Southern Cross Station – what could have been

With all of the recent talk about Southern Cross Station’s failings – in particular failed escalators and gross overcrowding in peak times – what better time than now to look at what could have been.

Wide angle overview from the Collins Street concourse

The backstory

On February 28, 2000 then-Premier Steve Bracks announced the Linking Victoria program, which included a joint private/public sector redevelopment of Spencer Street Station.

“Spencer Street, the central facility for metropolitan, State, and interstate rail services, has been allowed to die a slow death,” Mr Bracks said.

“Our plans include a multi-modal interchange for passengers on country and metropolitan rail services, the airport rail link, trams and regional buses, and commercial development so the station can better serve Victoria as an international business and tourism centre.

“The Government has commenced work on a master plan for the redevelopment of Spencer Street to give it new life and ensure it plays a pivotal role in linking Victoria.”

A development plan for the project will be undertaken by the Department of Infrastructure over the next six months. Tenders are expected to be let later this year, with construction expected to commence in 2001.

In August 2000 Flagstaff Consulting Group was appointed to develop a concept plan for the Spencer Street Station redevelopment along with options for the financing, delivery and operation of the project. This culminated in October 10, 2001 with the shortlisting of three consortia to build, operate and maintain the new station:

  • Civic Nexus: ABN AMRO Australia Ltd, Leighton Contractors P/L, with architects Daryl Jackson P/L, Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners
  • Spencer Connect: Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd, John Holland P/L, Australand Holdings Ltd, with architects Ashton Raggatt MacDougall, Alsop & Stormer
  • Multiplex Rothschild Consortium: Multiplex Constructions P/L, NM Rothschild & Sons (Australia) Ltd, with architects Denton Corker Marshall, DEGW Asia Pacific P/L

So what did the three proposals look like?

Spencer Connect: Ashton Raggatt MacDougall

Hold onto your hat – you’re in for a wild ride with Ashton Raggatt McDougall! From their archived page on the project:

Imagine seeing this at the Spencer Street end of Bourke Street!

A bizarro world concourse.

And these claustrophobic platforms.

I wonder how it would have translated to reality?

Multiplex Rothschild: Denton Corker Marshall

Somewhat more conventional was the design by Denton Corker Marshall – artists impressions from their page on the project:

Plenty of open space on the concourse.

And even more above the platforms.

And topped off with a ‘blade’, just like their other 1990s Melbourne projects – Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Museum and the ‘Cheesestick’ over CityLink.

So what happened?

In February 2002 a five person design panel was appointed to review the proposals:

Peter McIntyre
A practising architect with 50 years experience, he has designed key icons for Melbourne such as the Olympic Swimming Stadium, Parliament Station, the Melbourne Arts Centre Spire. A former Professor of Architecture at Melbourne University, Mr McIntyre has also been involved in the Museum of Victoria and Crown Casino Melbourne, and will chair the panel.

Leon Van Schaik
Mr Van Schaik is a Melbourne architect, Pro Vice Chancellor and a professor of architecture at RMIT. He has a long history of promoting local architectural culture in Melbourne through the university’s capital works program.

Scott Danielson
An international architect, Mr Danielson will bring an international perspective to Melbourne. He has strong experience in transport interchanges, having been associated with Mass Rapid Transport system in Singapore and Taipei.

Peter Crone
A well-known Melbourne architect, Mr Crone leads his own award-winning practice based on inventive architectural design.

Gerry Neylan
Mr Neylan will contribute almost 30 years experience in major projects. He has an extensive background of planning, architecture and business development.

The Multiplex Rothschild consortium was knocked out of the running in early 2002, leaving a two horse race when the winner was announced on July 2, 2002:

Mr Bracks named the winning consortium as Civic Nexus. Members of the consortium are: ABN Amro, who led and financed the proposal; Leighton Contractors, who will build the new station; and world renowned Australian architect Daryl Jackson and UK-based architect Nicholas Grimshaw.

