Perils of design when rebranding a train

In August 2009 the Victorian Government was announced that Connex Melbourne would be dumped as the operator of the Melbourne suburban rail network, replaced by Metro Trains Melbourne.

Rolling out a new look

The government released a flashy video alongside the media release, featuring an X’Trapolis train bearing the new Metro corporate image.

Back in 2009 X’Trapolis trains were the newest in the Melbourne suburban fleet, following a hurried order for 20 new trains to cater for an explosion in patronage.

But for the launch of Metro Trains Melbourne on 30 November none of the new trains were ready to carry passengers, so one of the older X’Trapolis trains was rebranded, with a design looking much like the train featured in the animation.

They didn't clean the bogies or underframe however...

But it wasn’t a full repaint, but a change of stickers – goodbye Connex logo, hello Metro Trains Melbourne.

Old Connex decals showing above the doors of a 1st series X'Trapolis

The same process followed with the rest of the fleet – the first Siemens train to receive the Metro livery appearing a week later, with the fractal design and large ‘METRO’ text fitting easily onto the flat carriage sides.

Siemens 751M taking the side streets, departing Yarraville

But that design wouldn’t fit over the fluted sides of the older Comeng trains, so a cut back version was devised – which didn’t appear until April 2010.

Comeng 376M and 670M at Caulfield station

But if in doubt – rebrand again!

'PTV' branding covers 'Metro' branding, which covered the 'Connex' branding

Following the launch of Public Transport Victoria in 2012, the Metro Trains Melbourne brand was taken off the side of trains, replaced by new PTV logos – resulting in three layers of branding visible.

Feedback from the workshops

In the years that followed, more X’Trapolis trains continued to be delivered – each one being painted plain white at the factory, with Metro stickers applied over the top.

X'Trapolis carriage XT2016 MC2/025 beside completed carriages 245M and 248M

Until July 2018 when a new X’Trapolis train emerged from the Alstom workshops at Ballarat, with a smaller Metro logo on the side.

Original (left) and modified (right) Metro logos on the side of X'Trapolis carriages 273M and 276M

But why was it changed? Take a look at the side of the side of an X’Trapolis train, when coupled to a classmate.

Sequential X'Trapolis carriages 262M and 263M coupled at Southern Cross Station

The previous version of the livery required four different types of door sticker to be kept in stock:

  • ME (left side, left door)
  • ET (left side, right door)
  • TR (right side, left door)
  • RO (right side, right door)

While the new design only needs one kind – plain blue. I wonder who made this clever observation?

Siemens train footnote

The Metro livery applied to the Siemens trains went through a far less noticeable evolution. Can you spot it?

The answer: the train to the left has the early version with one piece stickers, with the train on the right has stickers that avoid the seams in the stainless steel panels.

Presumably the stickers over the seam was would bubble up over time and eventually come loose, hence the change to a more secure two piece design.

And finally – level crossings

There is one that that features prominently in the government’s flashy video from 2009 – single track railways.

And level crossings!

Daniel Andrews took a ‘Level Crossing Removal Project’ policy to the 2014 State Election, with much work done since, but progress on duplicating single track railways is only happening on a sporadic basis.

Ten years since Connex left Melbourne

Remember when Connex ran suburban trains in Melbourne? November 30 marks ten years since they left Melbourne, and Metro Trains Melbourne took over the operation of the suburban rail network.

Two down Siemens and an up EDI Comeng at Footscray, the new footbridge lurks behind

The fall

For years the state government had been underinvesting in rail infrastructure, leading to debacles such as the 2008 Oaks Day failure:

Connex did not have enough staff to respond to a rail meltdown on Oaks Day last year that left tens of thousands of furious racegoers stranded, the state’s rail safety chief has found.

Trains between Flemington and the city failed on the afternoon of November 6 last year, just as 90,000 people were spilling from the racetrack.

Overhead wires melted above one train stopped between North Melbourne and Newmarket. This knocked out power and halted all services in the area.

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded aboard one hot, airless and broken down train. The risked their lives by abandoning the train and walking on train lines to escape.

Tens of thousands more in the CBD had peak-hour trips home thrown into chaos by the fault.

Victoria’s director of public transport safety Alan Osborne has today released his findings into the incident.

He found Connex’s contingency plans for the emergency were “somewhat inadequate”.

However, despite finding Connex did not have sufficient staff to manage the incident, it had complied with all safety procedures, Mr Osborne said.

Experienced rail maintenance staff at the time of meltdown told The Age it had occurred due to long-term neglect of Melbourne’s rail system.

But Mr Osborne did not find this to be the case. Instead, he said that all maintenance procedures had been followed.

