Photos from ten years ago: December 2007

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is December 2007.

We start at Southern Cross Station looking at a very sparse main concourse.

Main concourse from Spencer Street

The only thing blocking the way was a single Christmas tree, dwarfed by the grand space – quite the contrast to today.

Down at a tram stop on Collins Street there are four things that no longer exist – a Metcard ticket machine, change machine, Telstra payphone and SmartGuide journey planner.

Metcard machine, change machine, Telstra payphone and SmartGuide journey planner at the Town Hall superstop

The Metcard ticket machine and change machine have been replaced by Myki and payment by credit cards, while the payphone and SmartGuide journey planner have been replaced by smartphones and public transport apps.

Down at Geelong I paid a visit to Gheringhap Loop, located on the standard gauge main line between Melbourne and Adelaide, where I found some grubby looking locomotives hauling their respective freight trains.

Cross at Gheringhap Loop

Both trains were led by the NR class locomotives – introduced back in 1997, but this point they were a decade old and well in need of a repaint, which owner Pacific National commenced soon after.

Gheringhap is also the junction for the broad gauge railway linking Geelong and Ballarat, which was covered with rust when I paid a visit.

How long since the broad gauge was used? Gheringhap Loop

The reason for the lack of rusted rails was the worst drought on record in southern Australia – crops across Victoria failed, which saw no grain trains to run along the line. Thankfully the drought a few years later, with multiple trains a day now using the line to transport export grain to the Port of Geelong.

I also headed made a visit to Ballarat by train with the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre, who ran their 1930s Spirit of Progress carriage set behind a pair of 1950s diesel locomotives.

T357 and B74 run around at Ballarat

The group still runs their train around Victoria from time to time – the most recent was November this year.

And a non train related photo

I also paid a visit to the corner of Malop and Yarra Streets in Geelong, where the expansion of Westfield Geelong was well underway.

Much of the basic structure now complete

Today this view down Yarra Street to Corio Bay is no longer possible.

Yarra Street before the skybridge blocks the view forever

Blocked by a cheap and nasty looking flyover that links the two sides of the shopping centre.

Footnote

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

Belt and braces – why Melbourne stations have lifts and ramps

Last week I detailed the accident of history that saw ramps being favoured over stairs on Melbourne’s railway network, despite the absence of any requirement to provide easy access for people with disabilities. So how has the network developed since then, and why have a combination of lifts and ramps become the current standard?

New 'Way out' signs at Geelong platform 2 and 3, following the opening of the accessible bridge at the down end

Entering the age of the accessible stations

In 1992 the Commonwealth Government passed the Disability Discrimination Act, with the aim to eliminate discrimination ‘as far as possible’ against people with disabilities.

Section 23 set out ‘access to premises used by the public‘, with the technical details codified under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSPART) of 2002 and Australian Standard AS1428.1.

The first major railway stations upgrade in Melbourne following this legislative change was Dandenong station in 1995. The existing pedestrian subway was replaced by an overhead concourse spanning the tracks, with stairs and lifts to platform level, and ramps to both street entrances.

Comeng 409M arrives into Dandenong platform 3 with a down Cranbourne service

This was followed in 1998 by the Boronia Road grade separation project, which saw Boronia station rebuilt. The tracks were lowered below ground, with an concourse at ground level linked by steps and a pair of lifts to the island platform below.

X'Trapolis train arrives at Boronia station on the up

The extension of suburban trains to Sydenham in 2002 saw the construction of a new station called Watergardens. Featuring stairs and lifts between street, platform and overhead concourse, this now appeared to be the de facto access standard for new railway stations in Melbourne.

Centre island platform at Watergardens station

But an important thing to keep in mind was that the above three stations were all staffed full time.

The provision of lifts at unstaffed stations appears to have been considered a vandalism and security risk, as the reconstruction of Laburnum station in 2007 shows, where long ramps and stairs were provided between elevated platform and street below.

Dirt car park on the northern side of Laburnum station

The construction of a new station at Roxburgh Park in 2007 reinforces this – this unstaffed station was provided with an island platform accessed by overhead footbridge, with stairs for the able bodied, paralleled by Melbourne’s first example of a zig-zagging DDA compliant ramp.