Civic Nexus will:

  • Construct a new transport interchange, worth $350 million, including associated track and signalling works.
  • Maintain and operate the new railway station for the next 30 years, with total costs of approximately $100 million.

In return, the State will pay Civic Nexus $300 million through regular payments over the next 30 years.

Mr Bracks said the Civic Nexus redevelopment included the construction of a new retail plaza, and three office and apartment towers, within the Spencer Street Station precinct.

Features of the new station included:

  • An open design with vast, light-filled spaces, and all-glass street frontage on to the Collins St extension and Spencer St;
  • Secure, sheltered parking facilities for 800 cars plus drop-off areas;
  • A 30-bay bus station accommodating terminating and transiting coaches and buses, and providing ticketing facilities and waiting areas for their passengers;
  • Convenient access to the main terminal complex for trams travelling along Spencer Street and the new Collins Street extension
  • An innovative ‘wave roof’ design spanning across all platforms;
  • Links to Docklands via the Collins and Bourke Street alignments, with direct access to these bridges from all platforms;
  • In addition to the Bourke Street Pedestrian Bridge, a new footbridge will link Lonsdale Street with Colonial Stadium and connect with a retail plaza;
  • The Transport Mural is heritage listed and will be retained and located within the new facility;
  • Fully sheltered, high-quality waiting areas, equipped with comfortable seating, lighting, heating and air-conditioning and providing access to toilets, telephones, passenger information displays, catering facilities and other retail outlets;
  • Passenger security facilities throughout the Interchange Facility – including CCTV monitoring – and readily accessible passenger help-points and alarms connected to an on-site control room;
  • Efficient baggage handling facilities for interstate and long-distance intrastate rail and coach operations.

But it appears that the opinion of the design panel was trumped by beancounters, if this 2006 article from The Age is anything to go by:

The Age also reveals that the Southern Cross Station project, designed by British-based architects Nicholas Grimshaw and Melbourne’s Daryl Jackson, was not the scheme preferred by a Government-appointed design panel.

High-level sources confirmed this week that the three-man panel, led by Professor Peter McIntyre, favoured an alternative design by local firm Ashton Raggatt McDougall, but the Government opted for the cheaper bid.

Industry sources said they believed the difference between the bids was about $80 million.

Mr Batchelor defended the Government’s choice. “Victorians have a new, world-class railway station that has set the standards in design, engineering and technology,” he said.

“What we sought was value for money. In determining value for money, all aspects of the bids were considered including bid price and design.”

Enter scope cuts

It turns out that Southern Cross Station as it exists today is quite different to the original design that Civic Nexus proposed.

A major omission is the lack of roof over the Bourke Street Bridge.

But other changes include the substitution of the highrise tower at the south-west corner facing Collins Street with a low-rise office block, and the replacement of office towers along Spencer Street with the tin shed that is the DFO Outlet Mall.

But there were even more elements dropped – which The Age revealed in July 2005:

Key features of Melbourne’s troubled Spencer Street Station project, including the signature wave roof, have been scaled back or scrapped amid bitter infighting and cost blow-outs.

The wave roof will now cover only about three-quarters of the station, not all platforms as planned.

Other aspects of the $700 million redevelopment have been dropped or shelved as construction delays inflate costs, which the warring parties have sought to recoup through litigation.

The Age can reveal:

  • A footbridge linking Lonsdale Street and Telstra Dome will not be built.
  • A plan to extend the wave roof over the Bourke Street footbridge has been abandoned after heated rows. The bridge will now be only partially protected from the elements.
  • Plans for tiled platforms have been modified to a mix of tiled and asphalt surfaces, although construction company Leighton says this is not a cost-cutting measure.

The original plan, proposed in 2002, included a high-rise tower on the corner of Collins Street and Wurundjeri Way, and a wave roof spanning all platforms. The plan was varied in 2003.

