Treasury Square – the Gas and Fuel Buildings reborn?

In late 2019 the Victorian Government launched an expression of interest process for the ‘Treasury Square’ square site in Melbourne, located next to the railway tracks between Exhibition and Flinders Streets, and Wellington Parade South. But don’t get too excited about a brand new park over the railway tracks – the project is more like a reborn Gas and Fuel Building!

In October 2019 the Minister for Transport Infrastructure launched the Treasury Square project:

The Andrews Labor Government has today announced the start of an expression of interest process to develop vacant transport land in Melbourne’s CBD which has the potential to create jobs and attract new businesses.

The Treasury Square site is located on the southern side of Flinders Street next to the rail corridor, and spans the area between Exhibition and Flinders streets, and Wellington Parade South.

Developing the land presents an opportunity to increase office space or new hotels or apartments in the heart of the city, close to public transport.

Revenue generated from the sale will be invested into the Labor Government’s record $70 billion pipeline of major transport infrastructure across Victoria.

The expression of interest is being run by Colliers International and EY in conjunction with VicTrack and is open until Friday 8 November.

The outcome of the expression of interest will determine next steps, with any development to be subject to relevant planning controls and approvals. For more information visit treasurysquare.colliers.com.au

With the Australian Financial Review revealing in January 2020 that a number of developers had been shortlisted to produce detailed bids.

Victoria has narrowed the field to just four bidders in the race for Melbourne’s Treasury Square urban regeneration project, with developers sharpening pencils for bids that could see them pay more than $500 million for the key CBD-fringe site.

Teams led by Mirvac, Brookfield, Cbus Property and Dexus-John Holland now have until March 12 to produce detailed bids for the 13,600sq m site.

The site, on the southern side of Flinders Street, has the potential to create 130,000sq m of net lettable area for a commercial value of about $2 billion.

Enter site constraints

The Treasury Square site is quite constrained.

While strong interest in the land reflects the dearth of large commercial sites in the Melbourne CBD, the high price could limit profitability of the technically tricky project.

“They’re dreaming,” said a person close to one team that did not make the shortlist. “If they wanted that number … we’ll stand back and leave them to it.”

The site is above a rail tunnel of Melbourne’s underground loop and has an electricity substation on it.

A deck would need to be built above the site to support the three towers that would likely be built as part of any development, which would also be subject to controls to limit overshadowing Birrarung Marr public park on the banks of the Yarra River.

The deck alone could cost as much as $150 million, the person said.

With the Mernda and Hurstbridge line track pair running parallel to Flinders Street.

Hi-rail access pad on the Clifton Hill Group tracks at Richmond Junction

Tramway and railway traction power substation alongside.

Flinders Street substation: tramways is smaller building to the left, railway is the larger one to the right

Full of high voltage electrical gear.

Flinders Street substation: tramways is smaller building to the right, railway is the larger one to the top

The ‘One East Melbourne’ development curving along the footprint of the Burnley and Caulfield Loop tunnels that run beneath.

Apartment complex on Wellington Parade South curves around the footprint of the Burnley and Caulfield Loop tunnels

And then twelve more railway tracks.

X'Trapolis 257M arrives at Flinders Street with an up Burnley group service

Not to mention fourteen tracks between Exhibition Street and Federation Square.

X'Trapolis 209M leads a down service out of Flinders Street

So what will they build?

Treasury Square sounds like an exciting project – but the renders shown on the accompanying website suggest otherwise.

The development is just a tiny wedge of the land between Federation Square and Richmond station – the Mernda and Hurstbridge line track pair, and electrical substations.

With three towers proposed along Flinders Street.

Maybe a mix of hotel, office and residential.

Or just three office towers.

Forming a wall of glass along Flinders Street.

Swap the glass for brick, and you’ve got the Gas and Fuel Towers!

Previous developments at East Melbourne

The first land to be developed was at the corner of Wellington Parade South and Jolimont Road, on what was once the ‘Collingwood Sidings‘. They were cleared of tracks during 1987 and 1988 and then offered for sale.

The first stage being the lowrise ‘Eastside’ complex of neo-Georgian apartments developed by Becton during the 1990s.

Comeng and X'Trapolis trains pass outside Richmond Junction

Followed by the high rise ‘One East Melbourne’ development next door completed in 2010.