Footbridge at Roxburgh Park station in place

Up until this point all DDA compliant stations built in Melbourne had featured stairs, not escalators, but this changed with the 2009 upgrade of North Melbourne. A new overhead concourse and station entrance was built at the city end, with escalators and lifts transporting passengers to the platforms below, replacing the steep ramps that once formed the only access route.

VLocity 3VL32 runs through North Melbourne under the new concourse

A second change in design philosophy came a year later in 2010, when the newly built Coolaroo station became the first unstaffed station to receive lifts, in conjunction with stairs.

Looking down the line at Coolaroo station

Lifts continued to trump ramps during this period. The expansion of Westall station in 2010 seeing four lifts provided at the new three platform station.

Siemens arrives into Westall platform 1 with an up service

Nunawading station was also rebuilt in 2010 as part of the grade separation of Springvale Road, receiving stairs and two lifts – one either side of Springvale Road.

Stairs linking the west side of Springvale Road to the platforms at Nunawading station

Thomastown and Epping stations also received lifts and stairs when rebuilt as part of the South Morang Rail Extension Project in 2012, as did the new terminus station at South Morang.

Looking upstairs to the concourse at Epping

One thing to notable about each of the previous projects is the lack of redundancy – with the exception of Boronia and Nunawading stations, each platform was served by a single lift – leaving less agile passengers stranded if the lift broke down. However this flaw went unnoticed by both railway management and the general public, at least until the next project…

All aboard the fail train

2009 saw the rebuilding of Laverton station on the Werribee line. Here the existing footbridge and steep ramps were demolished, replaced by a much higher enclosed structure, linked to the platforms by stairs and lifts.

Down the stairs to platform 2/3

Nothing revolutionary on the design front, but within a few months the lifts at Laverton station soon became a lighting rod for discontent – they were too small to fit and ambulance stretchers, forcing the shutdown of trains to evacuate an ill passenger, and so chronically unreliable they were raised in State Parliament.

Broken down lift at Sunshine station

A year later the new footbridge at Footscray station also attracted similar criticism – passengers were only given lifts, stairs and a single lift per platform, despite being a major interchange station.

Grass knoll outside the Irving Street forecourt

In early 2010 Colleen Hartland from the Greens expressed concern about both projects:

Many people have contacted me, including senior citizens coming in to my office, to express their concern and distress that the Footscray railway station upgrade will have steep stairs and lifts, but no ramps. But many people cannot walk up steep stairs, including senior citizens, people with prams and some people with disabilities.

There will only be three lifts for the four platforms, including one lift shared between platforms 2 and 3. If the lift breaks down, people getting off the train will be stranded on the platform.

Each platform at Footscray has some street access, which is better than nothing in an emergency, but we cannot say the same for Laverton station. Two weeks ago I was at Laverton station when an elderly woman got off the train. The lift was broken and the only alternative was the steep stairs. She had to call on the help of some fellow passengers to carry her up the stairs. This was a demeaning and dangerous situation.

My request for the minister is to ensure that every railway platform may be accessed by Disability Discrimination Act compliant ramps, and to make escalators available at Footscray station. I would also urge him to avoid dismissing the question with an answer like, ‘They’re DDA-compliant lifts and that makes the station okay, and beyond that I don’t care’

As did opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder, who used the failing lifts as an opportunity to sink the boot into the Labour Government:

Premier John Brumby’s myki is three years late today, while his refusal to provide ramps or subways at new or renovated metropolitan railway stations is resulting in passengers being trapped on platforms such as Laverton when the lifts break down and causing gross inconvenience to local residents, Shadow Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder said today.

Mr. Mulder said that John Brumby’s obsession with myki and his neglect of public transport basics was creating a problem for a future government to fix, with new stations at Coolaroo and Williams Landing lacking disabled access when the lifts were out of service.

“When its new footbridge is opened, Footscray station, one of the busiest in Melbourne, will also lack easy access when its lifts break down.” Mr. Mulder said.

“Historically, Melbourne railway stations have had excellent access, with subways or ramps being far preferable to the typical stairs-over-tracks design of many Sydney railway stations.