A lower-rise, linear building along Wurundjeri Way will now replace the high rise. The building will be built on a raised concrete deck that will also form the roof above platforms 13 to 16.

This means the wave roof will now cover only platforms one to 12. Platforms 13 to 16, under the concrete deck, will effectively be covered by a high, flat roof.

Grimshaw project director Keith Brewis told The Age the change, (which effectively deletes some of the wave roof to allow for the deck/roof and linear building), had been cost related.

Because the competitive process was so short, the project had not been “absolutely set” when building started, he said. Civic Nexus later decided a high-rise tower was “less commercially attractive” to tenants.

The change to a linear building had been made “to give Civic Nexus some development profit back into the project to help to offset some of the costs of the project”, he said.

Mr Brewis confirmed that a plan for a footbridge to link Lonsdale Street and Telstra Dome would not go ahead because “someone’s got to pay for it”.

Civic Nexus and Leighton Contractors’ joint statement said the footbridge “was considered not necessary, given access is provided over Collins Street, the Bourke Street bridge and La Trobe Street”.

Mr Brewis confirmed there had been plans to extend the wave roof over the Bourke Street bridge, but that this would have involved realigning tracks to allow for supports.

Mr Brewis said there had been disagreement among the companies and organisations involved.

Bourke Street bridge will now be partially covered and have a windscreen on one side.

Civic Nexus and Leighton Contractors’ said the original covering over the bridge had been modified “at the request of the planning authorities who wanted to preserve pedestrian views from the bridge”.

Transport Minister Peter Batchelor would not be interviewed by The Age.

He emailed a statement through a media adviser stating that changes to the Bourke Street footbridge, the Lonsdale Street footbridge and the commercial building on Collins Street had been made in consultation with relevant authorities.

The government’s official line at the time was far more terse:

October 2003 – Design changes to commercial developments approved

Civic Nexus made several architectural and functional improvements to the office, retail and residential buildings being constructed alongside the main station. The $350 million airport-style transport interchange remained essentially unchanged.

But the end result was the same.

Asphalt everywhere.

Empty platforms at Southern Cross platform 3 and 4

Tin roofs over the northern end of each V/Line platform.

Stream of passengers exit their train at the north end of platform 3

A poorly lit concrete ceiling above platforms 13 through 16.

Second barrel light tower in place at the north end of platform 13 and 14

And no rain protection on the Bourke Street Bridge.

Pedestrians on the Bourke Street Bridge only have a narrow section of covered walkway

And don’t get me started on the shops crammed onto every piece of empty space.

Footnote

Some more plans showing a different Southern Cross Station – they include the Lonsdale Street footbridge and a roof over the Bourke Street Bridge, but include the low-rise office block and DFO Outlet Mall as eventually built.

Melbourne trains moving with open doors

Last week The Age published article titled Long delays for justice over teen’s train death – detailing with the aftermath of a 2014 fatality at Heyington station.

X'Trapolis on a citybound service arrives at Heyington station

Initially much has been made of the gap between the train and the sharply curved platform at Heyington.

Rubber platform edge at Heyington station

But the real cause was something far more concerning.

Moving a train while the doors are open

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau released their final report into the Heyington fatality in April 2016, and detailed how the train moved while the doors are open:

The train was equipped with a traction interlocking device to prevent the train from moving while its carriage doors were open. The device, as designed, deactivated after a period of time and allowed the train to depart with the doors held open.

The report explains the normal operation of the train doors by the driver.

The driving cab at each end of the EMU contains the equipment and devices to enable the driver to operate and monitor the train doors. Located on the driver’s control console are two yellow pushbuttons that open the left and right hand side doors respectively and a blue pushbutton that closes doors on both sides.