One East Melbourne, looking east down Wellington Parade from Spring Street

Consisting of a 19-storey residential tower with 85 apartments; a 6-storey commercial building includes three levels of car parking, 5,500 square meters of office space over three levels, and water wise rooftop garden; and 22 townhouses designed by Edgard Pirotta.

Further reading

Confusion abounds on route 48d to Kew

Every morning a handful of route 48d trams trundle through the Melbourne CBD – but keep your wits about you, if you think they are anything like a route 48 tram without the ‘d’.

A2.272 heads east on route 48d at Collins and Spencer Street

They might start at the Victoria Harbour terminus at Docklands.

A2.274 departs Victoria Harbour with a eastbound route 48 service

And run down Collins Street.

A2.292 eastbound on route 48 at Collins and Exhibition Street

But after Spring Street they don’t turn towards Wellington Parade and Bridge Road – route 48d starts following route 109 along MacArthur Street and Victoria Parade.

A2.276 heads north on route 48d for Kew Depot at Parliament station

Until it finally arrives at Kew Depot, where route 48 and 109 finally meet again.

Dual track fans leading into Kew Depot to/from Barkers Road

So why do route 48d services mislead passengers by following Victoria Street? Yarra Trams says it is a normal practice:

But I would argue the route number is deceptive and should be changed – route 109d services also run down Collins Street, on a section of track not used by normal route 109 services.

A2.287 on route 109d to Kew Tram Depot heads east at Collins and Spencer Street

So who cares if route 48d starts down at the Docklands end of route 48, where route 109 doesn’t run – it’s far more misleading to make people think you’re going to go through Hawthorn like a normal route 48 serivce, but end up in Abbotsford instead!

A history of depot tram route numbers

Once upon a time trams headed for the depot were even more confusing:

The don’t show up in timetables and cannot be seen on maps.

Like the supernatural creatures after which they are named, they can be tricky to find and, on paper at least, their existence is difficult to prove.

They are Melbourne’s ghost trams, secret services that slash waiting times for passengers in the know.

They ferry passengers to a depot or another point on the network where a tram is needed. It’s just that they are unscheduled.

Adding to the mystery – or confusion – is the fact that they have their own unique route number because they service only sections of a line.

Yarra Trams says different route numbers are allocated to avoid confusion. But PTUA president Daniel Bowen said the current system was even more baffling.

“It’s good that these services run,” he said.

“But using unknown route numbers that nobody has ever heard of is not good customer service.

“If the service is running most of the distance of the main route they should just use the main route number … it doesn’t make sense to have so many trams running that no one knows about.

“They are not on signs, not on the web and just appear on the streets. If people knew about them they would recognise them and use them.”

The ‘ghost’ trams could be found all over Melbourne.

A1.239 with a route 95 service shunts at the Spencer Street crossover on La Trobe Street

But that was finally simplified in 2011 when the simpler ‘a’ and ‘d’ route number system was introduced.

New tram route numbers are being trialed for altered services and services returning to the depot, from Sunday, 28 August 2011.

Mysterious route numbers such as 81, 121, 77 and 92 are being phased out to encourage more passengers to catch them to their destination.

The so-called phantom routes do not appear on the network map or timetables. They are services that are necessary to get trams to and from depots or to reposition them on the network.

Rather than running these trams empty to their destination, they still pick up passengers providing extra trips above existing timetabled services.

The new route identification format for these services will feature their parent route number and the letter ‘a’ or ‘d’.

This format means passengers will know that the “phantom route” travels along a regular timetabled and mapped route but terminates short of the end of that route or detours for part of its journey.

The letter ‘d’ means the tram terminates at the ‘depot.’

The letter ‘a’ means the service is ‘altered’ and is not running the full length of the route.

If you see a letter after the route number, check the destination display to find out where the tram is going.

So why are trams down Collins Street towards Kew Depot assigned number 48d? Back in October 2011 I photographed one such service.

A2.292 on route 48d to Kew Depot at Collins and Swanston Street

But headed along Bridge Road.

