess.

That led me to a webpage on the ‘HSA / HWA Wagons’, created by someone modelling the Queensland Railways in H0n3½ scale.

Between 1965 and 1981, 550 general traffic open goods/freight wagons entered service on the QR Network. The wagons were much the same size as the previous HJS wagons that entered service in the early 1950’s.

And they broke down the wagon numbers.

Contract # 1. HSA Class # 33119 – 33268, built by Scott’s of Ipswich in 1965.

Contract # 2. HSAT Class # 34667 – 34799, built by Scott’s of Ipswich in 1971

Contract # 3. HWA Class # 35820 – 35969, built by Scott’s of Ipswich in 1972.

OXK 34689 happens to fall into the HSAT 34667 – 34799 number group, and the underframe looks much the same as the observation carriage at Queenscliff.

HSAT 34753 Rockhampton 5/1987
Norm Bray photo

So my mystery carriage OXK 34689 was once Queensland Rail open wagon HSAT 34689, built in 1972, acquired by Cairns Kuranda Steam in the early 2000s and converted into an observation carriage, placed into storage in 2004, and finally transported to Victoria in 2020.

And a plug for The Q Train

I went on The Q Train a few years ago, and it’s well worth the trip!

Dining car at one of end The Q Train

Even if you don’t hit the dance floor in the ‘Club Loco’ carriage.

'Club Loco' onboard The Q Train

Once lockdown is over, go treat yourself!

Photos from ten years ago: August 2011

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is August 2011.

Trains

This month ten years ago I went for a trip around the Melbourne suburbs in a restored Diesel Electric Rail Motor operated by DERMPAV

Driver of RM58 changing ends at Ringwood station, ready to head for Lilydale after a run to Belgrave

We headed out to Upfield, Alamein and Belgrave, with a lunch stop at the VRI bar on the platform at Lilydale station.

Inside the VRI rooms at Lilydale

Lilydale station is currently being rebuilt as part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, but the heritage station building is being retained.

In August 2011 electrification of the railway between Watergardens and Sunbury had started.

Stanchions in place between Calder Park Driver and Sydenham, but no wires strung

Along with the upgrade of Diggers Rest station.

Work on the massive platform verandas at the down end of Diggers Rest

Allowing the first electric train to Sunbury running in November 2012.

The South Morang Rail Extension Project was also underway, extending the railway 3.5 kilometres from Epping to South Morang.

Looking down the line from Pindari Avenue towards South Morang

Along with duplicating 5 kilometres of existing single track railway between Keon Park and Epping.

New pedestrian crossing at the down end of Lalor station, new track waiting to be tied in

Opened in April 2021.

Planes

I paid a visit to the viewing area at Melbourne Airport, and Qantas was still flying 747s.

Qantas 747-438ER VH-OEF

Virgin Australia was still called Virgin Blue, with red painted planes.

Virgin Blue 737-800 VH-VOT

Except for the one 737 that was actually painted blue.

Virgin Blue's 50th jet painted in a one-off blue livery: 737-700 VH-VBY

Virgin Blue is now Virgin Australia, with the Coronavirus pandemic seeing them go into voluntary administration, while Qantas retired their 747 fleet.

And on the water

I also headed down the bay to see the Queenscliff-Sorrento ferry.

The car ferry passes fishermen packing up

I’d found out that the older ferry Peninsula Princess had been brought back into service.

'Peninsula Princess' departs Queenscliff

So I wanted to go for a ride.

'Peninsula Princess' arrives at Sorrento

Along the way I found the Port Phillip Sea Pilots headed out the heads.

Port Phillip Sea Pilots heads out from Queenscliff to guide another ship through The Rip

And a cargo ship following them out.

Cargo ship departs Port Phillip via The Rip

New roads

Big money was being spent on extending the Geelong Ring Road west from Waurn Ponds.

Almost ready to drive on: Geelong Ring Road stage 4A crosses the Waurn Ponds Creek

The new freeway passing the cement works.

Work on the new Anglesea Road interchange at Waurn Ponds

To meet the two lane Princes Highway towards Winchelsea.

Preparation underway for the duplication of the Princes Highway between Waurn Ponds and Winchelsea

Opening to motorists in February 2013.

The flood prone Breakwater Bridge over the Barwon River was also being replaced.

Southbound road traffic passes under the bridge

A new high level bridge being built over both the river and the railway at a cost of $63 million.

Piers well underway on the section of bridge between the Barwon River and the railway

Requiring the demolition of nine houses.

Cleared houses at the intersection of Breakwater Road and Fellmongers Road

The new bridge opening to traffic in May 2012.

And scenes that are gone

Down at Frankston I found the abandoned Peninsula Centre.