To close the doors, the driver presses the blue pushbutton on the console. An intermittent beep sounds at each door for three seconds to warn passengers of imminent door closure. The yellow pushbutton lamp at the control console is extinguished and the doors close while emitting an intermittent beep at the doors. When the doors are successfully closed, the beep ceases and the pushbutton lamp on the door is extinguished. The blue pushbutton lamp on the console illuminates and flashes continuously until the doors are detected closed and then displays a steady blue light.

As well as how the train driver is prevented from moving the train while the doors are open.

Pressing the blue pushbutton at the console initiates door closing and a 60 second time delay for traction authorisation. Detection of all doors closed and locked before the 60 seconds elapse, activates traction authorisation.

And something concerning – a safety feature that automatically disengages itself.

Should the doors fail to close and lock after 60 seconds, the system is designed such that traction is authorised, despite the possibility that the doors have not closed. Once traction is authorised and applied the train will move.

Which led to the incident at Heyington.

The driver activated the door close command at 23:51:24 and shortly after made two attempts to apply traction. The train did not move as the traction interlock system had detected the open door and inhibited the application of power to the motors.

The end doors of the fourth car and the doors on all the other cars had closed, but the centre doors of the fourth car were held open by the two youths. After a short delay, the driver made an announcement for passengers to keep the doors clear. During this period, as designed, the doors attempted to close several times, but were held open.

The driver then applied traction again at about 23:53:30 and the train commenced moving along the platform with the doors held open, as the traction interlock system had timed out as designed.

Enter human factors

The ATSB argued that the design of the X’Trapolis train’s traction interlock system was flawed.

Where the design of a safety system such as a traction interlock times out automatically, it would be prudent to have additional indications/alarms to warn a driver of a change of state in the vehicle controls, particularly during passenger boarding at a station. Further, formally documenting the operation of the traction interlock override systems in the MTM training manuals would increase driver awareness of the risks associated with these systems.

And that other rail operators are much safer.

Traction override systems on passenger rolling stock managed by other operators also required drivers to intervene and operate a switch if they are required to override a traction interlock. In most cases, procedures require the use of the override when there is a failure of the door closed detection equipment or electrical circuitry. Prior to operating the manual override, drivers are required to follow procedures to ensure doors are closed and locked, and to verify this action by seeking authority from a train control centre.

But in Melbourne, we don’t do that.

MTM operates Comeng, X’Trapolis and Siemens trains on its network. The traction interlocking systems on the Comeng and X’Trapolis trains in Melbourne are designed such that the interlocking system is deactivated automatically after a period of time. MTM advised that the train’s traction interlock system was designed to deactivate to enable trains to be moved in case of door faults.

Except on one kind of train.

The traction interlocking system on the Siemens type trains, also operated in the MTM fleet, would not allow the train to move with the doors open without driver intervention to override the interlock.

Their brakes might not work, but at least Siemens got something right!

Siemens 783M arrives into Flinders Street Station

So time to fix the problem?

In April 2016 the ATSB raised a safety issue with Metro Trains Melbourne.

As designed, the traction interlock automatically deactivated after a period of time. This allowed traction to be applied and the train to depart with the carriage doors open.

Who initially responded:

MTM advised the ATSB that subsequent to the incident MTM has made no changes to the traction interlock system on the rolling stock, but has commenced a risk review of the traction interlock timing.

The ATSB wasn’t happy, so in July 2016 they recommended Metro Trains modify the traction interlock override system to incorporate additional risk mitigations, which they accepted:

MTM has now completed a risk review of the traction interlock timing. It is considering proposals to modify the interlock override system on both X’Trapolis and Comeng Fleets which have the same functional design.

The proposed steps are to undertake circuit modifications and install a key operated override switch. When implemented, these measures will allow a train to gain traction control in circumstances where a door appears to be open, but will differ from the arrangement at the time of the incident in that they require an additional manual intervention from the driver.

Circuit modifications will necessitate the removal of the existing timer relay circuit that provides for the functionality to be restored after a 60 second delay. Therefore if a ‘door open’ condition is detected following the initiation of the ‘door close’ command, the circuit will inhibit traction without time limitation, until the key switch is operated to reinstate traction.

