Photos from ten years ago: September 2008

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is September 2008.

It seems that every month sees me start in Geelong, where this time around I photographed a boring blue bus at Geelong station.

McHarry's bus #55 rego 1555AO in GTS livery picks up route 45 passengers at Geelong station

The ‘GTS’ stood for Geelong Transit System and was the operating brand for public transport in Geelong between 1983 until 2000, when it was replaced by a mishmash of bus operator branding. Today no sign of it remains, Myki being the ticketing system, and the Public Transport Victoria livery has been applied to buses.

I also took at look at progress on the Geelong Ring Road through the Barrabool Hills.

Wandana Drive looking north

Barrabool Road had been slewed to one side, allowing construction of the bridge over the future freeway to be carried out without interference with traffic.

Barrabool Road looking east

Excavation work on the long cutting towards Waurn Ponds was well underway.

Barrabool Road looking south

As was the massive climb uphill from the Barwon River.

Barrabool Road looking north

Another ongoing theme is the decline of rail freight – I found a rake of redundant superphosphate hopper wagons in storage at North Geelong Yard.

VHFF superphosphate hoppers in storage at North Geelong Yard

As well as a rake of much older cement hoppers.

Old VHCA cement hoppers at North Geelong Yard - transferred from Tottenham this morning, probably to be scrapped

Both were destined for the scrap yard – the superphosphate traffic was completely lost to rail in the early 2000s, but cement traffic was still barley holding on but in smaller volumes, hence the retirement of older wagons.

But there was one new traffic that rail won – the transport of containerised mineral sands from the Iluka Resources processing plant outside Portland to the Port of Melbourne for export.

Outside Corio, El Zorro T386 leads the first containerised mineral sands train to Portland

The service was run by small operator El Zorro, with the transport of the mineral sands between mine and processing plant also moving to rail in 2011.

And another success was the transport of Geelong football fans to Melbourne, where they would see the Cats get thrashed by Hawthorn in the 2008 AFL Grand Final.

Geelong cats fans waiting for the footy special at South Geelong

A number of special 8 car trains ran between Geelong and Richmond during the finals seasons, with one of the trains on grand final day wearing a special ‘Geelong Cats’ headboard on the lead locomotive.

P11 with a special headboard on the up with an 8 car all-refurbished push pull outside Lara

Up in Melbourne I took a walk through Flinders Street Station, where Connex had opened a new customer information booth on the main concourse.

New customer information booth at Flinders Street Station

The booth still exists today, just rebranded for Metro Trains Melbourne.

I also photographed the ‘split flap’ Solari boards hidden on the main concourse, which once listed train departures for each line.

Covered over Solari boards on the main concourse at Flinders Street Station

Installed in the 1990s, the screens were decommissioned in 2007 but remained in place for a few years, hidden by advertising.

Over at Southern Cross Station I followed a speedy piece of construction – a new loading ramp at the north end of platform 1.

Work on the motorail dock

Built to enable the provision of motorail services on The Overland between Melbourne and Adelaide, two weeks later it was virtually complete.

Motorail dock completed

The first cars were loaded onto The Overland in February 2009, but today the ramp stands unused – the motorail service was withdrawn in November 2015.

Finally, we end this month with a trip to Ballarat.

In the small township of Millbrook I came across a level crossing on Old Melbourne Road, protected by bells and lights but no boom barriers.

Old Melbourne Road level crossing

VicTrack funded a upgrade of this level crossing during the 2012/13 financial year, but the railway line is due to be closed in a year or two time, made redundant by the Ballarat Line Upgrade.

On the shores of Lake Wendouree is the Ballarat Tramway Museum, where I photographed tram 33 departing the St Aidans Drive terminus.

Tram 33 departs the St Aidans Drive terminus

While a short distance away I paid a visit to the future Wendouree station site.

Track slewed from platform

The railway past the station was still being used by trains to Ararat, so the tracks were slewed away from the platform, allowing construction to be completed without delaying V/Line services.

I also had a look at the Alstom workshops at North Ballarat, where the sidings were full of abandoned trains.