Boarded up entrance to the Peninsula Centre

It’s since been redeveloped into an apartment complex.

And the Ambassador Hotel – home of Melbourne’s cheapest apartment.

Frankston's Ambassador Hotel for sale

It was eventually demolished.

Over in Hawthorn I found the Motel California

Hawthorn's Motel California in 2011

Since demolished, and about to become apartments.

The Ford casting plant down at Geelong

Main gate to the Ford Casting Plant in Geelong

Demolished following the end of local production by Ford Australia.

And this dirt track off Barwon Heads Road at Connewarre, south of Geelong.

Looking south from the corner of Charlemont Road and Barwon Heads Road

Now part of the massive Warralily Estate at Armstrong Creek.

Entrance to Warralily Estate at the corner of Charlemont Road and Barwon Heads Road

Footnote

Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

Then, now and in between the Toorak Road level crossing

Then, now and in between – let’s take a look at the Toorak Road level crossing on the Glen Waverley line near Kooyong.

In the early years the level crossing was protected by a set of hand gates, opened and closed by a staff member for every passing train, and spending their downtime in the small cabin beside the tracks.


Mark Strizic photo, SLV H2008.11/960

In 1956 they were replaced by Victoria’s first set of boom barriers, operated automatically by the passage of trains.


PROV photo VPRS 12800/P5 unit 27, item S0299

In 1970 the South Eastern Freeway was extended east to Toorak Road in Kooyong, where it ended at a set of traffic lights. The “missing link” between the South Eastern Freeway and the Mulgrave Freeway was eventually opened as the “South Eastern Arterial Road Link” in 1988, but in a nod to freeway objectors, was built with traffic lights at intersections instead of flyovers.

The traffic lights with the Southern Eastern Freeway at Toorak Road was replaced by a full interchange in 1996, with further freeway upgrades completed in 2000 when the CityLink project widened the road to three lanes in each direction between Toorak Road and the city, and in 2010 widened again to four lanes in each direction.

As for the level crossing, it took until February 2019 for the grade separation of Toorak Road to be announced as part of the Level Crossing Removal Project. Contracts were awarded in June 2019.

X'Trapolis 175M crosses Toorak Road on an up Glen Waverley service

Major works started in September 2019, with a new rail over road bridge built on the west side of the existing tracks at ground level.

X'Trapolis 909M crosses Toorak Road on an up Glen Waverley service

With trains using the new bridge from April 2020, following a nine day shutdown.

Completed bridge over Toorak Road
Completed bridge over Toorak Road

Footnote: hand gates elsewhere

Hand gates at Melbourne level crossings survived a surprisingly long time – the Upfield line was full of them until an upgrade of the line in 1997.

This left the heritage listed gates at New Street on the Sandringham line in Brighton hung on even longer.

Approaching the New Street hand gates on the up

They were “temporarily” closed in 2007, closed for good in 2010, until eventually replaced by boom barriers in 2013.

Other level crossing protection

The first automated level crossing warning system on Victoria’s railways was a ‘wig wag’ signal installed at Amess Street, North Carlton in 1923, with further 31 subsequently installed around the state.

They were followed by the first set of flashing light signals installed at the Warrigal Road level crossing in Mentone in 1932.

And those big tanks

Those big round tanks behind the level crossing – they’re called gasometers and were once used to store gas, until they were made made redundant by the rollout of natural gas – but that’s a story for another time.

Where the hell is Truganina?

Truganina has been in the news a lot lately thanks to a series of coronavirus outbreaks, but there is something else notable about the suburb – it’s arguably the largest and most confusing suburb in all of Melbourne.

Brand new housing estates in the western Melbourne suburb of Truganina

The confusion starts

In June 2021 a BP service station on the Western Freeway was reported as an exposure site.

But when you put the address into Google Maps, it shows that the service station is nowhere near Truganina – it’s north of the next suburb over, Ravenhall.

Yet Google Maps also lists the service station’s address as being in Truganina.

So what gives?

So where is Truganina?

To get a definitive answer on the suburb’s boundaries, I turned to the Victorian Register of Geographic Names. Turns out Truganina is a massive suburb, covering 56 square kilometres.

Stretching 15 kilometres from the Western Freeway, Rockbank station and the Ballarat railway line in the north.

Down to Hoppers Crossing and Williams Landing in the south – almost reaching the Princes Freeway and Werribee railway line.

So time to explore!

The southern end of Truganina is cookie cutter housing estates just like any other growth area of Melbourne.

Brand new housing estates in the western Melbourne suburb of Truganina

The selling point being the (relatively!) low prices for land.

'Truganina land for sale' advertisement at Aircraft station

And V/Line trains to Southern Cross Station, which use the Regional Rail Link route opened in 2015.

