Change of the (advertising) guard at Melbourne stations

Advertising to the captive audiences at Melbourne railway stations is big business, with multinational company JCDecaux having held the station advertising contract for Metro Trains Melbourne for the past few years.

Double helping of PTV advertising for the new on-the-spot 'Penalty Fares' regime

Their staff paste up new posters when it is time to change over the advertiser.

Changing over the advertising posters at Box Hill station

As well as replacing the billboards inside motorised panels.

Changing over the advertisements at Camberwell station

And troubleshooting digital panels that display the advertisements upside down.

Digital advertising panel stuck showing everything upside down

But in December 2017 the deal came up for renewal and local firm Adshel (a division of media company Here, There & Everywhere) won the contract.

Adshel has won part of the Metro Trains Melbourne outdoor contract – which will run for seven years – and will see Adshel launch 150 digital screens across Melbourne’s CBD and inner city railway stations. Stations include Flinders Street, Melbourne Central, Parliament, South Yarra and Richmond.

By early 2018 JCDecaux billboards at stations started to empty out.

JCDecaux adverting screen minus advertisement at Collingwood station

And posters were left in tatters.

Tattered advertising posters in the Elizabeth Street subway at Flinders Street Station

‘Out of service’ tags began to appear on motorised advertising panels.

Power disconnected from a JCDecaux advertising panel at Hawksburn station

As contractors began to physically remove the advertising panels from stations.

Contractors remove the JCDecaux advertising panels at Caulfield station

Leaving just dirty marks on walls where they once hung.

Dirty mark indicates where a JCDecaux advertising panel once covered the wall at Burnley

Or witches hats where they once stood.

Witches hats at Flagstaff station mark where a JCDecaux digital billboard used to be

The exception seems to be the subways at Flinders Street Station – they were cleaner than they have ever been!

Advertising posters removed from the ramps down to the Elizabeth Street subway

However the demise of visual noise wasn’t to be – ‘bumblebee boxes’ started to appear at stations, marking the site of digital billboards for incoming operator Adshel.

'Bumblebee box' marks the site of a new Adshel digital billboard at Flagstaff station

With new screen being installed in April 2018.

New Adshel digital advertising panel on the fritz at Flagstaff station

Conveying an excitement about outdoor advertising that nobody outside the marketing industry holds.

New Adshel adverting panels installed at Flinders Street Station

While simultaneously managing to cover up directional signage at stations.

New Adshel digital advertising panels at Flagstaff station

Seeing a station without advertising just wasn’t to be.

A footnote on PTV

Over on Twitter someone pointed out the Public Transport Victoria posters at stations along the Frankston line, on panels once branded JCDecaux, but now with black tape covering the name.

PTV advertising on a JCDecaux billboard at Moorabbin station

The panels appear to have escaped the changeover to Adshel, the aging posters inside falling to pieces.

Tattered PTV advertisement inside a JCDecaux billboard at Highett station

Possibly the panels were transferred from JCDecaux to PTV at some point in the past, and are not part of the new contract?

And at Flinders Street Station

At Flinders Street Station the JCDecaux advertising panels on each platform once housed the emergency assistance buttons.

JCDecaux advertising panel marked for removal at Flinders Street Station platform 6 and 7

These panels have since been removed.

Poles mark where the JCDecaux advertising panels once stood at Flinders Street platform 4 and 5

Requiring the help points to be relocated to the pillars that support the platform veranda.

New 'emergency assistance' buttons being installed at Flinders Street platform 9

I wonder who is footing the the bill for that work?

And advertisements elsewhere

The new contract doesn’t affect all advertising on the Melbourne rail network – APN Outdoor holds a separate 10 year contract for the ‘shouting’ advertising screens at City Loop stations.

LED advertising screens also installed at Parliament station

Along with large format billboards at railway stations.

Array of advertising billboards at South Yarra station

And roadside billboards located on railway land.

EDI Comeng approaches Ginifer station on a down Watergardens service

And to make things even more complicated, Southern Cross Station is excluded from the advertising contract covering the rest of the rail network, thanks to it being separate entity subject to a 30 year long public-private partnership.

There JCDecaux still manages the advertisements, where they have just deployed a new range of digital advertising displays.

New JCDecaux LCD advertising screen at Southern Cross Station

But what about trams?

Back in 2011 a similar changeover occurred on the Melbourne tram network – Adshel won an exclusive contract to manage the advertising at tram stops, a role previously shared with JCDecaux.

However this changeover was a lot less wasteful – instead of throwing tram stops in the bin, the old ‘JCDecaux’ names was removed, and the new ‘Adshel’ placed over the top.