During the running of a train, MTM’s systems will be such that the key can only be operated by a driver properly authorised and having the appropriate operating key. It should be noted that this is a similar configuration currently on the Siemens fleet.

In December 2016 tests of the modified traction interlock system had commenced on a single Comeng train, with a warning sign in the cab informing drivers of the modification, while Metro Trains gave the following timeline of implementation:

For Comeng trains within the MTM fleet, the installation of the proposed solution is being undertaken as part of the Comeng Life Extension program and is planned to commence by December 2016.

The Comeng Life Extension program is currently halfway complete, with the new override key switches appearing in each cab.

'Detrain passengers when door loop bypass switch is isolated' notice onboard a Comeng train

But for the X’Trapolis trains, money and technical difficulties got in the way.

For X’Trapolis trains, the implementation works are scheduled to commence after circuit validation by the train designer ALSTOM. For a number of reasons, MTM cannot proceed to make these alterations without ALSTOM approval.

In discussion with DEDJTR (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources) it is proposed that new X’Trapolis trains being ordered would be the first fitted, with changes to other X’Trapolis trains being the subject of further review of funding options.

But it looks like the X’Trapolis fix is now on the way.

T385 pushes the train into the GEB siding at Sunshine, with T386 shunted clear into a siding

The 2017 Metro Trains Melbourne franchise extension included the ‘Indef. Traction Interlock XT Fleet Project’ as a line item, and since late-2018 dozens of X’Trapolis trains have passed through the Alstom Ballarat workshops for upgrades – hopefully a fix to the traction interlocking was one of the changes.

Footnote: everything old is new again

Way back in November 2008 then rail operator Connex Melbourne undertook an investigation into the problem of Comeng trains moving away from stations with doors still open.

Between 3 July and 23 September 2008, there were 17 confirmed incidents relating to Comeng trains moving with at least one passenger saloon door open.

The report recommended six actions, one of which was:

That a review of the operation of the Comeng door system be undertaken to determine its suitability in the current (2008) operating conditions. This review to consider the adequacy of the 15-second traction delay as provided.

Metro Trains took over from Connex in 2009 and implemented a fix for the problem.

MTM advise that this review has been completed. The 15-second traction delay has been increased to 60 seconds, and by June 2010 approximately 70 per cent of the fleet has received the modification.

The Heyington fatality in 2014 suggests that wasn’t enough – but thankfully the current works should fix it for good.

Sources

And a housekeeping note

I recently launched a page on Patreon where you can help support my work. Next week’s blog post is “Southern Cross Station – what could have been” – and if you sign up over at https://www.patreon.com/wongm you’ll get a sneak peak!

Photos from ten years ago: May 2009

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

We start over at Flinders Street Station, where Hitachi trains were still in service with then-suburban train operator Connex Melbourne.

Refurbished Hitachi awaiting departure from Flinders Street Station

Connex was replaced by Metro Trains Melbourne in November 2009, but the Hitachi trains hung on until December 2013.

Nearby signal box Flinders Street ‘A’ was being rebuilt as part of the ‘Signal’ youth arts centre.

Flinders Street A box being rebuilt

But around the corner was the abandoned trackbed of platform 11.

Looking east along the trackbed of platform 11

It has since been turned into the ‘Arbory’ bar, opened in 2015

We’ve been watching the construction at North Melbourne station for months now, and in May 2009 the temporary scaffolding was coming down, exposing the new concourse at the city end.

Half of the tracks for moving the roof into place now removed

Down near Moonee Ponds Creek I photographed a V/Line train headed out of the station.

N467 heads out of town at North Melbourne

Since Regional Rail Link opened in 2014 these tracks are only used by suburban trains, with V/Line now using their own tracks that bypass North Melbourne station entirely.