Stored Comeng cars 1109T and 533M at Alstom Ballarat

I found Comeng carriages 1109T and 533M showing plenty of accident damage; as well as classmate 671M stored in a stripped condition, minus windows, doors, cab front and who knows what else.

Comeng 671M stored at Alstom Ballarat

Comeng carriage 671M was eventually made part of a new MFB training facility at Craigieburn in 2014, while 1109T and 533M were scrapped in 2010.

I also found Hitachi carriages 204M and 203M.

Hitachi cars 204M and 203M stored at Alstom Ballarat

Both scrapped in 2010.

But there was also signs of new life – Hitachi carriage 225M was under refurbishment.

Hitachi 225M under refurbishment at Alstom Ballarat

It reentered service soon after, remaining in service until 2014.

Along with a number of Great Southern Rail carriages being upgraded for use on the Indian Pacific and The Ghan services.

Indian Pacific carriages under overhaul at Alstom Ballarat

They also saw use on the ultra expensive Southern Spirit service that operated between 2010 and 2012.

But we end some something I just stumbled upon – the abandoned Joe White Maltings factory at Wendouree.

Overview of the silos from the north-west side

The factory itself had already been demolished, with the silos meeting the same fate in 2010. Houses now occupy the site.

Footnote

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

Melbourne Airport rail and the diversification of SkyBus

If you want to see how likely it is that Melbourne Airport will see a rail link built, just take a look at the recent business decisions made by SkyBus – the operator of the only public transport link between it and the Melbourne CBD.

SkyBus double decker #106 BS01WY outside Melbourne Airport Terminal 4

The history of Melbourne’s SkyBus

SkyBus commenced operations in 1978, running a shuttle service between Tullamarine Airport and Franklin Street on the northern edge of the Melbourne CBD. In 1982 it took over the airport bus services run by the now-defunct airlines Ansett and TAA, with the service taking the current form in 2000 when the city terminus was moved to Spencer Street Station, with services operating express to the airport. 2002 then saw the state government contributing $3 million in funding to upgrade the service in place of the construction of an airport rail link.

SkyBus articulated bus 7487AO picking up passengers at Southern Cross

Articulated buses were introduced to the service in 2002.

SkyBus articulated bus 0237AO outside the Virgin Australia terminal at Melbourne Airport

With the first Bustech “CDi” double deck buses entering service in 2015.

SkyBus double decker #102 BS01LT at Southern Cross Station

Travel times were once advertised as 20 minutes from airport to the city, but increasing congestion saw the claim gain a “times may vary due to traffic conditions” disclaimer, then dropped altogether in 2016.

The monopoly nature of the SkyBus service saw private equity firms take in interest in the company, with two foreign firms taking a majority stake in the company in 2014, in a deal valuing SkyBus’s parent company at $50 million to $100 million.

And diversification

It appears that the new management realised that their gravy train of monopoly profits on the Melbourne Airport – City route wouldn’t last forever, as they soon started acquiring other airport bus operators across Melbourne, Australia, and even New Zealand.

October 2015

SkyBus purchased the Airbus Express service in Auckland, New Zealand.

January 2016

SkyBus purchased the Frankston and Peninsula Airport Shuttle (FAPAS) business, rebranding it as SkyBus (sidenote: who the hell thought that FAPAS was a good name to call their business?)

SkyBus coach BS00AU with trailer at St Kilda

August 2016

SkyBus launched a new direct bus service from Melbourne Airport to St Kilda, speeding up the journey for longer distance travellers from Frankston. (announced in April 2016)

SkyBus billboard following their takeover of the Frankston & Peninsula Airport Shuttle (FAPAS) service

February 2017

SkyBus took over operation of the Avalon Airport – Southern Cross Station route from Sita Group. (announced in December 2016)

July 2017

SkyBus took over operation of the Avalon Airport – Geelong route from Murrell Group.

Avalon Airport Shuttle minivan #B1 ZDI887 and SkyBus coach #53 BS01JF at Avalon Airport

November 2017

Skybus launched a new direct airport express for Southbank and Docklands.

December 2017

SkyBus purchased the Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle (GCTS) service in Queensland, rebranding it as SkyBus.