“These new stations are totally or partly ‘island platform’ designs, with a platform sandwiched between two rail lines. John Brumby will maroon passengers on these desert island-like platforms, often without access to water or toilet facilities when lifts are unserviceable.” Mr. Mulder said.

In the lead up to the 2010 State Election, the opposition raised the issue again for political mileage:

“You have to wonder what is being done with the design of these stations,” opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said.

The opposition has promised that, if it is elected on Saturday, all new railway stations that require footbridge access will be built or re-fitted with ramps instead of just lifts.

Ramps meant disabled and emergency access would be available at all times, Mr Mulder said.

Ted Baillieu and the Liberal Party won the election, and the rest was history.

A belt and braces approach

Today the trio of stairs, lifts and long zig-zagging ramps with a DDA compliant 1 in 14 gradient has became the standard at new and upgraded railway stations in Melbourne.

Williams Landing was the first example – completed in 2013.

Looking up the long ramp back to the concourse

Followed by the rebuilt station at Mitcham in 2014.

Ramps from the concourse to the down end of Mitcham platform 1

And the rebuilt Springvale station a few months later.

Siemens train pauses at Springvale station on the down

Since then all stations upgraded as part of the Regional Rail Link project have included lifts and ramps, as have all stations rebuilt as part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, and the new stations to be built as part of the Mernda Rail Extension Project.

But the debate continues

The debate about lengthy DDA compliant ramps just won’t die – in 2014 a leaked memo showed the Liberal Government was having second thoughts on their election promise:

A leaked memo has revealed the State Government has changed its stance on ­installing ramps at train ­stations, raising concerns for commuters with limited ­mobility.

In Opposition, the Coalit­ion criticised the Brumby government for refusing to provide ramps at new or renovated train stations and promised to provide both options.

But in a leaked Public Transport Victoria memo seen by the Herald Sun, an engineer claims Transport Minister Terry Mulder has “shifted his position” on building ramps at railway stations because of the cost blowout at the new Will­iams Landing station.

The document also reveals that Mr Mulder raised concerns about the “visual impacts of ramps” at upgraded stations in Mitcham and Springvale.

The memo also suggests three stations — Clayton, Carnegie and Murrumbeena which are to be redeveloped in the Cranbourne-­Pakenham Rail Corridor Project — have been designed without ramps.

In 2016 the Level Crossing Removal Authority also attempted to avoid building massive ramps as part of the Mernda rail extension:

Designs released so far show stations will have stairs and lifts to the platforms, but a lack of ramps have raised concerns similar to those voiced when the rail line was extended from Epping to South Morang in 2010.

Whittlesea Councillor Mary Lalios said she was advised by Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) appointed to design and construct the Mernda extension that ramps were too long for the stations.

“If there were to be ramps, they would be roughly 150m in length,” she said.

“When I asked how long the platforms are, they (LXRA) advised they were 162m long.

“That means that a person in a wheelchair, to get to the front carriage behind the train driver, will have to travel the same distance or more.

“Doesn’t make sense.”

Playing catch up

Turns out the lifts at Watergardens aren’t all they’re cracked up to be either:

A malfunctioning lift at Watergardens train station that reportedly breaks down nearly every second week, on average, is likely to be replaced.

Western Metropolitan MLC Bernie Finn told state parliament recently the Watergardens lift had broken down 43 times over the two years to 2016, and sometimes took a week to fix.

They have since been replaced – the work taking month and a half during 2017.

'Lift upgrade works at Watergardens' poster

Similar lift upgrade works were also completed at Dandenong station during 2017.

Hopefully these upgrades will reduce the impact of these single points of failure.

And a footnote on Footscray

When asked in 2010 about the lack of ramps and escalators at Footscray station, the Minister for Public Transport stated:

Ramps and escalators were considered by the design team but would have resulted in very lengthy ramps, and a much longer path of travel than the lifts provide. Escalators were also considered but found to be unsuitable for a number of reasons, including exposure to the weather which can result in frequent failure.

A prophetic statement, given the issues encountered with the open air escalators at North Melbourne station since 2012!

