When temporary platforms trump permanent stations

Back in 2015 work on removing the Main Road level crossing in St Albans was in full swing, and I noticed a curious situation – the ‘temporary’ St Albans platform 2 was better constructed than many railway stations in Melbourne!

'Temporary' platform in place at St Albans platform 2

The good

The platform was smooth and level, with plenty of room for passengers.

Looking down the 'temporary' St Albans platform 2

With a roof over the seat and a next train display.

Passenger information and signage installed on the temporary St Albans platform 2

And the bad

Albion station has a platform so decrepit it’s been fenced off.

Crumbing section of platform at the down end of Albion platform 2

The brick platform face at Caulfield is cracked.

Cracked brick platform face at Caulfield

At Mont Albert it’s the concrete that is crumbing.

Crumbling concrete platform face at Mont Albert platform 1

Canterbury station is stupidly narrow.

Incredibly narrow platform and crumbling surface at the up end of Canterbury platform 1 and 2

Mont Albert is so narrow the yellow lines merge into one.

Incredibly narrow platform at the up end of Mont Albert platform 2 and 3

The concrete edge at Thornbury is cracking up.

Crumbling platform face at Thornbury station

East Camberwell is covered with lichen.

Lichen covered asphalt at East Camberwell platform 1 and 2

The timber edge at Strathmore has rotten away.

Crumbling platform edge marked for replacement at Strathmore station

Weeds grow through deep cracks at Kensington.

Weeds growing in a crack in the asphalt on the platform at Kensington station

South Kensington once had a yellow line.

Faded yellow line at South Kensington platform 2

With the other side of the platform falling down towards the fence.

Platform subsidence at the back fence of South Kensington station

So why did St Albans need a temporary platform anyway?

St Albans once had three platforms – one for the city, a second for trains towards Watergardens, and a third turnback platform on the western side.

EDI Comeng about to shunt into the siding from St Albans platform 3

To speed the removal of the Main Road level crossing, it was decided to use this extra space on the western side as the site of the new low level St Albans station, allowing trains to continue running through the old station.

The first stage of works saw platform 2 and 3 closed to passengers in October 2015.

Waiting shelters removed from platform 2 and 3

The old platform was cleared over a weekend, with piling works able to proceed while trains were running.

Citybound Sunbury service arrives into St Albans, with grade separation works underway on the opposite side

Steel brackets were then installed along the tracks.

Steel brackets used to support the cantilevered 'temporary' St Albans platform 2

Allowing a cantilevered platform to be opened over the future station site in November 2015.

Cleared land to the west of St Albans platform 2

Excavators then moved in to dig out the new train trench.

Removing dirt from the rail cutting at the up end of the new St Albans station

By August 2016 the new low level platform was visible beneath the temporary one.

Looking down to the platform face taking shape at the new low level St Albans station

The final stage came in October 2016, when the Sunbury line was shut down, and the ground level tracks were removed.

Remnants of the Main Road level crossing still in place

With the new low level St Albans station opening to trains in November 2016.

Down Sunbury service arrives at the new low level St Albans station

And now at Glenroy

The level crossing at Glenroy Road is about to get the chop – and to make room for the construction work, a temporary platform and footbridge have been provided.

A cheaper example

Back in 2007 the station building at Lara was extended.

Extensions to the station building

Requiring part of the platform to be closed to passengers.

Extensions to the station building

A temporary platform extension was provided to compensate for the closed section.

Temporary platform extension at the up end of Lara

But it was a much cheaper affair than St Albans – scaffolding, plywood, and shade cloth.

Temporary platform extension at the up end of Lara

And the ‘temporary’ solution that never went away

Back in 2009 temporary platforms extensions were provided by Queensland Rail at seven railway stations on the Sunshine Coast so that passengers could board six-car long trains.

'Temporary' platform extensions at Palmwoods station on the North Coast line

Six years later the temporary structures were still in use at an annual cost of $288,000.

Photos from ten years ago: February 2011

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is February 2011.

Porno bookshop on Flinders Street, closed down for good?