July 2018

Skybus launched two new airport bus services: Melbourne Airport to Tarneit and Werribee; and Melbourne Airport to the Mornington Peninsula via Rosebud, Mordialloc and Mentone.

July 2018

SkyBus purchased the Hobart Airporter service in Tasmania, rebranding it as SkyBus.

Seeing the writing on the wall

In 2016 SkyBus director, Michael Sewards, gave a hopefully response to airport rail proposals:

The reality is, just because you build an airport rail, it doesn’t mean people want to use it.

Yes, let’s plan for the next 15 or 30 years, but let’s also be somewhat sensible in this conversation by recognising we’ve had a service for over 38 years, which over 50 million passengers have used. We think we can co-exist with rail and provide a very competitive offering.

If we ever have an airport rail, it has to deliver all those value points for customer experience. Melbourne Airport warrants and deserves many modes supplying the highest level of customer experience, and we think SkyBus will be one of those.

But by 2018 they were more worried, questioning the government for choosing to subsidise a competing rail link.

“SkyBus welcomes any compelling mass transit rail option that can compete with our services, but surely there are important questions about at what cost the Victorian taxpayer will be asked to contribute both the build of this and the ongoing operations, let alone the fare price a $10-15 billion investment requires for a return to its investors,” added Mr Sewards.

But experience at overseas airports shows that SkyBus will survive – many passengers will still choose an airport bus over an airport train, with one example being Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong experience

Hong Kong Airport is served by an airport rail link that overseas visitors love to rave about.

Airport Express arrival platform for Terminal 2

But it is the network of direct bus services that have captured the market.

In general, public transport modes dominate HKIA ground access market. Franchised buses have a large proportion (47 percent) with the Airport Express rail line (AEL) having 23 percent. The primary reason attracting air passengers to use the franchised buses is the lower travel cost. ‘Shortest time required’ is the main reason for those who used AEL.

Research there showed that directness of service was the reason for mode choice:

In order to understand the motivation for mode choice – and to explore the attribute of directness of service — MTR managers undertook some market research. Of those riders on the direct bus routes, an expected 55 percent said that the lower fare was a reason for choosing the bus; importantly, 51 percent stated that directness of service (i.e., no need to transfer) was a reason for their choice of mode. Directness of service was considered a factor by only 18 percent of rail riders, presumably those with destinations convenient to the terminals.

And that even throwing money at a gold plated rail service will do little to attract additional passengers.

It is apparent that even with a good design and well-integrated railway service, the Airport Express does not have inherent advantages over more direct single mode bus travel. In other words, the speed advantage of rail versus single mode road competitors when travelling over distances of only up to 34 km [21 mi] do not result in significant enough time savings to compensate for the necessary transfer.

Which also provides lessons for the State Government on how to deliver a Melbourne Airport rail link.

So what will Melbourne Airport rail do to SkyBus?

2018 saw the the signing of a new 10 year contract between SkyBus and the State Government, so it doesn’t look like SkyBus is intending to go anywhere.

I suspect that the Hong Kong experience will also play out in Melbourne – patronage on SkyBus’ primary Melbourne Airport to CBD route will plummet, with passengers switching to rail based on cost if it is a extension of existing suburban services, or quality if it is built as an express airport link.

As for the other SkyBus routes recently launched to other parts of Melbourne, patronage will stay much the same, with the one seat journey being preferred over a change trains in the city. However the real competition will be driving directly from home to the airport, over a freeway network that the State Government continues to expand.

Six lanes northbound from Flemington Road

Footnote

There is more than one way to get to Melbourne Airport, as Daniel Bowen describes in his post The cheap way to Melbourne Airport.

There are also a other privately operated bus services that run from Melbourne Airport towards Dandenong and Ringwood, as well further afield to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland and Shepparton.

More photos

Until the early-2000s SkyBus used full sized coaches for the trip out to the airport – ‘The Tulla Flyer’ has posted a selection of photos from this period on the Australian Transport Discussion Board.

Photos of the former SkyBus terminal at Spencer Street Station can be found at the ‘Showbus Australia’ website.