However, Mr Osborne noted that the city’s entire rail network was now being checked to make sure identical faults did not occur.

And mass cancellations during the 2009 summer heatwave:

Melbourne’s frazzled train commuters should brace for another nightmare day, after one of the worst in Connex’s history yesterday.

The city’s crumbling rail system failed as tracks buckled and trains broke down amid baking temperatures for the second consecutive day.

And with the mercury already in the mid-30s this morning on the way to an expected top of 43, Connex had already cancelled 34 trains by 8am, following the failure of about 234 services yesterday.

Scores of trains were cancelled due to faulty air-conditioning and other heat-related faults. Passengers on the Hurstbridge and Epping lines faced extra delays after tracks between Jolimont and Flinders Street buckled.

Connex repair teams, armed with hoses, sledgehammers and crowbars, worked for more than an hour to bash the rails back into shape.

Rails on the Glen Waverley line, at Holmesglen, also buckled in the heat.

Clawing back

Connex eventually responded by ramping up maintenance, such as replacing rotting timber railway sleepers with concrete ‘partial replacement sleepers’.

3-car Alstom Comeng departs Newport bound for Werribee, passing new concrete sleepers

Wanting to hang onto the contract to run the train system:

Connex admits it could have done more to cope with Melbourne’s record surge in rail patronage and the resulting passenger frustration, but it wants another chance to run the network for at least the next eight years.

As Connex fights to renew its contract before the Government’s mid-year decision on who will run Melbourne’s rail system, chairman Jonathan Metcalfe conceded that the organisation had made mistakes.

But the biggest problem, he said, was record patronage growth on a network neglected for decades by state governments..

“We’ve had more than our fair share of issues and difficulties,” Mr Metcalfe said. “(But) have we made mistakes? Yes, we have. Of course we could have done more and we should have done more, but the sheer scale of (patronage growth) has been greater than anywhere in Australia or probably anywhere else in the world.”

But lost the contract during the 2009 renewal process.

The decision to oust Connex is likely to be warmly greeted by train passengers who have become increasingly infuriated with late, overcrowded and cancelled services across the network.

May was the fifth month in a row that Melbourne trains did not meet punctuality targets with almost one in 10 failing to arrive at their destination on time.

Connex this year had $11 million wiped from its revenue by the Government after 2.8 per cent of all train services were cancelled in the first months of the year.

Asked if the tender decision was a condemnation of Connex, Mr Brumby said it “wasn’t helpful to look back”, but he admitted Connex’s record showed that in some areas “obviously their performance could have improved”.

Ms Kosky, a regular target of commuter fury, said MTM would deliver improved reliability and fewer cancellations for Melbourne’s train passengers.

The people of Melboune were hopeful that something might change – some wags even put on a ‘Goodbye to Connex’ party.

Handing out flyers for a 'Goodbye to Connex' party outside Flinders Street

Enter Metro Trains Melbourne

November 30 saw the first Metro Trains Melbourne branded train break cover at Newport Workshops.

Mostly white with blue ends and doors

And head for Flinders Street Station.

Waiting around at Flinders Street

Where Premier John Brumby and Transport Minister Lynne Kosky were in attendance, along with Metro Trains Melbourne CEO Andrew Lezala, and members of the press.

The press still gabbling away

But in the end, nothing really changed.

Thirteen months after Labor scrubbed the tarnished Connex brand from Melbourne’s history, Metro’s performance record is even worse. This, despite the newcomer costing Victorians many millions more in its first year than Connex in its last. The Brumby government is no more and ALP state secretary Nick Reece has pointed to disruption in train services before the November poll as a key factor in his party’s demise.

While it is early days for Metro in its eight-year contract, there is a widely held view among rail industry insiders and commentators that the company has hit a wall in Melbourne; that an entrenched inertia and old boys’ network in the state bureaucracy and unions has made reform in Melbourne public transport impossible.

Metro neglected rail infrastructure.

The tracks on Melbourne’s rail network are riddled with serious faults – some left unfixed for years – a leaked internal Metro Trains report shows.

And an email sent by one of the rail operator’s senior staff last month appears to show the company responding to the massive repair backlog by simply deleting reports of faults if they had not yet failed.

But in 2016 was given the exclusive right to negotiate a contract extension, which was awarded in 2017.

And a trainspotting footnote

X’Trapolis train 863M-1632T-864M897M-1649T-898M was the first in the fleet to receive the Metro Trains Melbourne livery.