Rails out west

We start outside Footscray, where I captured a V/Line train sharing the suburban tracks on the way to the city.

N451 leads an up train ex-Geelong out of Footscray

In 2010 it was announced that Regional Rail Link would expand the cutting from four to six tracks, with V/Line trains from Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat moving onto their own tracks in stages between 2014 and 2015.

And a few kilometres away I found route 82 trams passing Highpoint Shopping Centre, where platform stops had recently been built.

Route 82 terminating at the end of the reserved track in Maribyrnong, due to platform stop construction work at the Footscray terminus

A decade on the elderly Z3 class trams still ply the route, forcing intending passengers to climb a flight of stairs to board.

At Southern Cross Station I found The Southern Spirit – a luxury rail cruise train operated by Great Southern Rail around the east coast of Australia, using carriages normally seen on The Ghan.

A shorter train this time: NR51 manages to fit into the platform without fouling the signal

The service ran in January 2010, January 2011 and February 2012 before being discontinued, however it was revived in 2019 as the Great Southern.

Late one night I found this pair of diesel locomotives making their way to Flemington Racecourse, Craigieburn and Williamstown – a driver training run to ensure that the train crew remained qualified on the routes.

Headlights on, T376 ready to depart Williamstown

Works trains continue to run over the Melbourne network, but now operated by Southern Shorthaul Railroad.

And at the Alstom Ballarat factory I found dozens of carriages wrapped in plastic – brand new X’Trapolis suburban trains waiting to be fitted out for use on the Melbourne network.

At least five 3-car X'Trapolis sets waiting fitout at UGR Ballarat

The final X’Trapolis train was delivered in 2020, leaving the Alstom Ballarat plant mothballed.

Building stuff

2011 saw work on the South Morang Rail Extension well underway, featuring the construction of 3.5km double track railway from Epping to South Morang, three new stations, and duplication of 5km of existing single track between Keon Park and Epping,

One night at Keon Park I captured a works train headed out to the works site.

T376 and T369 arrive into Keon Park on the rail train

Loaded with long lengths of freshly welded rail to form the new tracks.

Headed into the occupation towards Epping

Work on the project commenced in June 2010, with the extension to South Morang opening on April 2012.

On the road front, the $48.5 million Kororoit Creek Road duplication project was underway, including the removal of the level crossing at Altona North.

Earthern approach ramp underway at the west end

Work on the project was completed in December 2011.

And $200 million was being spent on the Anthony’s Cutting upgrade to the Western Freeway.

New road overpass at Hopetoun Park Road

Requiring a massive cutting was excavated west of Bacchus Marsh.

New stretch of the Western Freeway, westbound at Hopetoun Park Road

The upgraded freeway opened to traffic in June 2011.

And screw ups

Down at Caroline Springs, work had started on the access road to the future railway station.

Access road under construction to the site of the new station

But that is as far as the project went for years – work on the station was paused until 2015, with the access road needing to be rebuilt to suit the updated plans.

One morning at Ascot Vale I was unable to reach the railway station – the pedestrian subway had flooded!

Flooded subway at Ascot Vale: is it really that hard to maintain drains?

Thankfully newer stations in Melbourne don’t have the same problem – they keep the water off the tracks by pushing it back onto neighbouring streets.

Another day I was down at Yarraville station, where only a level crossing links the platforms. With trains running every 10 minutes the boom gates spend more time down than up, leaving passengers waiting and waiting, as the train they intend to catch prevents them from accessing the platform.

The level crossing finally opens at Yarraville, letting the passengers past

In the years since nothing has changed – there have been campaigns to reopen the pedestrian underpass, but the Level Crossing Removal Authority has no plans to touch the crossing.

And finally – the Siemens train braking saga. A spate of incidents in 2009 saw an investigation launched.

Since its introduction, the Siemens train has been involved in a relatively high number of reported overrun events when compared to other types of train operating on the network. The six platform overruns between 8 February and 3 March 2009 suggested that systemic issues remained unresolved and triggered this investigation.