Why Melbourne built ramps not stairs at railway stations

In your travels by train around Melbourne, you might have noticed something – the vast majority of stations are accessed via ramps, not stairs. This is reinforced by the current version of the Public Transport Victoria network map, which states – “Step free access at all stations except Heyington”. This sounds like quite a win for accessibility, and the result of years of hard and diligent work – but in reality it is just an accident of history based on the way that Melbourne’s rail network was built.

Ramp between platform and street at Ascot Vale station

The very early years

The story of ramps versus stairs starts with Melbourne’s first railways. Built to link country Victoria with the markets of the growing metropolis, railways were built on the cheap – tracks laid at ground level and level crossings where roads crossed the tracks.

Stations were also simple affairs – a pair of platforms with two tracks running through the middle, and a single station building on the city bound platform. Bridges over or under the tracks were rare, only being built in conjunction with cuttings through hills or embankments over valleys, which eased the grades for trains to climb.

Yarraville station is an early example. Opened in 1871 beside the Anderson Street level crossing.

Passengers accessed the platforms via the existing street network, but had to cross the tracks via the level crossing.

Level crossing clear, as a stream of pedestrians cross the railway at Yarraville

There were few exceptions to this configuration – one being South Yarra, which opened to passengers in 1860. Located north of the Toorak Road overbridge, platforms flanked the two tracks, with steps linking the two.

In the early years even the central stations of Flinders Street, Princes Bridge and Spencer Street didn’t have ramps or stairs – as terminal stations each track formed a dead end, with nothing to prevent ground level access between platform and street.

But once the tracks linking Flinders Street Station to Spencer Street Station were completed in 1891, the question of having to cross the tracks at major stations emerged. A preference for ramps instead of stairs appears to have emerged early on, as this 1905 photo of the original Flinders Street Station shows.

The Railway Inquiry Board in 1895 saw the ramps linking platforms at Flinders Street Station as inconvenient, with the Victorian Railways Engineer for Existing Lines, Charles E. Norman, being questioned by the chairperson over it.

1589. Can you name any station in a city, even down to 10,000 people, in any of the other colonies, where you have to go up ramps and along an uncovered bridge to catch another train?

I cannot name such a station at present.

But they just didn’t get the reason why the ramps were needed.

1595. You have read of the stations in London?

Yes.

1596. I do not know of any one there except South Kensington where you have to climb up bridges and so on?

Nearly all their large stations are terminals, and the trains arrive at what are called “dead ends,” and they go out again from the same place in the same direction that they came in. Our Flinders Street Station is a through traffic station, that is to say, the train from Essendon at present runs through Flinders Street Station to Brighton, and it is intended that a good many more trains shall run through in future.

1597. I can quite understand an underground railway such as the Metropolitan District Railway in London necessitating people going down stairs and upstairs to get to the railway line; but in a railway that is on the surface of the earth, I do not understand it?

But wherever there is more than one platform, there must be some means for the passengers to cross the rails.

Once planning commenced for the present day Flinders Street Station in the late 1890s, a debate about crossing over the tracks via bridge or subway emerged, with Deputy Traffic Manager William Francis Fitzpatrick being questioned about the planned station.

I think myself that a subway, on the whole, is the best, chiefly for these reasons – I am now speaking with regard to the comfort of the traveller; in the first place it is conceded on all sides that the greatest comfort to the traveller is to take him on the level. Next to that, bridges on that station will be very unpleasant places, owing to the large number of locomotives that will be passing to and fro, owing to the smoke and smell from them, and one thing and another.

Then the question of whether it is easier to mount a ramp or go down the same height on steps is one that I am too young and active a man to settle, but, bearing in mind what little experience we have had, in that direction at several suburban places where we have subways, they lead to no complaint, and I think, on the whole, they are preferable, that is from the point of view of the travellers’ convenience.

But the merits of ramps versus stairs was also debated. Victoria Railways Engineer for Existing Lines, Charles E. Norman, gave this reasoning when questioned by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways in 1899.