Adshel maintained tram shelter, previously maintained by JCDecaux

The same logo switcharoo is currently underway for a second time, following the success of JCDecaux over Adshel in the most recent round of tram advertising contract renewals in 2018.

And a final note on Flagstaff station

The Adshel screens blocking the directional signage at Flagstaff station were eventually fixed – the proper sign was moved higher up the wall, allowing the temporary paper signs to be removed.

Photos from ten years ago: April 2008

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

On April 2 a dust storm hit Victoria – here was my view on the train home to Geelong.

Dust storm at Lara

The storm also brought down trees, stopping trains passing through Glenferrie station.

Mainco workers checking the tracks at Glenferrie during the recent storms

Closer to home work was well underway on the Geelong Ring Road, with the bridges over the Moorabool River at Fyansford almost complete.

Building the Lewis Bandt Bridge to carry the Geelong Ring Road over the Moorabool River

The long cutting between Ceres and Fyansford had also been cut through the Barrabool Hills.

Climb up to Barrabool Road

Down at the North Geelong rail yards Pacific National was busy clearing out their collection of life expired freight wagons.

Loading up an ELX to take away

Cranes picked up each wagon, allowing the wheelsets to be taken away for reuse.

Moving a bogie from under the wagon

With the bodies being loaded onto trucks, and taken away to the scrap yard.

Taking away an ELX by road

Also at North Geelong I found this two car VLocity train, passing the resleeping work mentioned last month.

VL40 Melbourne bound at North Geelong

This collection of hi-rail equipped excavators was fitted with specialised to complete the work.

Lined up again

Such as cleaning out the ballast.

Excavator with an attachment to clear out the ballast for new sleepers to be put in

Sleeper insertion.

Excavator with a sleeper insertion attachment fitted

And ballast tamping.

Ballast tamper attachment on a front end loader

At Richmond station I saw a train that no longer exists – an A class diesel headed for Frankston, with a single carriage in tow.

A60 leads the down Stony Point transfer through Richmond station

Back then the Franskton – Stony Point service was operated by diesel locomotives hauling two to three ‘MTH’ type carriages, with the engine needing to run around the train at rach end of the line. This ended in April 2008, when the current Sprinter railcar service was introduced.


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

Which V/Line train type is the most reliable?

V/Line operates a real mixed bag of rolling stock to provide train services across Victoria – but which type of train is the most reliable?

A66 now visible among the stabled trains at Dudley Street

V/Line fleet overview

The newest trains in the V/Line fleet are the VLocity diesel multiple units. Each train is made up of three carriages, each with a diesel engine beneath.

The first units entered service in 2004, with additional trains rolling out of the Bombardier factory at Dandenong every few months.

VLocity VL05 arrives into Flinders Street Station on an up service

Next up are the Sprinter diesel multiple units. Mechanically similar to the newer VLocity trains, the Sprinter fleet was built between 1993 and 1995, so are now approaching 25 years of age.

Solo Sprinter 7002 sitting in the platform at Southern Cross

But the oldest part of the V/Line fleet is what they call their ‘classic fleet’, carriages hauled by diesel locomotives.

The N class are the core of the V/Line locomotive fleet, with 25 units built between 1985 and 1987.

N469 leads a mixed liveried consist on an up Warrnambool service at Manor

Along with a single A class locomotive – built in 1985 on the frame of a B class locomotive built way back in 1952.

A66 crosses the Melton Weir on an up Bacchus Marsh service

While V/Line’s carriage fleet fall into three classes.

The newest are the ‘N’ type carriages, built in the early 1980s and used on long distance services.

Economy class carriage with buffet compartment BRN34

The ‘H’ type carriages used on commuter trains are younger, having been built in 1984-1992, but using the bodies of retired ‘Harris’ suburban trains from the 1950s.

Five H sets stabled for the weekend at Dudley Street

While the oldest are the ‘Z’ type carriages used on long distance services – built way back in the 1950s, and the subject to cracked bogies back in 2013.

BZN276 and BZN273 stabled in the carriage sidings at Dudley Street

So which train is more reliable?

One would expect something brand new should be more reliable than something old, and that a simple piece of machinery is less likely to break down than a complicated one.

Using that logic, a carriage is a simple box with doors on wheels, a locomotive is something complicated with an engine that can break down, and a diesel multiple unit is the most complex, putting all of the above into a tight space.

So which ones breaks down the most? The V/Line annual report for 2016-17 has the answer.

New trains are more reliable than old ones, and simple trains break down less than complicated ones.

The annual report explains further:


Each VLocity carriage travelled an average of 157,805 kilometres between faults in 2016-17 compared with 155,082 kilometres during 2015-16.