As detailed by Hugh Waldron in his history of Kew Depot:

Route numbers rationalised with the abolition of intermediate route numbers. To replace the depot and infrequently used route numbers a and d letters were introduced. This resulted in the following Kew Depot route numbers being abolished:-

  • 28 City – Richmond replaced by 48a via Collins St. and 75a via Flinders St.
  • 29 Victoria Harbour or City to Kew Depot via Bridge Road replaced by 48d.
  • 41 Victoria Harbour – Harp Road Kew replaced by 48a
  • 42 Box Hill – Victoria Harbour replaced by 109a
  • 47 Kew Depot via Victoria Street replaced by 109d or 31d

So maybe route 48d trams where at some point changed to run via Victoria Street, but no one thought that necessitated changing the route number route 109d?

Footnote

In 2009 Hugh Waldron compiled a full history of Melbourne tram route mumbers.

Photos from ten years ago: January 2010

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is January 2010.

Built it up

Construction work on the Laverton Rail Upgrade project on the Werribee line has been a recent theme – we see that work on the third platform was almost done.

EDI Comeng arrives into Laverton on the up

Along with the new footbridge.

New footbridge virtually complete

Another project was the construction of a new station on the Craigieburn line at Coolaroo.

Looking up the Coolaroo station platforms

Served by a similarly large footbridge.

Looking down to Coolaroo station from Barry Road

Nothing ever changes on the Albury line

Another project of the period was the North East Rail Revitalisation Project, which was converting the deteriorating Seymour-Albury railway broad gauge track to standard gauge, providing two parallel tracks at a cost of $500 million.

While this work was underway, V/Line services had replaced by buses since 2008.

'Improving rail services for Seymour' - by running buses for two years, one more year than is really required!

A new platform was also constructed on the standard gauge track at Broadmeadows.

Looking down the new standard gauge platform at Broadmeadows

And V/Line was also busy upgrading trains for the return of trains to Albury.

Headed through the Parwan Curves, clouds of dust in the air as I just beat the train!

It was intended for V/Line trains to return in late 2010 but poor track quality delayed it until June 2011.

Unfortunately nothing has changed in the decade since – 2012 saw a promise to ‘fix’ the track, but reliability of V/Line services to Albury has stayed in the toilet , despite the addition of a third and even fourth train set to run the serivce.

May 2018 saw the launch of the $235 million North East Line Upgrade proejct – will this finally solve it?

But plenty of change towards Sunshine

Ten years ago the view along the line between the CBD and Sunshine was very different.

Freight sidings filled the area between North Melbourne and Moonee Ponds Creek.

C501 stabled with Austrac liveried 4836 stabled at the Creek Sidings

South Kensington station used to have trees on the platform.

EDI Comeng arrives into South Kensington on a down Williamstown train

Suburban and V/Line trains needed to share four tracks to Footscray.

N464 leads a down Geelong train into Footscray, a spark close behind on the parallel track

And two tracks through West Footscray.

EDI Comeng picks up passengers at West Footscray

There was plenty of grass beside Sunshine Road.

EDI Comeng heads a down Sydenham train towards Tottenham

And a rickety timber footbridge across the tracks at Sunshine.

Alstom Comeng departs Sunshine bound for Watergardens

All are now gone, to make way for the new Regional Rail Link tracks that separated suburban and V/Line services from 2015.

Blink and you’ll miss it

January 2010 saw the first Southern Spirit rail cruise run through Melbourne, on a journey from Adelaide to Brisbane.

Headed for Melbourne after visiting Adelaide and Alice Springs

Barely squeezing into the platform at Southern Cross Station.

Departure from Southern Cross, just before a cloud rolls over!

The last Southern Spirit rail cruise ran in May 2012, with the concept was relaunched in 2019 as the Great Southern.

Things that are gone

I swung past Essendon station.

Up train at Essendon - the platforms are hard up against the Buckley Street level crossing

Where traffic queued up at the Buckley Street level crossing – removed in 2018.

Traffic held up on Buckley Street, Essendon

City Circle Trams used to be maroon.

SW6.888 on the City Circle on La Trobe Street

Since 2012 they have been replaced by the W8 class tram rebuilds, with the final one withdrawn in 2018.

And buses in Geelong used to be green.

Benders bus #92 rego 4357AO pulls into Lara station with a route 12 service

The Benders livery replaced the blue Geelong Transit System brand from the 1980s, but has since given way to Public Transport Victoria orange.

At Lara station I captured a 1950s-era A class locomotive hauling a V/Line train towards Geelong.

