How to find your train at Flinders Street Station

You have arrived at Flinders Street Station and you’re trying to find where your trains leaves – so where do you look?

Under the clocks

You’re probably going to look at one of these screens – but what order are the trains being displayed in?

Redesigned layout for the 'main' next train summary boards at Flinders Street Station

It isn’t alphabetical – South Morang occupies the first two slots. Is it ordered by the network map? Possibly – Cranbourne is next to Pakenham, and Alamein is next to Glen Waverley.

Worked it out yet?

I’ll give you the answer – the next two services for each line are displayed, no matter where they terminate, and the lines are grouped by their operational ‘groups’ – ‘Clifton Hill’, ‘Burnley’, ‘Northern’, ‘Caulfield’, ‘Cross City’ and V/Line.

The same ordering logic is applied on the smaller ‘summary’ boards scattered around the station, just squeezed into less space and with a smaller font.

Redesigned layout for the 'small' next train summary board at Flinders Street Station

Given that the PTV network map has shown each group of lines in a different colour since 2017, why do the screens at Flinders Street Station persist with living in the monochrome past?

Fixing the problem

Turns out Transport for Victoria asked the same question in 2017 and set to work finding a better way, lead by senior user experience designer Carolina Gaitan.

They defined the problem in terms of user experience.

Then came up with a way to test out their hypothesis.

Spending three days sending people through a mock up railway station.

First navigating using the current monochrome design, then a new design where each railway line was a separate colour.

And the result – navigating the station was was easier with colour.

What else did they find?

An important part of the new design was realising that there two groups of users of Flinders Street Station: people unfamiliar with the station, and those who use it every day.

Some signage is tailored for people trying to find their way somewhere new.

While others deliver ‘how long until the next train to X’ information to regular users.

So what next?

Turns out what was learnt through user experience testing is being put into practice, with a wayfinding upgrade coming soon:

Flinders Street Station will be the first station across the metropolitan network to feature signage and information screens where each line has its own colour for easier navigation.

Though I take offence to the boastful “first station” claim – until the 1990s the Melbourne train network used a different colour for each group of lines.

'Metropolitan Transit' network map

As did the next train displays in the City Loop until 2011.

Red, green, blue and black: nothing on the next train displays at Flagstaff station

Everything old is new again?

Further reading

You can find a summary of work at the UX Australia 2017 website: ‘Flinders Street Station: A journey to implement UX in wayfinding and customer information‘. The full set of presentation slides is also available.

Rail replacement trucks for the Frankston line

During May and June 2018 no trains are running on the Frankston line beyond Carrum due to level crossing removal works, with passengers being transported on rail replacement buses. But they aren’t the only ones being disrupted – freight trains are also being replaced by road transport.

Twice a day a 40 wagon long train departs the Melbourne Freight Terminal at South Dynon bound for the BlueScope Steel plant on the Stony Point line at Hastings.

XR558 and G541 wait for their train to be loaded with coil steel at the Melbourne Freight Terminal

The train skirts the edge of Southern Cross Station.

XR558 and XR559 southbound at Southern Cross with a load of coil steel

Then rolls through the river end of Flinders Street Station.

BL29 on the down load of 'butterbox' coil steel containers through Flinders Street track 9A

Then traverses the tracks at Richmond Junction.

'Butterbox' coil steel wagons make up the rear half of the train

Heads towards Caulfield.

G531 and G541 lead the down Long Island train through Malvern station

Eventually making it south towards Frankston.

Load of coil steel on the down Long Island steel train at Frankston

Then heads along the single track Stony Point line.

XR551 and BL30 with the down steel train outside Frankston with a load of 'butterbox' coil steel containers

To arrive at the BlueScope Steel plant beside Westernport Bay in Hastings.

Photo via Southern Peninsula News

So how many trucks are needed?

As you might imagine, steel is bloody heavy.

Each of the first 20 wagons are loaded with a pair of ‘jumbo’ coils of steel sheet.

G528 and XR551 leads the down steel train past North Melbourne station

While the 20 wagons at the rear carry a pair of ‘butterbox’ containers of coil steel.