The chosen fix – equipment to drop sand on the tracks.

Sandbox, control equipment and discharge hose beneath a Siemens train

The equipment was first trialled in March 2010, with installation across the fleet commencing in September 2010. By June 2011 the roll-out was complete, and speed restrictions removed.

A few buses

A decade ago bus routes still ran down Flinders Street in the Melbourne CBD.

Route 605 was one of them.

Eastrans #126 rego 8016AO at the route 605 terminus at Flinders Street Station

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.

And the other was route 238.

National Bus #545 rego 5841AO on a route 238 service along Flinders Street beside the Viaduct

The route was discontinued in 2014, replaced by route 235, 237, 234 and 236 services between Fishermans Bend and the CBD.

And finally… ding ding!

In 2011 retired W class tram SW6.969 was converted into a bar and parked outside the Arts Centre.

SW6.969 converted in a bar, located outside the Arts Centre

It reappeared every summer as ‘Tram Bar’ until it was closed permanently in January 2015.


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

Level crossings replacing level crossings

It might seem strange, but as the Level Crossing Removal Project separates road and rail across Melbourne’s railway network, a new kind of level crossing is appearing in their place for a specific purpose – road rail access pads for maintenance vehicles.

Siemens 780M on the up at Corrigan Road, Noble Park

Road–rail vehicles

Many different kinds of road–rail vehicle exist, ready to assist with every kind of construction or maintenance task.

RFW all-wheel-drive overhead line maintenance truck, outside Altona station during an occupation

Trucks to transport materials to work sites.

Hi-rail work platforms working on the overhead wires on the Glen Waverley line at Burnley

Some able to drag a ‘train’ of wagons.

John Holland hi rail Unimog tows a 'train' of wagons loaded with overhead gantries at Sunshine

Excavators for digging.

Excavator digging out the old road surface at the Station Street level crossing at North Shore


Hi-rail excavator transports a pile cap to a freshly bored overhead stanchion hole

Tamping ballast.

Hi-rail excavator mounted tamping attachment

Unloading sleepers.

Unloading an 8-pack of concrete sleepers

And laying them.

Relaying the track at North Melbourne platform 1

Big tip trucks to deliver ballast.

Backhoe loading ballast into the hi-rail truck at North Shore

And small.

Hi-rail excavator loads a hi-rail dump truck with fresh ballast from a works train

Piling rigs to bore foundations.

Boring a hole for a new overhead stanchion at Albion

Cranes to put in the overhead stanchions.

Erecting additional overhead stanchions at the up end of Sunshine station

Cherrypickers to reach the overhead wires.

Hi-rail truck at work readying the overhead for trains south of Ginifer station

Along with boom lifts.

Hi-rail boom lift working on the overhead wiring on the up line at West Footscray

4WDs refitted for weed spraying.

Nissan Patrol hi-rail spraying weeds along the ARTC tracks at Sunshine

Testing level crossings.

Hi Rail on the up at Lardners Track, Warragul

Using ultrasonic sensors to look for rail flaws.

Speno ultrasonic rail tester truck FL17 and accompanying hi-rail 4WD on the goods line at Brooklyn

Trucks to chip trees.

Chopping down trees from the railway cutting near Malvern

And suck up gunk.

Suction excavator removing ballast at Darling station

Even tunnels aren’t enough to keep them away.

Hi-rail truck with cherry picker parked in the Burnley Loop tunnel at Parliament station

So how do they get onto the tracks?

Traditionally road rail vehicles would just head to the nearest level crossing, turn 90 degrees to line up with the tracks, and lower their rail wheels.

Putting down the rail wheels

But level crossing removals mean access points are few and far between.

Tracks still in place beneath the new elevated tracks at Moreland Road

Sometimes gravel will be dumped across the tracks to provide access to a worksite.

Ballast provides as access point to the work site at West Footscray

Allowing heavy equipment to access the rail corridor.

Dump truck removes another load of old ballast from the Middle Footscray work site

But the long term solution is “Road Rail Vehicle Access Pads” – level crossings to nowhere.

