Cantopop cover of an Australian classic

January 26 is Australia Day – a pretty shitty excuse for a national celebration given it marks the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney and the dispossession of indigenous Australians from their land. However something much more fun is this Cantopop cover of an Australian classic.

The track is titled 一於少理 (“Yi Yu Shao Li”) and is the work of Hong Kong singer Alan Tam – a superstar in the world of Cantonese-language pop songs. It appeared on his 1983 album 遲來的春天 (“The Delayed Spring”) – hot on the tails of the Men at Work’s original Down Under climbing the charts across the world.

Footnote

Unlike most national days, for most Aussies celebrations on Australia Day don’t amount to more than sinking the piss at a summer BBQ – so just change the date already.

Property developer sledging in Melbourne’s west

The other day a pair of advertisement for land sales on Melbourne’s western fringe caught my eye. The first was for an estate in Wyndham Vale, spruiking their residents only water park.

While a competing property developer says “don’t pay a premium for facilities you may never use”.

You’ll find the water park at ‘Jubilee‘ estate – located on the very edge of Melbourne at Wyndham Vale.

Between Ballan Road and the Regional Rail Link tracks.

The $10 million water park features water slides, a splash zone for children, leisure pool and 25m lap pool.

While the cheaper ‘New Gardens‘ estate is in the dirtbowl between Rockbank and Melton.

They promote a ‘future train station’ on their masterplan.

But trains won’t be stopping there any time soon – so you’ll need to drive 3.5 kilometres down the road to the recently opened Cobblebank station instead.

VLocity VL47 approaches Rockbank on the up

All aboard the 5.27pm Craigieburn *trains*

Head down to Flinders Street Station of an evening, and there is something odd on the screens – two 5.27pm trains to Craigieburn.

Two 5.27pm trains from Flinders Street Station to Craigieburn!?

The first one leaves platform 5 and is the 5.27pm train from Flinders Street platform 5 to Craigieburn via the City Loop.

5.27pm train from Flinders Street platform 5 to Craigieburn via the City Loop

The second is the 5.27pm train from Flinders Street platform 9 to Craigieburn via Southern Cross, departing platform 9.

5.27pm train from Flinders Street platform 9 to Craigieburn via Southern Cross

At North Melbourne the train from the City Loop stops at platform 2.

Life extension EDI Comeng 454M arrives into North Melbourne on a down Craigieburn service

Then takes the ground level tracks toward Kensington.

Comeng passes the mill sidings at Kensington on an up Craigieburn service

While the train from Southern Cross passes through North Melbourne platform 6.

Comeng train arrives into North Melbourne platform 6 on a down Craigieburn service

Then takes the high level tracks over Moonee Ponds Creek.

EDI Comeng 410M and 302M on an up Craigieburn service cross Moonee Ponds Creek

The two routes merging at the city end of Kensington station.

EDI Comeng approaches Kensington via the Essendon flyover with a down empty cars move

In theory the train running via Southern Cross will get to North Melbourne first, and get you home quicker – but if one is running late, all bets are off.

What passes for ‘Transit Orientated Development’ in Melbourne’s west

Transit Orientated Development is a process that maximises the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport. But at railway stations in Melbourne’s growing western suburbs, the development is anything but.

P17 leads P12 towards the city at Caroline Springs

Caroline Springs

We start out at Caroline Springs station, located between town and the tip.

A66 leads an up Bacchus Marsh service out of Caroline Springs station

A massive car park the only neighbour.

Site huts and construction material still fills the station car park

And the only footpath out of there filled with a fleet of rubbish trucks.

Road coach departs Caroline Springs station with a Ballarat line rail replacement service

But the land in between is about to be developed.

Into a ‘fulfilment centre’ for Amazon.

Amazon Australia will open a second Melbourne fulfilment centre (FC) in Ravenhall late next year, creating around 300 jobs on completion and more than doubling Amazon’s operational footprint in Victoria.

The new facility will be located at Dexus’ Horizon 3023 estate, a 127-hectare site which adjoins Caroline Springs train station and is close to the proposed Western Intermodal Freight Terminal. Dexus has commenced works on the site, supporting more than 200 construction jobs over the development and fit-out phase. The lease for the centre was facilitated by CBRE’s Industrial & Logistics business.

The new fulfilment centre will be 37,000 square metres – almost double the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground – with capacity to house up to six million items ranging from health, household and personal care products, consumer electronics, books, clothing and pantry food and drink staples, to larger items like flat screen TVs, cartons of soft drink or nappies, and gardening equipment.

Minister for Economic Development Tim Pallas said today that attracting investment from significant global companies such as Amazon, is critical to drive our economic recovery.