The central subway it is proposed to have approached by steps from all the platforms, because ramps would take up too much length of the platforms. The gradient is 1 in 10, and the length of the ramp about 136 feet. If a lift is found to be a necessity it can always be added; ramps are far easier and safer for old people than steps.

Little did these engineers know, but their opinions on station design were to hold sway for many decades.

Transformation into a suburban railway

The start of the 20th Century was also the start of work to transform the Melbourne railway system from a handful of lines leading into the country, into a modern electric suburban railway.

The current Flinders Street Station building was built between 1900 and 1910, with ramps chosen as the main access to the platforms from Swanston and Elizabeth Streets, but with stairs to the central subway due to space limitations.

Ramp to platforms 10/11 from the Swanston Street concourse

Footscray station was rebuilt in 1901, with a timber footbridge provided to link the four platforms at this important junction station.

As part of quadruplication and regrading of the track between South Yarra and Caulfield completed in 1914, new low level stations were built at Malvern, Armidale, Toorak and Hawksburn. Footbridges carried passengers across the sunken tracks, with ramps leading down to the platforms.

The tracks between Hawthorn and Camberwell were also regraded during the same period, with new stations at Glenferrie and Auburn completed in 1916. Access was at ground level under the elevated tracks, with ramps taking passengers up to the platforms.

Platforms 1 and 2 at Glenferrie

The facilities for suburban passengers at Spencer Street Station were also upgraded between 1918 and 1924 with the addition of platforms 11 though 14, linked to the main concourse via ramps to a new pedestrian subway.

New stations built during this same period took into account the increased number of suburban trains now running in Melbourne.

Ripponlea, opened 1912 shortly before electrification of the Sandringham line, followed the previous practice of two platforms flanking the tracks next to a level crossing, but added an overhead footbridge to allow able bodied passengers to avoid the closed gates.

Overview of Ripponlea station from Glen Eira Road

Similar works were completed at existing stations to make life easier for pedestrians stuck at level crossings – such as this pedestrian underpass beside the Koornang Road level crossing at Carnegie station.

Pedestrian underpass at Koornang Road, Carnegie

This footbridge at Westgarth station.

Footbridge under repair at Westgarth station

And the pedestrian subway at Blackburn, built in 1928.

A pedestrian subway is in course of construction at Blackburn. This will be completed shortly, and the necessity for passengers to cross the running tracks will then be obviated.

Subway to access the island platform at Blackburn station

A few early grade separation projects were also carried out, such as the rebuilding of Middle Footscray station in 1928, which was provided with ramps for passenger access.

Looking down the steep ramp at Middle Footscray station

The railways then entered a long period of underinvestment, thanks to World War II and the rise of the motor vehicle.

One of the projects that ended this malaise was the rebuilding of Richmond station in 1952-1960. Ten platforms were provided, linked at each end to a pedestrian subway via ramps, as well an additional centre subway via stairs.

Green to platform 3/4

A boom of grade separation projects from the late 1950s also saw the upgrade of many stations. Moorabbin station was lowered into a trench in 1959, with a footbridge carried passengers across the sunken tracks, with ramps leading down to the platform.

Ramp down to the island platform at Moorabbin station

Another rebuild was Albion station in 1961 as part of the Melbourne-Sydney standard gauge railway project. The Ballarat Road level crossing was replaced with a bridge and the pair of side platforms were replaced by the current island platform, with a subway passing beneath the tracks, with a ramp leading to platform level.

Ramp between platform and pedestrian subway at Albion station

The same island platform and pedestrian subway design was applied at Ruthven, opened in 1963.

Pedestrian subway for platform access at Ruthven station

Tottenham, rebuilt in 1981 as an elevated station to remove the Ashley Street level crossing.

Long ramp up to the platform at Tottenham station

And Werribee, rebuilt in 1983 with the extension of suburban services.

Access ramp to island platforms 1 and 2

But a different design was applied at Yarraman – a new station opened on the Dandenong line in 1976. A single island platform between the tracks was still used, but here a concrete footbridge over the tracks was provided, with three long ramps linking each side to the street, as well as to the platform.

Up and down trains cross paths at Yarraman station

It took the construction of the City Loop in the 1980s to bring the first escalators and lifts to a Melbourne railway station – but given the stations were up to 40 metres below the surface, ramps or stairs were out of the question.