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

Essendon received one after the level crossing removal at Buckley Street.

Hi-rail access pad at the down end of Essendon

As did the Sunbury line between Ginifer and St Albans station following the upgrades there.

Hi-rail track machine access pad between Ginifer and St Albans station

And the brand new Mernda line extension doesn’t have any level crossings, so needed them too.

Hi-rail access pad outside the Mernda stabling yard

With the list of locations growing each time a level crossing is removed.

But there’s one problem

Ballast piled up between the rails can cause another problem – derailments.

Prohibition of Ballast Pad Hi-Rail Access Points

On the 9th January, 2019 an incident occurred where a tamper derailed as it passed through a ballast pad. Due to this incident and combined with the inability to inspect the Track Asset beneath the ballast (which is a requirement of the Track Technical Maintenance Plan), a number of measures require implementation.

Effective immediately:
– The construction of new ballast pads is prohibited across the MTM network;
– A plan for the removal of ALL existing ballast pads across the MTM network will be compiled by Infrastructure;
– All new hi-rail access points must have their construction type and methodology agreed by the Track & Structures Delivery Manager for all locations.

And asphalt between the rails makes inspecting the trackbed impossible.

Due to track conditions below the Curtin Street road-rail vehicle access pad at Ch.16.818km between Ginifer and St. Albans, a restriction on the speed of trains has been applied through the affected location.

In order to return train traffic to line speed, Infrastructure are required to remove the asphalt in situ at the RRV pad in order to perform rectification work.

In accordance with L1-CHE-INS-079, MTM Design Practice Note Road-Rail Vehicle Access Pads, section 6. vii. – Infrastructure will not return this RRV pad to an asphalt construction but instead utilise type-approved removable panels.

As the type-approved removable panels require procurement, there will be a period of time between when the geometry rectification works are completed and the access pad is returned to use for RRV access.

The geometry rectification works are planned for 25/08/2019 and the removable panels will be available for installation in late November.

So existing access pads have had to be upgraded.

New hi-rail access pad replaces gravel at North Melbourne Junction

Using the same rubber panels used at level crossings.

Hi-rail access pad covers three of six tracks at North Melbourne Junction

Network upgrades never end!

How long does it take to build a pedestrian crossing?

One might think building a pedestrian crossing would be pretty easy, but for set of traffic lights in Sunshine, it was anything but.

Traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout finally commissioned, but still marked as a zebra crossing

The background

The story starts at Sunshine station, upgraded in 2014.

VLocity VL16 passes through Sunshine on the up

But for pedestrians crossing Hampshire Road they still needed to dodge four lanes of traffic at a roundabout.

Google Street View October 2018

So in 2015 Brimbank City Council proposed improvements to the area.

Sunshine Town Centre – Sunshine Station entry upgrades/integration

Improvements to Hampshire Road bridge and roundabouts to reflect new station entry arrangements at upgraded Station. Initiatives to prioritise safe pedestrian access to the station and safe cycle access over Hampshire Road. Design in first year with construction in following year.

A consultant was engaged to do a traffic study.

In 2016 SALT is conducting a study of proposed bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the Hampshire Road precinct in Sunshine, Victoria.

This involves preparing concept and functional designs for cycle paths over the Hampshire Road overpass and pedestrian crossings between Sunshine railway station and surrounding residential areas.

It was decided to add a set of pedestrian operated traffic signals , and remove one of the southbound lanes on Hampshire Road to make room for an on-road bicycle lane.

Brimbank City Council

With the design put to tender in late 2018.

Hampshire Road Overpass – Southern Pedestrian Crossing

Contract Number

Released Date

Closed Date

Awarded to Harte Civil VIC Pty Ltd
$392,407.09 (ex. GST)

Construction time

Work started in July 2019.

Hampshire Road narrowed so that a raised hump can be built at the future pedestrian crossing

With Hampshire Road dug up.

Stormwater swale under construction

So that a raised hump could be created for the pedestrian crossing.