Once upon a time passenger trains all over Victoria once carried parcels as well as passengers, but in 2009 the ‘Green Star’ parcel service still operated using V/Line trains.

The last parcels traffic on V/Line - blood products

The public parcel service was wound up in 2010, but V/Line still continues transporting blood products for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service as part of a separate agreement.

Another much heavier freight task is the movement of steel products from the BlueScope Steel plant at Hastings, to the Melbourne Steel Terminal next door to Docklands.

8115 shunting butterboxes at the Melbourne Steel Terminal

A decade on the trains still run, this freight terminal no longer exists – the site was cleared in 2015 to make way for the ‘E’ Gate development, only for Transurban to acquire it in 2016 as part of the West Gate ‘Tunnel’ city access ramps.

Around the corner at the South Dynon depot, I found a 114 tonne diesel locomotive being lifted by a crane.

Trailer gone and ready to lower the loco

B64 originally entered service in 1952 and was in service with V/Line for 40 years until retired in 1992. It then went through a succession of owners who intended to restore it to service, but to naught – it’s currently dumped out the back of the railway workshops in Bendigo.

Another similarly aged locomotive is steam engine R761.

Finally arrived into Ballarat

It also entered service in 1952, but was withdrawn far earlier in 1974, but retained for use on special trains, such as this run to Ballarat.

The steep climb out of Bacchus Marsh drew quite a crowd.

Still climbing upgrade to Bank Box

As did the spin on the turntable on arrival at Ballarat.

R761 getting turned at Ballarat East

Along the way I stopped into the ghost town that was Rockbank station.

Another VLocity with a buck tooth - VL19 at Rockbank

The station is currently being upgraded as part of the Regional Rail Revival project, but there is nothing ‘regional’ about Rockbank – the new station is intended to serve sprawling new suburbs of Melbourne.

While I was up in Ballarat, I stumbled upon for the former Joe White Maltings plant in Wendouree.

Railway sidings parallel the main line towards Ararat

A complex series of conveyors and elevators once moved grain around the facility.

'Joe White Maltings barley intake system' diagram

But by the time I visited the plant had closed, bulk of the site having been demolished in 2006, leaving just the silos.

Overview of the partially cleared site

The site then lay empty, with the silos demolished in late-2010 after plans to convert them into apartments fell through.

We end down in Geelong, where I picked up a “Short Term Ticket”.

Short term cardboard myki ticket from a Geelong bus

They were a cardboard single use smartcard ticket, sold on buses in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong following the introduction of Myki in 2009.

The rollout of short term tickets was cancelled by the Baillieu government in June 2011, acting on advice contained in a secret report by consultants Deloitte. Supposedly the continued rollout was cancelled because the cards cost $0.40 cents to manufacture – making up almost half of the $0.90 charged for a concession bus fare in Geelong!

Despite the objections of locals, the sale of two hour and daily short-term tickets ended in Geelong on Friday 19 April 2013.

Footnote

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

Metro Trains Melbourne managing overcrowded platforms

As Melbourne grows so has congestion, as public transport infrastructure struggles to keep up. But it isn’t just trains becoming overcrowded – the platforms they stop at are also bursting at the seams – but with much more serious consequences if someone falls onto the tracks. As a result, Metro Trains Melbourne has tried various tactics to keep passengers moving.

Up train departs an incredibly congested platform 10 at Southern Cross

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station platform 4 and 5 get incredibly crowded in peak times, with every passenger bound for Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines trying to squeeze onto it, along with a handful of passengers wanting to make their way out to Blackburn on a stopping-all-stations trains.

As a result, in 2012 the entire eastern end of the platform was cleared out – vending machines, seats and timetables.

Eastern end of platform 4/5 at Flinders Street cleared out to make more room for crowds

But that wasn’t enough – Authorised Officers are sometimes deployed on crowd control duty, telling clueless passengers to keep on walking down the platform.