Escalators at Flagstaff - three of the four banks only have 2 escalators and a set of stairs

This was followed in 1983-1985 by the rebuilding of sleepy little Box Hill station into a modern transport interchange. Escalators and lifts featured, but the station was still not completely accessible – steep ramps were the only wheeled route to platforms 1 and 4.

Ramp and single escalator that serve to Box Hill platform 4

It took until 1992 for accessibility to finally be taken seriously, when the Commonwealth Government passed the Disability Discrimination Act, with the aim to eliminate discrimination ‘as far as possible’ against people with disabilities.

Since then, all upgraded railway stations in Melbourne have had accessibility built into their design, with varying measures of success.

How steep are the ramps anyway?

The gradient of a ramp is given as rise over run – for example a 1 in 20 gradient rises 1 metre for every 20 metres of horizontal distance.

Over at the State Library Victoria historical Victorian building regulations can be found, with the ‘Uniform Building Regulations’ 1945 having this to say about ramps:

2716. Ramps

(a) Ramps may be substituted for stairways provided they conform to such of the requirements of this chapter for stairways as are applicable.
(b) Ramps shall be in straight lengths with a landing at each change of direction having a length and a width at least equal to the width of the ramp.
(c) Ramps serving as exits or giving access to exits shall have a slope not greater than 1 in 8.
(d) Ramps used for purposes other than exit travel shall not be limited as to gradient.
(e) Ramps shall be provided with an approved non-slip surface.

1 in 8 is a pretty steep grade – which seems to match the ramps found at older railway stations in Melbourne.

But these ramps were an optional extra – it took the ‘Public Building Regulations’ 1958 to make the provision of ramps mandatory, at least in public buildings, and where it wasn’t inconvenient to do so.

Provided that unless impracticable, at least one exit in every new building shall be provided with an incline or ramp at a grade not steeper than 1 in 8 from door-sill to ground level.

It took until 1992 for the Commonwealth Government passed the Disability Discrimination Act, aiming to to eliminate discrimination ‘as far as possible’ against people with disabilities.

Section 23 set out ‘access to premises used by the public‘, with the technical details codified under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSPART) of 2002 and Australian Standard AS1428.1

These state that 1 in 14 is the maximum gradient allowed for a ramp – half as steep as ramps built in the past.

So how did these accessibility regulations change the way railway stations were built in Melbourne? That is a story for part two!

Citybound X'Trapolis train passes through Mitcham station without stopping

Further reading

Daniel Bowen has a piece titled “Step-free” doesn’t mean DDA – compliant which starts on the topic of ramps, and then details the ways that inadequate information about station accessibility makes life difficult for people trying to plan a journey.

For those interested in more of the early history of Melbourne’s railways, The History Of The Victorian Railways by Robert Lee (2009) is well worth the read, tying the railway story back to the development of the state as a whole.

Sources

The “Step free access at all stations except Heyington” note on the Victorian rail network map can be found here:

Here is the full text of Victorian Railways Engineer for Existing Lines, Charles E. Norman, being questioned by the Railway Inquiry Board in 1895 regarding the ramps linking platforms at Flinders Street Station.

The Railway Inquiry Board : report of the Board to Inquire into the Working and Management of the Victorian Railways
14th May 1895

1589. Can you name any station in a city, even down to 10,000 people, in any of the other colonies, where you have to go up ramps and along an uncovered bridge to catch another train?

I cannot name such a station at present. The uncovered part is only part of the incompleteness.

1590. I need not tell you the ordinary passenger does not want to have to climb stairs and go along bridges and down ramps if he can avoid it; Can you name any station in the whole of Australia (we asked one Commissioner if he could name one in the rest of the world) where a station was so inconvenient as the Flinders Street one?

Certainly. If I were to cudgel my brains sufficiently I could think of stations quite as inconvenient as this. I cannot think of one at the minute.

1591. Do you not think in a city such as this, with a population of 500,000, and where we are catering for the suburban traffic, that the least possible inconvenience that we can put in the way of ordinary travellers is what we should aim at ?