The average availability of VLocity carriages during scheduled service periods, which includes maintenance and operational issues, was 91.7 per cent against a target of 86.5, the percentage of the fleet that is required to meet timetable requirements.


This year, Sprinters travelled an average of 42,533 kilometres between faults, against a target of 30,259 kilometres. This compares with 40,066 kilometres between faults in 2016-17, a six per cent reliability improvement.

The average availability of Sprinters was 85 per cent against the target of 84.6 per cent. This decrease from 90.3 per cent availability in 2016-17 was due to In Cab Equipment (ICE) radio installation and fire damage to a Sprinter, effectively reducing the fleet size by one for most of the year.


Classic fleet carriages travelled an average of 162,895 kilometres between faults against a target of 130,000 kilometres.

Average carriage availability of 74.3 per cent is measured against a target of 73.2 per cent and was down from 81.4 per cent the previous year. This was due to carriages being unavailable after the Pirron Yallock level crossing collision and structural assessment to enable life extension until 2025.


Locomotives travelled an average of 22,957 kilometres between faults, against a target of 29,962 kilometres, compared with 27,049 kilometres in 2016-17. This represents a 15 per cent decrease.

Average availability was 70.2 per cent, against a target of 69 per cent, compared with 82.1 per cent in the previous year due to the repair of the locomotive involved in the Pirron Yallock level crossing incident.

Some interesting data – the performance of an increasing elderly carriage fleet being a stand out.

So how old is the V/Line fleet

In August 2017 the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office released their report into V/Line Passenger Services – Figure 4D detailed the average age of rolling stock.

Asset type Average age (years) Design life (years)
VLocity DMU 6.8 30
Sprinter DMU 20.9 30
N class locomotive 32.8 30
N type carriages 32.8 30
H type carriages 52.4 30
Z type carriages 56 30
Power Vans 54 30

VAGO, based on V/Line ACCRI Project, 2015

As well as V/Line’s historical neglect, of both infrastructure and rolling stock.

Asset management

In the past, major periodic maintenance funding has not kept pace with the levels of funding required to maintain a fully operational and reliable passenger network. This has resulted in a deterioration of the network.

Until recently V/Line did not have a comprehensive understanding of the condition of its assets. It was therefore unable to develop sound long-term asset management strategies or to make evidence-based decisions on how it funded and prioritised maintenance and renewal work.

In 2015, V/Line changed its asset management approach from ‘fix on fail’ to ‘predict and prevent’, based on known asset condition. V/Line has now identified its maintenance backlog and has prioritised investments according to criticality and risk. The scale of funding required to address the maintenance backlog is significant—approximately $534.8 million across the entire V/Line network.

Asset failures limit V/Line’s ability to deliver agreed service levels, resulting in customer delays and service cancellations. Many of the vehicles in V/Line’s rolling stock fleet have been in service beyond their expected life, which is typically 30 years. Consequently they have a high failure rate and require significant investment in replacement and refurbishment.

Given V/Line’s difficulty in merely keeping up with patronage growth, I don’t see the retirement of life expired rolling stock happening any time soon.

Which Melbourne train type is the most reliable?

There are three types of train in the Melbourne suburban fleet – the older Comeng trains, as well as the newer Siemens and X’Trapolis types. But which type of train is the most reliable?

X'Trapolis 925M and Siemens 823M stabled at North Melbourne

The ‘Rolling Stock Module’ of the 2017 Franchise Agreement between Public Transport Victoria and Metro Trains Melbourne describes how the ‘Mean Distance Between Failure’ is calculated:



  • MDBF is the Mean Distance Between Failure (in kilometres);
  • D is the total Franchise Rolling Stock Type fleet kilometres in the Relevant Month; and
  • F is the number of failures in the items of a Franchise Rolling Stock Type in service in the Relevant Month.

As well as the definition of failure.

6. The definition of a ‘failure’ for the purpose of calculating MDBF is described below:

(a) A failure is the random stopping of the capability of the equipment to carry out its function, requiring an unplanned, immediate or deferred maintenance action.
(b) Failures that result in an item being unable carry out its function for a period of five minutes or greater are taken into account for this metric.
(c) Failures that are able to be rectified in under five minutes are not taken into account for this metric.
(d) If a failure lasting for a period of five minutes or greater occurs, but no fault is found, it is still recorded as a failure.
(e) Each failure situation that lasts for a period of five minutes or greater is recorded as a separate incident even if the cause of the failure is unchanged ie, if a failure on train xyz occurs at 0900 due to ‘Q’, and is rectified, then fails again at 1100 due to ‘Q’ or any other cause, this will be recorded as two failures.
(f) Failures lasting for a period of five minutes or greater and that are caused by collisions or vandalism are not taken into account for this metric.