VLocity VL46 departs Tarneit on the up

Westbourne Grammar School also has a campus here, opened back in 1977 when the area was just paddocks.

Aerial view of Westboourne Grammar School in Truganina

But residential development continues creeping north over what was once grazing land.

Looking across the grasslands of Truganina towards the spreading housing estates of Tarneit

Then we meet fields of tilt slab concrete warehouses, home to over 1,500 registered business, both large and small.

Crane at work erecting a tilt slab concrete warehouse in the industrial estates of Truganina

Then we reach the centre of ‘old’ Truganina – the local cemetery.

Truganina Cemetery on Woods Road

Located next door to a pony club.

Entrance to the Truganina Pony Club

Unlike Tarneit the only high ground is a handful of road-over-rail bridges, which provide a view of the Melbourne CBD, located 20 kilometres away to the east.

Looking back on the Melbourne CBD from the Boundary Road rail bridge in Truganina

But it is massive warehouses that dominate the skyline of Truganina.

Massive warehouses in the middle of empty fields in Truganina

Towering over the railway lines.

G522 leads the down Warrnambool freight through Truganina

The biggest being a pair of 43 metre tall automated cold storage facilities, capable of holding 225,000 pallets of frozen goods.

Massive Newcold cold stores at Truganina

But hidden between them is something much smaller – the Truganina Munitions Reserve, established during the Second World War to store explosives in what was then an isolated area, but now abandoned and vandalised.

Gatehouse at the abandoned Truganina Munitions Reserve on Palmers Road

We now head out into the countryside.

VLocity VL26 trails VL58 on the down at Truganina

A few farm houses still remain.

Abandoned house on Boundary Road in Truganina

The roads now full of traffic, used by motorists taking a shortcut from the Western Freeway.

Looking down Boundary Road in Truganina

We skirt the massive rubbish tip located at Boral’s quarry in Ravenhall.

More truckloads of rubbish being added to the Melbourne Regional Landfill at Ravenhall

And find high voltage power lines bound for Geelong.

Single and double circuit 220 kV Geelong - Keilor transmission line beside Derrimut Road

And some even bigger power lines bound for the Portland aluminium smelter.

Sunshine Tours coach 8448AO on Hopkins Road, Truganina

Until we eventually reach the Ballarat railway line.

VLocity VL05 heads for Melbourne at Rockbank

Here we find Truganina’s second front of urban development.

Brand new blocks of land on Yucamane Drive at the Grandview Estate in Truganina

Moving south-east from Rockbank station.

Remnant paddocks still remain beside Caulonia Drive at Olivia Estate in Truganina

With new houses taking shape.

New housing taking shape on Petrolo Street at the Olivia Estate in Truganina

On roads stained by red dirt.

New blocks of land taking shape along Panaia Boulevard on the Olivia Estate in Truganina

Filling the paddocks between Mount Atkinson and Mount Cottrell.

Brand new blocks of land on Westdahl Street at the Grandview Estate in Truganina

Fifteen kilometres from where we started – no wonder nobody knows where Truganina is!

Footnote – border changes

Truganina falls between the City of Wyndham and City of Melton, but the name has a long history – the local post office opened on 12 June 1878, closed in 1895, reopened in 1902 and closed again in 1942.

In 1992 southern boundaries were formalised by the then-City of Werribee, with public consultation showing concern that the historic value of the Truganina, Tarneit and Mount Cottrell names may be lost if they were absorbed into neighbouring localities.


Victorian Government Gazette 1 July 1992

The boundaries for the southern half of Truganina again gazetted in 1998, and are still in place today.


City of Wyndham locality names and boundaries – Version 5.7 August 2021

However the northern boundaries in the City of Melton have seen some change, since Ravenhall and Truganina gazetted as suburbs in 2006.


Shire of Melton locality names and boundaries – Version 4.4a August 2006

The boundary being moved north in 2017, when the City of Melton created eleven new suburbs to cater for urban growth in formerly rural areas.


City of Melton locality names and boundaries – Version 4.6 February 2017

The changes were minor – but made Truganina even bigger!

The northern boundary will extend along the Western Freeway eastbound from Clarke Road to Troups Road North. The western boundary will align with Troups Road North southbound from the Western Freeway to Greigs Road. The boundary continues westbound along Greigs Road to Troups Road South, extending southbound along Troups Road South to Boundary Road.

The southern and eastern boundaries remain unchanged.

The area now being developed was added to Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary in 2010 following the passing of Amendment VC68.


Delivering Melbourne’s newest sustainable communities

So the failure to split out the northern half of Truganina in 2017 as a new suburb seems quite odd – it’s not like the new housing estates were a sudden change.