Yes.

1592. Take Spencer Street; you walk in on a level road, and go to any platform you require without having to go up steps?

You cannot do that now that there is a bridge from Spencer Street. You cannot go to the suburban platform in Spencer Street without going over a bridge.

1593. The old way the Spencer Street station was you could do it?

That was before the suburban traffic was carried through.

1594. At Princes Bridge it is the same, and you can get out of any train from there. That being so, do you think it wise that you concentrate the bulk of your traffic in a station where you have to walk up steps and so on ?

It is unavoidable to have a foot-bridge or subway where you have to provide for through trains. The passengers must cross overhead or underneath.

1595. You have read of the stations in London?

Yes.

1596. I do not know of any one there except South Kensington where you have to climb up bridges and so on?

Nearly all their large stations are terminals, and the trains arrive at what are called “dead ends,” and they go out again from the same place in the same direction that they came in. Our Flinders Street Station is a through traffic station, that is to say, the train from Essendon at present runs through Flinders Street Station to Brighton, and it is intended that a good many more trains shall run through in future.

1597. I can quite understand an underground railway such as the Metropolitan District Railway in London necessitating people going down stairs and upstairs to get to the railway line; but in a railway that is on the surface of the earth, I do not understand it?

But wherever there is more than one platform, there must be some means for the passengers to cross the rails.

Victorian Railways Deputy Traffic Manager William Francis Fitzpatrick being questioned by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways in 1896 on the merits of bridges or subways for pedestrian access at railway stations.

Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways on the Plan for New Railway Station at Flinders Street
1st April 1896

781. With reference to bridges or subways, which are the most convenient?

I think that is largely a matter of opinion.

782. I mean, convenient for you, as Traffic Manager, wanting to give the travellers every convenience to induce them to travel by the trains ?

I think myself that a subway, on the whole, is the best, chiefly for these reasons – I am now speaking with regard to the comfort of the traveller; in the first place it is conceded ou all sides that the greatest comfort to the traveller is to take him on the level. Next to that, bridges on that station will be very unpleasant places, owing to the large number of locomotives that will be passing to and fro, owing to the smoke and smell from them, and one thing and another.

Then the question of whether it is easier to mount a ramp or go down the same height on steps is one that I am too young and active a man to settle, but, bearing in mind what little experience we have had, in that direction at several suburban places where we have subways, they lead to no complaint, and I think, on the whole, they are preferable, that is from the point of view of the travellers’ convenience.

And Victoria Railways Engineer for Existing Lines, Charles E. Norman, being questioned by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways in 1899 on the ramps at the new Flinders Street Station.

Progress report from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways on the proposed Central Railway Station at Flinders Street
21st February 1899

27. How will the people get up and down?

The central subway it is proposed to have approached by steps from all the platforms, because ramps would take up too much length of the platforms.

379. What is the width of the first ramp?

10 feet, the second 10 feet, the third 10 feet. The gradient is 1 in 10, and the length of the ramp about 136 feet. The first is not quite so long, it is 120 feet. The present ramps, I believe are 1 in 10, but they may be 1 in 8. we have a ramp leading from the Swanston street footbridge to each platform, we have five ramps altogether.

380. Do you propose that they shall all walk?

Yes. Of course if a lift is found to be a necessity it can always be added; ramps are far easier and safer for old people than steps.

Photos from ten years ago: November 2007

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is November 2007.

We start at South Kensington station, looking back to a much sparser Melbourne CBD skyline. The main difference – a lack of apartment towers along the northern stretch of Elizabeth Street.

SSR J class diesel locomotive parked in the Agents Siding at North Dynon

Down on the Werribee line I spotted a single 2-car VLocity train bound for Geelong.

VLocity VL28 Geelong bound at Aircraft

As well as a short 3-car train at a much smaller Laverton station.

EDI Comeng on the up at Laverton

2-car VLocity trains no longer exist, having been extended to 3-cars in length, the majority of suburban services are 6-cars long, and Laverton station was been drastically rebuilt, with a new overhead concourse and third platform added in 2010.

I also went Hitachi train spotting, where I found a set freshly repainted into Connex livery in the yards at Macaulay.