A62 arriving into Lara station counter-peak on the down

In 2013 they were withdrawn, only to be returned to service in 2014, then finally withdrawn in 2018.

Another V/Line antique was the compartment carriages used on a once daily return trip to Geelong.

N453 arrives into Lara with carriage set SZ7

The set remained in service until August 2010, when the delivery of additional VLocity trains enabled it to be retired.

And finally, I captured The Overland headed out of Geelong bound for Adelaide.

NR81 leads The Overland out of Bell Post Hill past the Geelong Ring Road, power van PCO4 in the consist

Government funding for the serivce expired in 2015 was was renewed for three years, followed by a one year renewal in 2018, which has yet to be renewed at the time that I write this.

And the start of a plague

In 2009 VicRoads commenced the trial of ‘High Productivity Freight Vehicles‘ at the Port of Melbourne.

New 'High Productivity Freight Vehicles' - B doubles that fit 4 TEU of containers instead of 3, with a longer middle trailer and a fourth axle

These B-double trucks with quad axle trailers were up to 30 metres long and 77.5 tonnes in weight, transporting four TEU of containers compared to the three TEUs moved by standard B-doubles.

In the years since trucks have now taken over the streets of Melbourne’s inner west, while the Port Rail Shuttle project that was supposed to move containers onto rail has gone nowhere.

Footnote

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

William Street upgrades and forgotten route 605 bus

During December 2019 a massive upgrade was completed on William Street in the Melbourne CBD, with platform stops built for tram passengers and separated bike lanes for cyclists. But there was one mode of transport that has completely been forgotten as part of the work – the route 605 bus.

B2.2028 heads south along relaid track on route 58 at William and Little Collins Street

Some history

Blink and you’d miss it is the story of most buses in Melbourne, and route 605 from Gardenvale is no different.

Alstom Comeng train on the 'new' viaduct

For many years route 605 travelled in a loop around the Melbourne CBD via Flinders Street, Queen Street, Lonsdale Street and Exhibition Street.

Eastrans 7509AO on a route 605 service along Flinders Street

But was rerouted in 2017 to travel via Queen Street and Flagstaff station, as part of a package of changes made due to Metro Tunnel works at Domain Interchange.

The State Government boasted about the changes when they were announced.

The Andrews Labor Government has announced changes to the route of bus 605 to ensure passengers can continue to get where they need to go when work ramps up on the Metro Tunnel.

Parliamentary Secretary for Public Transport Ros Spence announced the new route for bus 605 today, which will travel around the works for the new underground station at Domain.

Route 605 currently travels between Punt Road and Swan Street into the city. Starting 25 June this year, the route will travel along Anderson Streets and Birdwood Avenue into the western end of town, along Queen Street as far as La Trobe Street.

The new route will allow passengers to connect to trams along St Kilda Road, as well as trains at Flagstaff Station.

It will now pass Melbourne Grammar School and Melbourne Girls Grammar School, providing students with direct connections into the city.

The new route reached Flagstaff station via La Trobe Street.

CDC Melbourne bus #150 BS04FI on route 605 at Flagstaff station

Stopping outside the Supreme Court at William and Little Lonsdale Street.

CDC Melbourne bus #158 BS05GX on route 605 at Flagstaff station

And then back to Queen Street via Lonsdale Street.

CDC Melbourne bus #149 BS03DO on route 605 at William and Lonsdale Street

As for bicycle lanes on William Street, cyclists once needed to fight their way around cars, until the 2014 installation of chevron separated lanes in the space between parked cars and moving traffic.

B2.2028 southbound on route 55 at Little Lonsdale and William Street

Enter the William Street works

Tram passengers and cyclists were quoted as the main beneficiaries of the work on William Street.

We’re upgrading city tram stops on Route 58, to make travelling by tram easier for everyone – including passengers who are vision impaired or using wheelchairs, prams, and other mobility aids.

Stops 5 and 7 on William Street in Melbourne’s CBD will be upgraded in late 2019 to improve safety, accessibility, and journey times.

William Street is being upgraded around these new tram stops to keep pedestrians, trams, and bikes moving, helping everyone get around.

In partnership with the City of Melbourne, we will deliver new separated bicycle lanes along William Street between Little Collins and La Trobe streets.