Further reading

I’ve also got a ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

Trucks cutting corners in Melbourne’s inner west

You’d think that someone paid to drive trucks for a living would know how to turn a corner – but from what I’ve seen in Melbourne’s inner west, many struggle to.

Damaged level crossing lights on the Apex quarry siding at Somerville and McDonald Road in Brooklyn

Somerville Road and McDonald Road, Brooklyn

There is a level crossing at the corner of Somerville Road and McDonald Road in the Melbourne industrial suburb of Brooklyn, used twice daily by the Apex quarry train.

Holding up traffic on Somerville Road

Container trucks are everywhere.

A-double container truck on McDonald Road, Brooklyn

But it seems that some truck drivers have trouble turning the corner – in November 2018 one cut the corner taking out the level crossing lights.

Damaged level crossing lights on the Apex quarry siding at Somerville and McDonald Road in Brooklyn

For the next few months traffic controllers were put in place.

Traffic controllers in place due to damaged level crossing lights on the Apex quarry siding at Somerville and McDonald Road in Brooklyn

Stopping vehicles whenever a train passed through the level crossing.

Traffic controllers with STOP signs guard the Somerville Road level crossing at Brooklyn

Eventually a replacement gantry was erected at the level crossing, but it didn’t last long – in May 2019 a second truck took it out.

The level crossing lights Somerville and McDonald Road in Brooklyn have been taken out again!

The traffic controllers returned, until a third set of level crossing lights were erected in October 2019.

Replacement level crossing lights have finally been installed

Along with two massive concrete barriers.

Replacement level crossing lights have finally been installed

That will hopefully stop a third truck from taking them out.

Two massive concrete barriers added beside the replacement level crossing light

Wright Street and Anderson Road, Sunshine

More concerning is the intersection of Wright Street and Anderson Road in Sunshine, which is surrounded by houses.

Cyclist waiting beside a smashed traffic light post

In May 2017 a truck managed to cut the corner, taking out the traffic light gantry then driving off.

Victoria Police photo

With another truck making a similar mistake in February 2019.

Smashed traffic light post at the corner of Anderson Road and Wright Street

Driving over a traffic light post.

Smashed traffic light post at the corner of Anderson Road and Wright Street

A VicRoads crew had to come up and right it.

VicRoads contractors use a jack to try and bend the traffic signal post back into place

Using a jack to bend the post back into place.

VicRoads contractors use a jack to try and bend the traffic signal post back into place

As good as new.

Traffic light post back upright, and concreted in place

But with no other changes, each passing truck could make the same mistake.

Container truck negotiates the corner of Anderson Road and Wright Street

And a bonus idiot

There is a second level crossing on Somerville Road in Brookyln, used by freight trains headed west to Geelong and Adelaide.

CF4404 leads SCT003, CSR009 and SCT007 on 7MB9 at Brooklyn

Back in May 2019 I saw a light engine movement waiting clear of the level crossing.

8114 heads through Brooklyn to collect a rake of Sadleirs vans from Spotswood

The reason – an idiot truck driver managed to stop under the boom gate and was stuck fast.

Idiot truck drive managed to stop under the boom gate on Somerville Road, Brooklyn

Another truckie had to come over and lift the boom gate up, so the truck could reverse out.

And the Napier Street bridge

Napier Street passes under the Werribee line tracks in Footscray, with an endless stream if ignorant truck drivers managing to get stuck under it.

Tow truck drags the damaged container away from the bridge

As of October twenty trucks had hit the bridge during 2019.

Photos from ten years ago: November 2009

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is November 2009.

New infrastructure

Work on the new platform at Laverton was well underway, with tracks laid but not connected.

Temporary ramp at the up end of the platform for construction access

At Footscray station the new footbridge was starting to look real.

New steps at the northern end of the bridge

But the rickety old timber bridge was still in place.

New and old footbridges over the Newport bound tracks

While at North Melbourne the new concourse had finally opened, with both Metcard and myki ticket readers provided.

Booking office and ticket barriers

Allowing the old northern exit to be closed off.

The old station entry, now closed for good

With Connex staff on hand to direct any confused passengers.

Former main entry and kiosk now closed for good

The extension of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre had also wrapped up.

Northern face of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

The new Seafarers Bridge was open to pedestrians.

Looking across the Seafarers Bridge

And the wharf sheds at the Duke’s and Orr’s dry dock were being restored for use as a bar.

Restoring the wharf sheds at the Duke's and Orr's dry dock

Changes around Geelong

I visited the Barrabool Hills, where the Geelong Ring Road climbs away from the Barwon River.

Barwon River and Geelong Ring Road

Back then it was empty paddocks.

Creeping suburbia

But now it’s full of houses, occupied by people who commute to Melbourne.