'Butterbox' containers trailing a load of coil steel on the down journey

The average wagon has a tare mass of around 20 tonnes (based on a RKLX class wagon) and with a loaded gross mass of 74 to 79 tonnes – or 30 tonnes for a single container!

For the proposes of comparison, the permitted gross vehicle mass of a standard six-axle semi-trailer in Victoria is 42.5 tonnes – or a single container per truck.

With 40 containers and 40 steel coils per train, and two trains per day each way, that is an extra 320 trucks on the Monash Freeway each day.

Good thing the trains will return in June 2018!


More on BlueScope Steel’s use of rail transport across Australia

Tracking the gentrification of Melbourne with Mother’s Day cards

Able And Game is a Melbourne based stationery label that produces quirky greeting cards featuring local pop culture references. However when I saw their range of Mother’s Day cards I also noticed something else – they track the spread of Melbourne’s ‘cool’ suburbs as formerly working class areas are gentrified.

The inner suburbs of Fitzroy and Brunswick are shooting fish in a barrel – houses there have been unaffordable for average families for decades now.

We then see the northern expansion of gentrification – Northcote, Thornbury, Preston and most recently Reservoir – plus the very distinct ‘Pascoe Vale South’.

Melbourne’s west isn’t left out either – Yarraville gentrified decades ago, with those priced out and setting for West Footscray also able to pick up an Able and Game card.

And who is left out

Note the complete lack of suburbs from Melbourne’s east and south – the former is full of old money, the latter with fake tan and yoga pants.

Keeping track of V/Line ‘borrowed’ photos

When you have taken as many photos of Victorian trains, trams and buses as I have, there is little point keeping track of every time people use your work without credit.

An example of this occurred in early January, when someone spotted this temporary travel changes poster at Flinders Street Station and shared on a bus enthusiast group with the following comment – “I wonder who’s photo V/Line has knocked off”.

Turns the photo that V/Line had knocked off was one of mine – taken back in 2013.

Ex-V/Line road coach 1507AC now owned by 'Golden Lotus Valley' tours

Another case of deja vu occurred back in June 2009, when I spotted this locally produced poster at promoting extended opening hours at Geelong line railways stations.

Sign at South Geelong promoting extended opening hours at Geelong line stations - June 2009

The train at the bottom was the familiar part – a photo of mine that I shared to Wikipedia back in 2007.

In this case reusing photos on Wikipedia is fair game, provided attribution is given – though in reality, people don’t know and don’t care when taking photos from the internet.

Nitpickers corner

If you look closely, you might have noticed that the bus in the first photo doesn’t even say V/Line anywhere on it – it’s an ex-V/Line road coach purchased by private operator GLV Coaches, who stripped off the V/Line logos but kept the red stripe down the side.

How did it end up as the first choice for someone creating a ‘V/Line replacement coaches’ poster – I have no idea!

And an update

In April I was walking past Flinders Street Station and saw the rail replacement bus sign with my own eyes – only now someone had drawn the V/Line logos drawn back in using a black texta.

'V/Line Traralgon coaches depart here' notice featuring an ex-V/Line bus

Change of the (advertising) guard at Melbourne stations

Advertising to the captive audiences at Melbourne railway stations is big business, with multinational company JCDecaux having held the station advertising contract for Metro Trains Melbourne for the past few years.

Double helping of PTV advertising for the new on-the-spot 'Penalty Fares' regime

Their staff paste up new posters when it is time to change over the advertiser.

Changing over the advertising posters at Box Hill station

As well as replacing the billboards inside motorised panels.

Changing over the advertisements at Camberwell station

And troubleshooting digital panels that display the advertisements upside down.

Digital advertising panel stuck showing everything upside down

But in December 2017 the deal came up for renewal and local firm Adshel (a division of media company Here, There & Everywhere) won the contract.

Adshel has won part of the Metro Trains Melbourne outdoor contract – which will run for seven years – and will see Adshel launch 150 digital screens across Melbourne’s CBD and inner city railway stations. Stations include Flinders Street, Melbourne Central, Parliament, South Yarra and Richmond.