Protective Services Officer propaganda in the leadup to the 2018 state election

The leadup to the 2018 state election has started, with law and order looking to be one of the main fronts that the Liberal opposition will use attack the Andrew’s Labor Government. Their solution – covering every railway station in Melbourne with advertising for Protective Services Officers.

'Safety you can see' billboard and advertisements at Footscray station

‘See you at 6pm’ and ‘Safety you can see’ are the taglines of the campaign, with advertising space purchased on the JCDecaux digital screens found at railway stations.

'See you at 6pm' and 'Safety you can see' advertisements promoting Protective Services Officers at Melbourne Central station

In JCDecaux poster cases.

'See you at 6pm' billboard at North Melbourne station

And the side of trains.

'Safety you can see' advertisement on the side of a Siemens train

Stickers have been added as you walk into railway stations.

'See you at 6pm' sticker on the concourse floor at Sunshine station

The poster cases usually used to host PTV promotions have been taken over.

'See you at 6pm' poster promoting Protective Services Officers at a railway station

And the previously anonymous PSO pods now feature a marketing spiel.

Signage spruiking Protective Services Officers on the PSO pod at Werribee station

But Footscray station is ground zero for the campaign.

'Safety you can see' billboard and advertisements at Footscray station

Stickers cover the stairs leading up to the footbridge.

'See you at 6pm' stickers on the stairs at Footscray station

‘Safety you can see’ billboards beside walkways.

'Safety you can see' billboard at Footscray station

The ‘See you at 6pm’ message looming over the main walkway.

'See you at 6pm' billboard at Footscray station

‘Safety you can see’ stickers in front of the ticket gates.

'Safety you can see' stickers at Footscray station

And yellow and blue police tape applied to CCTV cameras.

Yellow and blue PSO stripes applied to the CCTV cameras at Footscray station

Not just one, but all over the station.

Yellow and blue PSO stripes applied to the CCTV cameras at Footscray station

Along with more police tape down the station walls.

'CCTV cameras operate 24 hours a day' sticker on the concourse floor at Footscray station

And a big ‘CCTV cameras operate 24 hours a day’ sticker on the concourse floor.

'CCTV cameras operate 24 hours a day' sticker on the concourse floor at Footscray station

It’s going to be a long election campaign.

Footnote

September 2 saw the announcement that PSOs would now start patrolling trains, expanding their area of operation from their previous posting at railway stations. Coincidence, or something more?

Photos from ten years ago: August 2008

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is August 2008, and it’s so big I’ve split it into three parts.

Chasing trains

I drove out to Moorabool, west of Geelong to photograph a freight train. As soon as I stepped out of the car and locked the door I realised I’d left my keys inside – but thankfully I still had my camera, so I didn’t miss the shot.

NR1 leads AN11 on a westbound steel train at Moorabool

A blast from the past was this train operated by 707 Operations bound for Geelong.

R707 with T413 on the down at Little River

Steam locomotive R707 and diesel T413 hauled the train to Marshall and back, with a spin on the turntable at Geelong putting the steam engine facing the right way before the return leg to Melbourne.

N461 looks on as R707 gets turned at Geelong Loco

Another unusual train headed through Geelong was a Hitachi suburban set usually used in Melbourne, being hauled by Seymour Rail Heritage Centre’s freshly restored diesel locomotive T378 for refurbishment work at the Ballarat Workshops.

Departing Bannockburn

This Hitachi train was back in service by August 2009 but was put into storage a few years later, eventually being retired in 2015, and transferred to Bendigo for scrapping in May 2018.

Back in 2008 small rail freight operator El Zorro was running the container train to Warrnambool. If they left the Port of Melbourne too late they would lose their ‘slot’ on the single track beyond Geelong, and would get dumped in the siding at Lara station until a path was available.

All Steamrail locos with T395 leads S313 on the down El Zorro Warrnambool train in the loop at Lara

I was commuting from Geelong to Melbourne multiple days a week, so I’d keep my eye out at Lara for it – jumping off the train for a photo, then catching the next service on to Melbourne.

T395 and S313 in the loop at Lara as the up Warrnambool pass arrives

At Flinders Street Station one morning I stumbled upon this odd looking train.