I also went past the Ford casting plant at North Shore, where engine blocks for Ford cars were produced.

A whole different backdrop a few seconds later...

The plant closed in 2016 following Ford’s withdrawal from Australian manufacturing, and is currently being demolished.

And scenes that are gone

Remember when trams stopped at each intersection along Swanston Street, and you needed to climb up from road level?

Z1.114 on route 64 leads a few more trams north up Swanston Street

Design work for platform stops at City Square, Bourke Street and the State Library commenced in 2010, with the new stops completed in 2012.

Southern Cross Station used to be a lot emptier.

The colour of the sky keeps changing

As was the Docklands skyline to the west.

Bourke Street bridge rather empty

The station is now filled with shops, while I’ve lost track of all the buildings built in Docklands.

Over at ‘E’ Gate I found a much more industrial scene, where loaded steel wagons were being shunted.

Trailerail liveried NR53 shunts standard gauge wagons at the Melbourne Steel Terminal

Followed by a steel train bound for Hastings.

BL29 leads BL34 off the reversing loop bound for Long Island

But now the entire area is an empty paddock: the yard closed in 2015 to make room for the ‘E’ Gate development, but will instead be covered with flyovers for the West Gate ‘Tunnel’ project.

I also headed out to West Footscray station.

Alstom Comeng picks up passengers at West Footscray

This entire scene is now gone following the Regional Rail Link project, with the current West Footscray station opened in 2013.

The view in the other direction is also gone.

Siemens train departs Middle Footscray under a hazy sky

Every single house on the north side of Buckley Street was compulsorily acquired to make room for the additional tracks, and the footbridge I was standing on demolished and not replaced.

And around the corner was the Rising Sun Hotel.

Mural on the Rising Sun Hotel, Footscray

Back then it was abandoned, but it has since been reborn – the pub was converted to apartments in 2012, with the mural peeking out from behind.

Manildra to Melbourne – the sweetest train of all

There are many cargoes that go by rail, but the sweetest one would be the sugar that that Manildra Group transports from northern NSW to Melbourne.

Having left the four loaded wagons in the Manildra siding at North Dynon, Y152 shunts out with the four empties

The sugar is refined at the Harwood sugar mill in northern New South Wales, near Grafton, in a plant established in 1989 by the Manildra Group and New South Wales Sugar Milling Cooperative.

Google Maps

It is then transported by road to South Grafton and stored in silos, ready to be loaded into rail hopper wagons.

Google Street View

Pacific National shunts the wagons using a 48 class locomotive, attaches them to a southbound freight train bound for Newscatle, and then onto the tail end of a southbound steel train for the trip to Melbourne.

Sugar wagons passing Middle Footscray, attached to the tail end of the southbound WM2 steel train

On arrival in Melbourne the sugar hoppers are collected by the South Dynon shunter.

Y152 waiting in the Melbourne Operations Terminal with three loaded NGGF hoppers taken off a down SG steel train

And taken over to the Manildra siding at the back of South Kensington station.

Empting out the Manildra warehouse at West Melbourne

The empty wagons are taken away.

Y152 leave the three loaded NGGF hoppers in the siding

And the loaded wagons shunted in.

Having left the four loaded wagons in the Manildra siding at North Dynon, Y152 shunts out with the four empties

With the Manildra staff using their own shunting tractor to move the wagons into their unloading shed.

NGGF sugar hoppers being moved by tractor at North Dynon

The empty wagons are then returned to South Dynon.

Y152 traverses 'W' track on the return from North Dynon with the empty NGGF wagons

Then attached on the next northbound steel train for the trip back to Grafton.

NGGF sugar wagons and 'butterbox' containers at the front of MW2 steel train at Albion

But it has come to an end

In late 2018 Manildra Group listed their site in West Melbourne for sale.

Commercial Real photo

The plant has since been shut down, with the site being cleared.

Empting out the Manildra warehouse at West Melbourne

Manildra operate a second Melbourne plant at Altona North, around the corner from the paused Port Rail Shuttle terminal, so the sugar train is no more.

Some history

The Manildra Group complex dates back to 1907, when James Minifie & Co opened the ‘Victoria Roller Flour Mill’ on the site, with the adjacent concrete silos were designed by Edward Giles Stone were built beside the mill in 1910-11. The mill produced ‘O-So-Lite’ packaged flour and cake mixes, until it closed in 1969.

Lennon St 001 James Minifie flour mill complex from Childers St, Flemington-Kensington 1984 sheet 68  34
Photo by Graeme Butler, Flemington & Kensington Conservation Study 1985

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