Authorised Officers on crowd control duty at an overcrowded Flinders Street Station platform 4 and 5

North Melbourne Station

North Melbourne platform 1 is another pinch point in morning peak, as passengers wanting to access the City Loop try to squeeze onboard already crush loaded Craigieburn line services.

Platform 1 at North Melbourne packed with passengers for the next City Loop bound service

Authorised officers are deployed to get passengers to wait away from the escalators.

Authorised officers on crowd control duties at North Melbourne platform 1

But sometimes crowds of passengers still get left behind.

Train heads into the City Loop at North Melbourne platform 1, leaving a crowd of passengers behind

Congestion also occurs at North Melbourne platform 5, so ‘For safety reasons please keep hatched area clear at all times’ signs have been added beneath the escalator.

'For safety reasons please keep hatched area clear at all times' sign beneath the escalator at North Melbourne station

But congestion also occurs in the reverse direction – exiting passengers in morning peak swap the single escalator towards the overhead concourse.

Passengers bank up around the escalators at North Melbourne platform 5

So authorised offices have been posted on the platform with portable fences, directing waiting passengers away from the busiest doors.

Authorised offices on crowd control duties at North Melbourne platform 5

At least the number of escalator failures seems to have dropped since their 2015 peak!

Footscray Station

A different problem occurs at Footscray platform 1, where passengers run at the closing doors.

Passengers run for a City Loop service at Footscray platform 1

The reason – V/Line passengers changing for the City Loop have to exit the station then enter again to find their citybound train.

Passengers run for a waiting City Loop train at Footscray platform 1

Metro’s solution – post authorised officers to the platform to tell people not to force the train doors.

Authorised officers at Footscray platform 1

Southern Cross Station

Southern Cross Station is the prime example of platform congestion.

Platform 13 and 14 is ‘bad’ – when in morning peak an entire train load of Werribee line passengers will swamp the pair of ‘up’ escalators at the Collins Street end in no time.

'Normal' crowd waiting to exit Southern Cross platform 13 and 14

But the morning queues on platform 9 and 10 are worse – waiting passengers block the train driver’s view down the curved platform, meaning trains are delayed in departing.

Congestion at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

The queues for the escalator often outlast the train that deposited the passengers.

Slow moving queue of passengers for the escalators at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

So Metro often posts Authorised Officers on crowd control duty to keep the edge of the platform clear.

Authorised Officers on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10

Platform 10 also has a different problem in evening peak – passengers crowding the first door of trains, thanks to the staggered platform layout at the Bourke Street end.

X'Trapolis 191M arrives at Southern Cross with a down service

In February 2018 Metro tried roping off the Bourke Street end to distribute passengers along the platform, as well as prevent last minute arrivals from running for the train, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere.

North end of Southern Cross platform 10 roped off to prevent overcrowding

But the armageddon of platform congestion happened in April, when two of the three escalator failed at the same time.

Two defective escalators at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10 have crippled the rail network

Metro had to post a platoon of customer service staff to direct passengers up the sole remaining escalator.

Two out of three escalators broken down at the Collins Street end of Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

Extra staff at the Bourke Street end, to encourage passengers to use the other exit.

Metro staff on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10

Along with a staff to provide extra ‘incentive’.

Metro staff on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10

As well as a supervisor on the Collins Street configure to keep an eye on the entire operation.

Metro staff on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10

Footnote

Over at Melbourne on Transit is a post on the escalator saga – Southern Cross Station: How it works (or doesn’t)

And a sidenote from Hong Kong

Metro Trains’ parent company in Hong Kong deploys plenty of platform staff to keep passengers clear of the doors.

Train doors closing, and MTR staff hold up 'STOP' signs to passengers at Diamond Hill

Holding up ‘STOP’ signs to passengers while the doors close.