As well as what is not considered a failure.

To avoid doubt, minor faults such as blown globes, fuses, and tripped circuit breakers etc. are not considered for this metric unless the incident result in the item being unable to carry out its function for a period of five minutes or greater.
(a) If a minor fault occurs, which does not force a train from service, but the defect precludes the train from a timely commencement of its next scheduled service run, that fault will be considered a failure disrupting service for a period of five minutes or greater and recorded as such.
(b) Delays resulting from non-maintenance sources, such as level crossing incidents, network incidents, driver errors or the like will not be considered for this metric.

As well as the reliability target that Metro Trains Melbourne will be measured against.

• X’Trapolis target: 52,000 km per Service Affecting Failure (SAF)
• Siemens target: 40,000 km per SAF
• Comeng target: 19,000 km per SAF

Which looks like this is graph form.

It takes around an hour for a suburban train to travel the 58 kilometres between Flinders Street to Pakenham – assuming a train running between the two points all day long, that is 1,392 kilometres per day, which gives the following overly pessimistic ‘days between failure’ graph – in reality the time between faults would be at least twice this, given turnaround times and the nights that trains don’t run.

Comeng trains entered service back in the 1980s and are now approaching 40 years of age, so the fact that they are the least reliable isn’t surprising.

Life extension Comeng 629M at Flinders Street platform 10

But the difference between the Siemens and X’Trapolis trains is interesting.

Siemens train arrives into Richmond with a down Cranbourne service

The first Siemens train entered serivce in 2002, as did the first X’Trapolis train.

X'Trapolis 137M above King Street, heading west for Southern Cross on the Princes Bridge Viaduct tracks

But between 2009 and today, the X’Trapolis fleet has doubled in size, as a steady stream of new trains are built and delivered.

Unliveried X'Trapolis without a front, with 84M in the background

So are the X’Trapolis actually more reliable than a Siemens train of the same age, or does the younger age of the overall X’Trapolis fleet led to a more ambitious reliability target?


Apparently the fleet of X’Trapolis trains are even more reliable than the current targets call for – travelling twice as far between failure, which is something around 100,000 kilometres or more, or two months in everyday operation.

Identifying Melbourne railway stations by colour

The other day my 2.5 year old son added a station platform to his train set, and told me “red station is Footscray, green is West Footscray, yellow is Sunshine, and blue is Parliament”. So how does colour get used at Melbourne railway stations?

It appears my son has been paying a lot of attention – Parliament is blue.

X'Trapolis train arrives into Parliament station platform 4

Footscray is red.

Completed entrance to the station off Irving Street

West Footscray is green.

Ramps to the station footbridge from the south side

Sunshine is yellow.

Myki machines and booking office in the new overhead concourse

The last three stations were all rebuilt in 2013-15 as part of the Regional Rail Link project, hence the similar design, but the architects were smart enough to give each station it’s own identity through the use of a feature colour.

Compare this to the growing number of stations rebuilt across Melbourne by the Level Crossing Removal Authority.


Passenger shelter at the new low level Gardiner station


Plain grey walls at Ginifer station

And St Albans.

Siemens train arrives into St Albans station on the up

Notice a common grey theme?

Apparently the Level Crossing Removal Authority does use colour at some stations.

Ormond, Mckinnon or Bentleigh stations being three of them.

Brightly coloured platform walls at McKinnon station

The only problem? They used the same identical colour palette of yellow, orange and red at each station!

It shouldn’t cost anything more to use coloured panels instead of plain grey – so why does every station have to look the same?

A lesson from Hong Kong

In Hong Kong every station on the MTR network has a signature colour.

This interview with the MTR Corporation’s chief architect describes their reasoning

The main reason bright colours were adopted when the first line opened in the 1970s was to lighten up the subway system, according to Andrew Mead, the MTR Corporation’s chief architect. With no windows or natural light, underground platforms can be gloomy. Bright colours are associated with beauty, and they bring a dash of that to the mostly subterranean stations, he says.

The corporation could have chosen a neutral white design. But Mead says an important factor in picking different colours was function. Underground, where there are no landmarks to look out for like when you’re travelling by bus or car, colour helped differentiate the MTR stations, and gave each their own identity. That was important, Mead says, because “back in the 1970s, there was still a high level of illiteracy” in the city.

Another place that lacks landmarks is a Melbourne railway trench, or onboard a train with advertising covered windows – so why is the use of colour at Melbourne railway stations so rare?