By early 2018 JCDecaux billboards at stations started to empty out.

JCDecaux adverting screen minus advertisement at Collingwood station

And posters were left in tatters.

Tattered advertising posters in the Elizabeth Street subway at Flinders Street Station

‘Out of service’ tags began to appear on motorised advertising panels.

Power disconnected from a JCDecaux advertising panel at Hawksburn station

As contractors began to physically remove the advertising panels from stations.

Contractors remove the JCDecaux advertising panels at Caulfield station

Leaving just dirty marks on walls where they once hung.

Dirty mark indicates where a JCDecaux advertising panel once covered the wall at Burnley

Or witches hats where they once stood.

Witches hats at Flagstaff station mark where a JCDecaux digital billboard used to be

The exception seems to be the subways at Flinders Street Station – they were cleaner than they have ever been!

Advertising posters removed from the ramps down to the Elizabeth Street subway

However the demise of visual noise wasn’t to be – ‘bumblebee boxes’ started to appear at stations, marking the site of digital billboards for incoming operator Adshel.

'Bumblebee box' marks the site of a new Adshel digital billboard at Flagstaff station

With new screen being installed in April 2018.

New Adshel digital advertising panel on the fritz at Flagstaff station

Conveying an excitement about outdoor advertising that nobody outside the marketing industry holds.

New Adshel adverting panels installed at Flinders Street Station

While simultaneously managing to cover up directional signage at stations.

New Adshel digital advertising panels at Flagstaff station

Seeing a station without advertising just wasn’t to be.

A footnote on PTV

Over on Twitter someone pointed out the Public Transport Victoria posters at stations along the Frankston line, on panels once branded JCDecaux, but now with black tape covering the name.

PTV advertising on a JCDecaux billboard at Moorabbin station

The panels appear to have escaped the changeover to Adshel, the aging posters inside falling to pieces.

Tattered PTV advertisement inside a JCDecaux billboard at Highett station

Possibly the panels were transferred from JCDecaux to PTV at some point in the past, and are not part of the new contract?

And at Flinders Street Station

At Flinders Street Station the JCDecaux advertising panels on each platform once housed the emergency assistance buttons.

JCDecaux advertising panel marked for removal at Flinders Street Station platform 6 and 7

These panels have since been removed.

Poles mark where the JCDecaux advertising panels once stood at Flinders Street platform 4 and 5

Requiring the help points to be relocated to the pillars that support the platform veranda.

New 'emergency assistance' buttons being installed at Flinders Street platform 9

I wonder who is footing the the bill for that work?

And advertisements elsewhere

The new contract doesn’t affect all advertising on the Melbourne rail network – APN Outdoor holds a separate 10 year contract for the ‘shouting’ advertising screens at City Loop stations.

LED advertising screens also installed at Parliament station

Along with large format billboards at railway stations.

Array of advertising billboards at South Yarra station

And roadside billboards located on railway land.

EDI Comeng approaches Ginifer station on a down Watergardens service

And to make things even more complicated, Southern Cross Station is excluded from the advertising contract covering the rest of the rail network, thanks to it being separate entity subject to a 30 year long public-private partnership.

There JCDecaux still manages the advertisements, where they have just deployed a new range of digital advertising displays.

New JCDecaux LCD advertising screen at Southern Cross Station

But what about trams?

Back in 2011 a similar changeover occurred on the Melbourne tram network – Adshel won an exclusive contract to manage the advertising at tram stops, a role previously shared with JCDecaux.

However this changeover was a lot less wasteful – instead of throwing tram stops in the bin, the old ‘JCDecaux’ names was removed, and the new ‘Adshel’ placed over the top.

Adshel maintained tram shelter, previously maintained by JCDecaux

The same logo switcharoo is currently underway for a second time, following the success of JCDecaux over Adshel in the most recent round of tram advertising contract renewals in 2018.

And a final note on Flagstaff station

The Adshel screens blocking the directional signage at Flagstaff station were eventually fixed – the proper sign was moved higher up the wall, allowing the temporary paper signs to be removed.