Doing these works together means we can limit impacts on the community through fewer road closures and deliver the benefits of these upgrades sooner.

But buses were a mere footnote.

Bus stops will be moved to enable dedicated bicycle lanes to be built along William Street.

Works commenced in November 2019 with a full road closure.

Tracks all removed from outside Flagstaff station

With route 605 bus operator CDC Melbourne publishing a diversion notice, and PTV publishing a terse version at the Flagstaff station bus stop.

Saturday 23rd November – Monday 9th December 2019

Due to roadworks on William Street, there will be a diversion in place that will affect Route No 605 on the affected dates above.

The following diversion will be used for the 605 route travelling towards Flagstaff Station.

The bus will travel along Queen Street, Melbourne and conduct a u-turn at the roundabout near Queen Victoria Market to go back onto Queen Street and resume it’s normal route.

Come December the works were completed, with new bike lanes in place, and platform stops making life easier for tram passengers.

New Flagstaff station platform stop at William and La Trobe Street

But route 605 buses were still missing in action.

The PTV website pretends everything is fine – only Southbank Boulevard and New Years Eve diversions are listed.

But every day operator CDC Melbourne publishes a new diversion notice via Twitter.

Day.

After day.

So how long until PTV realises something is wrong, and does something about it?

So why can’t buses use William Street?

The former route 605 bus terminus at William and Lonsdale Street is now occupied by a separated bike lane – so buses can’t stop there.

Separate bike lane southbound on William Street at Little Lonsdale Street

With the rest of the road turned over to the police to park their cars.

Route 605 bus stop at William and Lonsdale Street replaced by a bike lane and police parking

There is a bus stop around the corner at Lonsdale and William Street – but route 605 buses can’t stop there for extended periods between runs, because multiple Lonsdale Street routes also pass through this stop.

Bus passengers waiting at Lonsdale and William Street

The Queen Victoria Market bus terminus on Franklin Street is another option – but it’s a block further north, extending the kilometres travelled, and the payments that PTV needs to make to the bus operator.

Transdev bus #975 rego 8257AO on a route 239 service at Queen Victoria Market

How about cyclists and bus passengers sharing the road?

Turns out Melbourne has a precedent for bus stops on a bike lane, and on the very same route – down on Southbank Boulevard, completed in July 2019.

'Platform stop' across the bike lane for eastbound buses on Southbank Boulevard

Where cyclists on the bike lane have to give way to bus passengers.

'Platform stop' across the bike lane for eastbound buses on Southbank Boulevard

Just the same as Swanston Street and tram passengers.

Cyclists stop for route 67 passengers boarding B2.2011 at Swanston and Collins Street

So why wasn’t the same design used on William Street? Turns out one can’t use Southbank Boulevard as a precedent – route 605 buses have been diverting from the area since the stop was created, awaiting the completion of works in 2020.

So perhaps bus operators ran away screaming that the thought, and rejected the same solution on William Street – putting route 605 back to square one.

Update: the obvious answer!

As soon as I published this post, multiple people asked – “why don’t the buses use the tram tracks“. Good question – route 605 buses do exactly that along the route 58 tracks on Queensbridge Street in Southbank!

Smartbus liveried Transdev bus #566 6334AO on route 219 on Queensbridge Street

The only possible explanation I can see is that the turn for buses from La Trobe Street into William Street is too sharp, and there isn’t an easy way for buses to exit the tracks again at Lonsdale Street – but they don’t seem like an impossible issues to resolve.

Daniel Andrews, Merry Christmas and Wikimedia Commons

It was the day before Christmas, and Daniel Andrews’ social media team shared a ‘Free Public Transport on Christmas Day’ post.

My first through – I’ve seen that photo of a V/Line train before – I uploaded it to Wikipedia a decade ago.

So where did the other photos come from? The Z3 class tram looked familiar – Wikipedia again.

And the bus – another photo via Wikipedia.

But as for the source of the X’Trapolis train photo – I’ve come up blank – if only they’d followed the Creative Commons licence

You are free:

  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to remix – to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • share alike – If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same or compatible license as the original.

And through the looking glass

If you take a close look at the original photo on Wikipedia, you’ll notice a green advertisement for Monteith’s apple cider.

Which has been photoshopped out of the ‘Free Public Transport on Christmas Day’ post – replaced by a panel of PTV green triangles.