Raised hump on Hampshire Road where a pedestrian crossing will be installed

But traffic management left a lot to be designed – route 903 buses were detoured around the worksite, with zero information given by Public Transport Victoria.

Route 903 buses in the back streets of Sunshine due to roadwork on Hampshire Road south of the railway station

By August 2019 things were starting to look real.

Installing a pedestrian crossing on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout

The traffic lights put into place at the pedestrian crossing.

Installing a pedestrian crossing on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout

Confusion reigns

Despite the traffic lights being switched off, the crossing was opened to pedestrians.

Yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout temporarily signed as a zebra crossing

Signed as a zebra crossing, but no zebra stripes on the road.

Yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout temporarily signed as a zebra crossing

There things stayed until January 2020, when fences appeared overnight at the crossing.

Yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent fenced off and out of service after a short period being treated as a half-arsed zebra crossing

Blocking pedestrian access.

Yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent fenced off and out of service after a short period being treated as a half-arsed zebra crossing

Featuring a ‘pedestrian crossing under maintenance’ sign from Brimbank City Council.

Yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout now temporarily painted up as a zebra crossing

And a pedestrian detour to the next set of traffic lights – 150 metres away.

Pedestrian detour around the yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout

The next day the crossing had reopened.

Traffic controllers help pedestrians cross at the yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout

But with traffic controllers stopping traffic every time a pedestrian wanted to cross.

Traffic controllers help pedestrians cross at the yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout

And just as soon as they arrived, they were replaced by zebra stripes painted on the road surface.

Yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout now temporarily painted up as a zebra crossing

Making it a ‘real’ zebra crossing.

Yet to be commissioned traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout now temporarily painted up as a zebra crossing

And finally done

March 2020, and the traffic lights were finally switched on.

Traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout finally commissioned, but still marked as a zebra crossing

Allowing the zebra stripes to be painted out.

Traffic signals on Hampshire Road at the Sun Crescent roundabout finally commissioned

Only six months from ‘completion’ to actually functioning!

Footnote – zebra crossings

Road Safety Road Rules 2017 states:

(1) A driver approaching a pedestrian crossing must drive at a speed at which the driver can, if necessary, stop safely before the crossing.

(2) A driver must give way to any pedestrian on or entering a pedestrian crossing.

(3) A pedestrian crossing is an area of a road—

(a) at a place with white stripes on the road surface that—

(i) run lengthwise along the road; and
(ii) are of approximately the same length; and
(iii) are approximately parallel to each other; and
(iv) are in a row that extends completely, or partly, across the road; and

(b) with or without either or both of the following—

(i) a pedestrian crossing sign ;
(ii) alternating flashing twin yellow lights.

So technically a zebra crossing sign but no stripes on the road isn’t a pedestrian crossing, but a set of zebra stripes without a sign is.

Then and now at Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station is over 100 years old, with the building much the same despite both the trains and the city around it being quite different.

Biggest. Cliché. Ever.

West of Elizabeth Street is a cobblestone ramp leading up to the ‘Milk Dock‘ – the western end of Platform 1 that handled milk and parcels.

PROV image VPRS 12800 P3, item ADV0602

Milk would arrive from the farms on country trains, while parcels were transported around Melbourne by dedicated electric trains.

State Library of South Australia photo B 41019/163

Decades later, the ramp up to the Milk Dock is still there.

Vehicle ramp leading up to the Milk Dock at Flinders Street Station

But the milk and parcels are gone – replaced by a pile of rubbish bins removed to fight terrorism.

Now redundant rubbish bins stored in the 'Milk Dock' at Flinders Street

Electric vehicles used to deliver dodgy dim sims to the platform kiosks.

Trio of electric vehicles used to deliver dodgy dim sims to the Flinders Street Station platform kiosks

New signage waiting to be installed.

Stockpile of new signs at Milk Dock waiting to be installed

And the closest thing to a train – a trolley load of rubbish.

Transporting another load of rubbish down to the Milk Dock

Further reading