Trains at the Macaulay Light Repair Centre - Siemens to the left, and refurbished Hitachi 37M to the right

Down at Geelong I paid a visit to the railway out the back of Grovedale.

N464 near Ghazeepore Road

There was nothing out there back then, but today the field is the location of Waurn Ponds station.

N464 slows for the worksite at Ghazeepore Road

November 2007 was also the 70th anniversary of the first ‘Spirit of Progress‘ train running between Melbourne and Albury, with the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre running a special diesel hauled train to celebrate the occasion.

Carriages had to be cleaned.

CS 1 getting washed

And locomotives prepared.

S303 on the Seymour turntable

With work going on late into the night before the train was due to run.

BS 3 by night

The train arrived into Southern Cross Station.

S303 and B74 sitting in the loco release road

With the observation saloon of original 1937 carriage ‘Parlor Car’ facing the end of the train.

The consist at Southern Cross

And a pair of restored 1950s diesel locomotives up front.

The consist at Southern Cross

A few hours later we arrived at Albury.

Locos at Albury

The carriages standing in the ‘break of gauge’ platform, where passengers once had to change trains in the middle of the night on the Melbourne to Sydney journey.

Arrival at Albury

Footnote

‘Parlor Car’ only has an observation saloon at one end of the carriage, so it had to be spun around on the turntable before the journey back to Melbourne.

Parlor Car on the turntable at Wodonga

Which required a trip to Wodonga to shuffle the train around.

Shunting the train at Wodonga

The original 1873 railway station at Wodonga closed in 2008 with the broad gauge line, with a replacement station opening in 2011 on the new Wodonga Rail Bypass.

Footnote

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

Remembering Ansett Australia

I was digging through my piles of junk the other night, when I came across a copy of Ansett Australia’s inflight magazine Panorama dating back to January 1999. So how did I end up with it?

Ansett Australia's inflight magazine "Panorama"

I only flew a handful of times when I was young, and never with Ansett – my main experience of Melbourne Airport being the hour long drive from Geelong to pick up relatives visiting from Hong Kong. It was on one of these trips that I got bored with waiting for their plane to arrive, so to waste time I ended up wandering over to the Ansett Australia terminal, presumably so I could peer out the windows towards the planes.

Unfortunately back then I didn’t take photos of anything and everything, so I have nothing to show for what I saw, but the magazine details what aircraft Ansett had in the fleet just before their demise.

Ansett Australia's fleet circa early 1999

It was Ansett’s Boeing 767 jets that helps contributed to their demise – the grounding of those aircraft in Easter 2001 led to the general public losing faith in the airline’s safety standards.

Ansett’s response in May 2001 was a $30m advertising campaign, featuring the Vanessa Amorosi song Shine:

The advertisement was filmed at Sydney Airport terminal 2.

Jetstar side of Sydney Airport terminal 2

The end came on 12 September 2001 when the airline was placed into voluntary administration. Multiple attempts were made to bring back the airliner as a going concern, but to no avail.

10 year old 'Save Ansett Jobs' sticker in their former terminal

In May 2002 the former Ansett domestic terminal was sold back to Melbourne Airport for $25 million, with upstart airline Virgin Blue taking out a agreement to operate from the terminal.

A decade on, what is now called Terminal 3 still has the same Ansett patterned carpet on the ground.

Ansett Australia patterned carpet

Ansett fonts on the toilet doors.

Ansett Australia branded 'Cleaner' sign in their former terminal

And on the roof of the building is a forgotten ‘Ansett Air Show’ satellite dish.

'Ansett Air Show' satellite dish atop their former Melbourne Airport terminal

Footnote

‘Ansett Air Show’ was the name of the airline’s in-flight news presentation – some further detail is here:

The SatLink digital distribution system was launched in 1994 and enables the delivery of twice daily news bulletins to all Ansett aircraft. Developed and built by AAV, SatLink was produced for the introduction of Ansett Air Show News. The system is activated from AAV’s Control Centre in South Melbourne and uses satellite facilities to uplink information, however SatLink also accommodates fibre optic or MDS technologies.