EM100 changing ends at Flinders Street

It is track evaluation vehicle ‘EM100’ and traverses the network on a regular basis, with an array of sensors looking for track faults. It is still in service today, just renumbered ‘IEV100’ and with a snazzy looking Metro Trains Melbourne livery on it.

But somewhere way off my usual beat was the Montague Street bridge in South Melbourne.

Bridges that once carried the two tracks into the Montague Goods Sheds

Unlike today the bridge was quite anonymous, the feature catching my eye being that only two of the four bridges had tracks across them. Originally built to serve the Montague shipping shed, by late 2009 the tram tracks at Southbank Depot had been extended west over the bridge to stable the newly arrived ‘Bumblebee’ trams.

Railway upgrades

Work was continuing on the new concourse at North Melbourne station, as seen in previous posts in this series.

Cranes at work

While another structure being built over active railway lines was the ‘Media House’ development for The Age, located on the southern side of Collins Street, opposite Southern Cross Station.

Removing the tower crane now the rail decking is done

A massive crane was required to place the steel beams and concrete deck over the railway line.

Work continues on the eastern side

Which permitted more conventional methods of construction to be used for the office building on top.

A short distance away the Dynon Port Rail Link was also well underway, removing a bottleneck that blocked road traffic every time a train entered the Port of Melbourne.

Work on the Dynon Port Rail Link, looking east from the in-use Appleton Dock Road ramp

The network of flyovers replaced a single track level crossing on Footscray Road, allowing more trains to access the port.

Dynon Port Rail Link works from Enterprize Road, old Swanson Dock line in foreground, new Appleton Dock lines behind, then the new Enterprize Road ramp

As well as eliminating a seven track wide crossing inside the port itself.

Appleton Dock sidings from CityLink, the Enterprize Road level crossing cutting across them all

Another project aimed at improving rail freight was the Corio Independent Goods Line at the Port of Geelong.

New SG tracks

Work started in 2008 with the first train running in October the same year, but in the decade since is better described as a white elephant, with no new rail traffic being attracted to the port.

And the other bits

Down in Geelong work on the Geelong Ring Road was progressing, with the Lewis Bandt Bridge over the Moorabool River pretty much complete.

Sun hits the Lewis Bandt Bridge

While a short distance south work on the bridge over the Barwon River had started.

So that's where the Barwon River windmill is!

Another road project underway was the Monash-CityLink-West Gate Upgrade. No – not the current ‘upgrade’ adding a new lane to the M1 freeway, but the project a decade ago that added a new to the M1 freeway.

For Engineering Week I ended up atop the freeway viaduct through South Melbourne.

Inspecting the West Gate Freeway viaduct at Kings Way

Seeing how the new bridge spans were being tied into the existing viaduct.

Formwork underway for the new concrete tie-in

Allowing an extra road lane to be squeezed in.

Part of the widening of the West Gate Freeway viaduct

Over in Docklands things looked quite different, with Southern Cross Station still clearly visible from the top level of what was then called Telstra Dome.

Southern Cross from Telstra Dome

But plenty of construction was taking place, with heritage listed No. 2 Goods Shed being converted into offices.

Northern end of No. 2 goods shed, being converted into offices

Chopped in half in the early 2000s to make way for the extension of Collins Street into the new Docklands development, work was underway to plug up the gaps at either end, then restore the remaining structure.

No. 2 shed looking north from the Collins Street overpass, being converted into offices

But the best view of all was from up inside the roof of what was then called Telstra Dome.

Looking back towards the city from beneath the western section of the movable roof

My tour went for a walk through the roof trusses.

Looking down on the seats from the southern section of the overhead catwalk

Looking down on the grow lights on the playing surface.

Looking down on the seats from the overhead catwalk

And the rows of seats down below.

Looking down on the seats from the overhead catwalk

Footnote

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

Walking down a Melbourne street

Just bought a new chair, and need to get it back to the office?

Rolling an office chair down the street

Or has your office chair ever wanted to go for a walk down the street?

Don't you wheel your office chair down the street?

If not, is your fridge itching to see the outside world?

Wandering down the road with a fridge