“Amazon’s investment in a second fulfilment centre will bring hundreds of jobs to the western suburbs of Melbourne, providing local employment opportunities in suburban growth areas,” he said.

“We welcome this investment as a clear indicator of confidence in the state.”

AKA a big tin shed.

Tarneit

Tarneit is another railway station on the edge of Melbourne.

VLocity VL58 and VL56 on an up Geelong service approaches Tarneit

New housing estates sprawling across the plains.

Looking across the grasslands of Truganina towards the spreading housing estates of Tarneit

Served by a sea of car parking.

P14 leads P15 out of Tarneit station with a down push-pull service

But the Truganina Precinct Structure Plan has designated the area around the railway station as a future town centre.

But what is the first commercial development in the new town centre?

Bunnings will be the first of many retailers that will be making up ‘Tarneit Park Hub’ – the shopping precinct of our planned Town centre at Westbrook.

Bunnings Warehouse has responded to the growth of Melbourne’s western corridor, committing to a new 16,500sqm warehouse in Tarneit Park Hub.

Ranfurlie Asset Management, the retail and commercial division of the Dennis Family, is developing Tarneit Park Hub, which will total 46,000sqm when complete.

“We are excited to have secured Bunnings. It cements Tarneit Park Hub as a key retail and lifestyle asset for the region,” stated Mark Wilson, CEO of Ranfurlie Asset Management.

“Tarneit Park Hub answers the demand from the community for greater amenity, with great access, proximity to public transport and adjoining Tarneit Central it sets an excellent foundation to further enhance the precinct and build on what is already a thriving centre.” concluded Mr Wilson

Tom Perkins of Leedwell Property said that “Bunnings is a great anchor for Tarneit Park Hub. The ability to generate foot-fall seven days a week and its brand recognition in a community is unparalleled. We have recently completed leasing on a number of new developments anchored by a Bunnings and they have proven to attract quality, national retailers around them.”

Yes, another tin shed!

Imagine how bad these development would be without structure plans?

Filling the gap between the carriages

For many year the gap between the train and the platform has been of concern to safety regulators. But there is another gap that people can also fall down – that between the carriages.

Siemens 729M approaches South Kensington on a down Werribee service

Mind the gap

This can be seen on Melbourne’s fleet of Siemens trains.

Original style gangway bellows fitted to Siemens 831M-2566T-832M

The carriages are linked by rubber intercarriage gangeways.

Looking down the aisle of a Siemens train

But they feature a gap between it and the platform.

Big gap between Siemens train carriages and platform with the original style gangway bellows

But a recent change has been made – a new style of bellow.

New Hubner gangway bellows fitted to Siemens (703M-2502T-704M
New Hubner gangway bellows fitted to Siemens (703M-2502T-704M

Which closes the gap.

Smaller gap between Siemens train carriages and platform with the new Hubner gangway bellows

According to Metro Trains Melbourne.

Siemens trains are receiving significant upgrades, with new bellows now installed on 20 per cent of the fleet.

The bellows provide an “outer wall” that fills the gap between the train and the platform, making it safer for passengers and rail employees.

The story behind the rollout

In 2002 Martin Stewart fell into the gap, losing his lower right leg and right arm at Richmond station.

Martin Stewart warned everybody that a catastrophe like this was bound to happen. He didn’t anticipate that it would happen to him.

Mr Stewart, 39, has been blind since birth, but he had lived a normal life. He has a wife, Katrina, who is also blind, two small children and a job that he used to travel to every day by train.

“Public transport is critical for blind and vision-impaired people,” he said. But he had always known of its dangers. For years he lobbied the State Government and the railways on the risks to blind people of injury or death on a system that no longer had guards or platform staff.

Then, in February, Mr Stewart stepped into what he thought was an open carriage doorway and fell into the space between carriages and on to the tracks at Richmond station.

Despite the desperate attempts of an onlooker to flag down the driver, the train took off and dragged Mr Stewart 200 metres along the tracks. The train tore off his lower right leg, his right arm and the top of his left ear. It fractured his cheekbone and ribs and left him with painful friction burns down the front of his body.

Starting a crusade.

Mr Stewart is not seeking sympathy but he is determined to do everything he can to ensure he is the last blind person to suffer like this. In the 1980s he worked with an advocacy group, People in Equality, Not Institutions, that unsuccessfully fought the loss of train guards and conductors because of the safety implications for people with disabilities.

Maryanne Diamond, executive officer of Blind Citizens Australia, said the association got about a call a week from a blind person who had had an accident on the transport system. Most were not reported to authorities because they did not involve injury, she said, but some blind people now refused to travel by train because they felt unsafe on stations.