Train doors closing, and MTR staff hold up 'STOP' signs to passengers at Ngau Tau Kok

And a housekeeping announcement

I’ve just launched my page on Patreon! In case you’re wondering, Patreon is a simple way for you to contribute to this blog every month, and you get a sneak peek at what’s coming up in return!

Head over to https://www.patreon.com/wongm to find out more.

Photos from ten years ago: April 2009

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

Train pain

We start down at South Kensington station, where I found a train stopped in the platform.

Stopped in the platform at South Kensington

The reason it was stopped – the train had become tangled up in the overhead wires, destroying all four pantographs and pulling down a fair chunk of overhead!

2nd pantograph flipped and broken

Second pantograph flipped and cracked

Leaving passengers to climb down from the train and walk along the tracks.

Passengers leave the train

Passengers leave the train

Thankfully suburban trains taking down the overhead wires is a infrequent occurrence, specially since the introduction of Infrastructure Evaluation Vehicle IEV102 in 2012 to regularly inspect the overhead for faults.

Overcrowded V/Line trains to Geelong are nothing new – back in 2009 they were trying to spread the load on the most popular express services by promoting the slower stopping all stations trains.

'Take commuting sitting down' flyer promoting little used peak hour Geelong trains

Today this uneven loading issue has been replaced by ‘normal’ overcrowding – the June 2015 timetable change saw Geelong trains sent via new Regional Rail Link tracks, with extra stops added to each of the former ‘super’ express services.

New and old infrastructure

Over at Southern Cross Station, things didn’t look very different to today.

Commuter rush at Southern Cross

But the scene outside was quite different – both the Yardmasters Building and 717 Bourke Street were under construction.

Framework for the top floor of the crew offices done

As was the new offices for The Age.

Western face still incomplete below deck level

At nearby North Melbourne station, work on the new northern concourse was nearing completion.

Two out of three concourse roof units in place

While over on Footscray Road the level crossing leading into the Port of Melbourne had been removed – replaced by a new road overpass.

Removed track under CityLink on the old route into the Port of Melbourne

Back in 2009 a far more spartan station could be found at Sunshine.

Sprinter 7006 leads a classmate at Sunshine

The current four platform station having been built as part of the Regional Rail Link project in 2014.

An even gloomier station could be found at Deer Park – where the platforms were still gravel!

Gravel platform at Deer Park

Only 18 kilometres from the CBD, but for a long time the station was in the middle of nowhere – housing developments only reaching the southern side in 2009.

Signals 1/22 and 1/10 for up trains approaching Deer Park

The station was eventually upgraded in 2010, but signalling changes completed in 2014 as part of the Regional Rail Link project made it harder to reroute services around failed trains.

But the most decrepit looking piece of infrastructure I found was the Maribyrnong River goods line.

Looking north from Bunbury Street towards the main line

Branching from the suburban tracks near Footscray, the railway ran along the western bank of the Maribyrnong River to a series of freight terminals.

Looking south from Bunbury Street down the line past the freight line

The line was taken out of use in 2008 due to track condition, with the bulk of the line ripped up to make way for Regional Rail Link in 2011, and the West Gate Tunnel project in 2018.

Road trip!

I made the trip up to Echuca for their 2009 Easter Spectacular.

PS Hero passes under the bridge at Echuca

It featured a sunset paddle steamer parade.

PS Emmylou heads down the Murray River at Echuca

Fireworks.

Fireworks mark the end of the Port of Echuca Easter Spectacular

And plenty of flares.

Paddlesteamer sets off flares for the Port of Echuca Easter Spectacular

I also made a side trip to nearby Torrumbarry, where a retired Hitachi train could be found on private property.

Hitachi trailer 1921T, along with 4M and 133M

Faded 'Hillside Trains' decal on the cab of Hitachi 97M

Alongside an ex-V/Line diesel locomotive.

T375 on a short piece of track with the exhaust stack covered

And a retired army tank!

Tank and the Hitachis lurk in the background

As far as I can tell, they are still there today.

Footnote

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