She wanted all stations fitted with tactile ground surface indicators – long narrow grooves that indicate direction and lines of raised dots that indicate hazard. “It helps blind people walk in a straight line and prevents them walking off the platform,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Connex trains could not comment on Mr Stewart’s case as it was being investigated by the Transport Accident Commission. She said the company knew of two deaths involving people with wheelchairs and seven other cases of minor injury involving people with disabilities. One involved a blind man and his guide dog who walked off the end of a platform. She said Connex was working with researchers and disability groups to improve the system.

A government spokesman said yesterday: “Obviously this is a terrible tragedy. The government has already raised the issue with Connex and is investigating whether anything can be done to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen in the future.

“Government representatives will also be meeting friends of Mr Stewart next week to discuss the issue further.”

But the government forgot all about the gap during the design of the new High Capacity Metro Train fleet.

Cab of the HCMT mockup

A similar concertina gangway provided between the two carriages.

Concertina gangway between the two carriages

With a gap so big that the mockup train required a piece of plywood from falling into the gap.

Concertina gangway between the two carriages

A flaw replicated on the first HCMT set to emerge from the factory.

The 'arrow' decals on the side of carriage 9101 don't actually form an arrow

But advocacy group Blind Citizens Australia didn’t forget.

In June 2019, the Victorian government will begin the roll-out of 65 new high capacity trains on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines, with plans to introduce more if they prove successful. BCA and other organisations were consulted during the procurement process, and as a result, we recognised four critical design flaws in a prototype train.

We’re very pleased to report that those flaws won’t appear in the new trains when they’re introduced next year. BCA was represented by Martin Stewart, who energetically and eloquently lobbied for the correction of the errors he discovered. This consultation process has resulted in a historic advocacy victory, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Martin.

In the prototype, Martin discovered a large gap between each of the train’s carriages. This was an error that could cause serious injury or death.

To fill that gap, Martin had to get personal. At one meeting, frustrated by slow progress and determined to defend his community from the trauma he’d suffered, he deliberately removed his artificial leg. “I said this will be the result. And then I touched my arm. Here’s another one.”

Martin’s dramatic approach certainly did have an impact. At a recent stakeholder meeting, Michael Dunn, Assistant Director of governance and reporting for the project, announced that all the new high capacity trains would have “gangway gap barriers” built in, to prevent passengers from falling between carriages.

Dunn also told Martin that this protective feature would be included in all future Melbourne trains. That moment was the absolution he’d waited 16 years to find. “Yesterday was the most satisfying advocacy day that I have ever had,” he told us after that meeting.

The end result – gap filling panels progressively fitted to the new HCMT sets.

Rubber gap filling panels between the carriages

And the improved bellows being added to the Siemens train fleet.

But work still to come

X’Trapolis train from the 2000s also have rubber gangway bellows between carriages, but only leave a small gap.

Rubber gangway bellows between X'Trapolis train carriages

But the Comeng trains from the 1980s that form the bulk of Melbourne’s fleet of suburban trains were built with open walkways between carriages.

Unidentified antenna fitted to end of Comeng carriages 667M and 668M

But with doors either side.

Onboard the 'M' car of an Alstom Comeng train

In 2017 work started on the Comeng Life Extension project, which saw the trains patched up for a few more years of service.

'Comeng Life Extension' project signage at the Macaulay Light Repair Centre

One of the upgrades was enclosed gangways between carriages – supposedly to prevent train surfers gaining access to the carriage roof.

Intercarriage connector fitted to EDI Comeng 1053T

But these gangways still leave a gap between the carriage and the platform.

Concertina fitted between the carriages of a life extension EDI Comeng train

A flaw that I don’t see being addressed in the short time these trains have left in service.

Footnote: going backwards on the Washington Metro

In 2017 the Washington Metro introduced new trains that lacked the safety barriers that their previous trains had, with predictable results.

For years, David Kosub lived in fear of falling onto the train tracks during his daily Metro commute.

Then, it finally happened.

He was attempting to board a Red Line train — one of Metro’s new 7000-series trains — when he stepped into the gap between two rail cars, falling onto the tracks and finding himself wedged between “giant metal behemoths.”

Kosub believes the reason he fell between the train cars was because Metro used a new, untested design on the new fleet of 7000-series trains.

On older trains, all the gaps between cars feature a simple chain barrier that is meant to protect riders from mistaking the empty space for a doorway into the train.

On the new trains, some of those barriers are guarded by a pair of rubber shields that are recessed from the edge of the platform and feature a nine-inch gap in the middle — just enough space to create what Kosub called “a David-sized hole, just perfectly sized for me to slip right through.”