Photos from ten years ago: February 2007

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is February 2007.

We start halfway between Geelong and Ballarat, where I found an empty grain train headed north for another load.

XR557 and G513 on a Ballarat bound grain train at Meredith

Grain trains continue to use the line today, the number depending on the size of the annual grain harvest.

Back home in Geelong I captured a photo showing the uselessness of the local bus network. Services on route 16 and 19 ran once an hour on a Sunday, leaving town just a few minutes apart, only to chase other down Moorabool Street as far as the Belmont shopping centre.

Buses on route 16 and 19 run once an hour on a Sunday, but leave the city just a few minutes apart. Downright idiotic!

June 2015 saw a revamp of the entire Geelong bus network, with major route changes, along with plenty of annoyed bus users.

Over at South Geelong station I photographed a Melbourne-bound train before departure time, lead by a 1950s-era A class diesel locomotive.

A60 at South Geelong

These locomotives have had more farewells than John Farnham! Entering service in the 1950s as the B class, they were stripped down and rebuilt with new engines in the 1980s. The delivery of VLocity trains in the mid-2000s saw their use decline, but increasing patronage have seen the come back from retirement multiple times – the most recent being April 2013.

At Newport I photographed a 3-car Comeng train on an off-peak citybound Werribee service.

Alstom Comeng 538M on an up Werribee service at Newport

These trains are still in service today despite their increasing age, just with Metro Trains Melbourne replacing the Connex stickers, but increasing patronage has seen 3-car trains become a rare sight, due to increasing patronage across the suburban network.

Finally at Newport I spotted a 3-car Siemens train heading past without any passengers on board.

Siemens 725M at Newport, Werribee bound for brake testing

Back in November 2006 multiple Siemens trains were withdrawn from service after overshooting platforms, the number of trains eventually totalling 31. To find the root cause of the problem, soapy water was sprayed onto the rails to increase the amount of wheel slip experienced, in an effort to replicate the brake fault.

Water hoses for brake testing on the leading bogie of Siemens 726M

The chosen solution was a software change to the braking system, Connex and Siemens declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’ in February 2007.

Turns out the Siemens trains were never fixed properly – in March 2009 more platform overruns were experienced. This time around it was decided to install sanding equipment to the trains to improve their braking performance, a program completed in June 2011.

Footnote

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

‘Backpacker au pairs’ and lessons from Hong Kong

A few days ago ABC News published a piece titled Calls for ‘backpacker au pair’ visa and industry regulation as parents seek affordable child care, detailing how a group called the “Indonesia Institute” was suggesting that migrant workers should be allowed to enter Australia to work as low-cost childcare providers.

Childcare centre at the former Royal Women's Hospital

The Indonesia Institute is Perth-based non-governmental organisation which from their on their web site and list of board members don’t appear to be overtly political.

However in their 2014 submission to the Productivity Commission public inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, they veer into very “out there” territory:

The Institute submits that immigration and labour regulations should be liberalised to allow carers from Indonesia (and other Asian countries) to work as nannies in Australia at a cost acceptable to both nannies and the majority of Australian families.

It will be helpful for purpose of this submission to briefly describe how the Institute’s proposal might work. The Institute considers that the following description is realistic, based on the experience in other countries.

  • a. An Asian nanny would be paid approximately AUD 200 per week. This is twice the amount a nanny would earn in Indonesia.
  • b. A percentage of the AUD 200 would be paid to an Australian agency to oversee the scheme (as is done in Singapore). The Institute considers it crucial that an Australian agency would have oversight of the scheme to ensure the welfare of Asian nannies while they are in Australia.
  • c. The host family would lodge a bond with the Australian agency. The bond would be held against the possibility that the nanny was not paid or was mistreated.
  • d. The host family would provide and pay for:
    • i. private medical insurance,
    • ii. accommodation and food,
    • iii. a work clothing allowance.
  • e. The nanny would be entitled to every Sunday off and a return airfare home for 2 weeks every year (as is done in Hong Kong).

Note the comparison to Hong Kong, as the proposal from the Indonesia Institute is a carbon copy of the ‘Foreign Domestic Helper’ system in Hong Kong – one which has been compared to slavery; and lead to accusations of human trafficking, forced labour, torture, and physical abuse against those who come to the city to work.

Later in their submission, the Indonesia Institute comments how sustainable similar programs elsewhere:

As is demonstrated elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region (for example, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan) the use of caregivers from developing Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines is market based and therefore highly sustainable. There is no requirement for governments to subsidise the provision of care in those countries.

They also detail how they believe such a program will help developing nations in Asia:

The Institute considers that the Institute’s proposal would open a new, highly sustainable, avenue of funds to developing nations in the Asia Pacific region. This is highly sustainable because it is not aid but the result of value-adding economic activity. Indonesian expatriate carers typically return to Indonesia with sufficient funds to purchase property or set themselves up in business. This enduring positive effect in developing countries has support in recent economic literature on development.

However the big point that the Indonesia Institute doesn’t address is the potential for the exploitation of migrant workers – bringing people with little money and no support network into a situation of what is essentially servitude to their employers.

Footnote

Turns out this idea is nothing new – back in 2014 The Age published an article titled Call for Asian nannies to reduce childcare costs that covered the same ground, again quoting the Indonesia Institute.

Further reading

The architects behind Melbourne’s railway stations

In the past decade there has been a flurry of new and upgraded railway stations constructed across Melbourne, designed by a variety of local and international architecture firms. Here is my best effort at compiling a list of the architects behind Melbourne’s railway stations – any additions or corrections would be much appreciated.

View of the Southern Cross Station roof from 664 Collins Street

Carnegie, Murrumbeena, Hughesdale, Clayton and Noble Park

Cox


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

Mernda Marymede and Hawkstowe

Grimshaw


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South, Domain

Grimshaw


Melbourne Metro Rail Authority artist’s impression


Melbourne Metro Rail Authority artist’s impression


Melbourne Metro Rail Authority artist’s impression


Melbourne Metro Rail Authority artist’s impression


Melbourne Metro Rail Authority artist’s impression

Southland, 2017

Kyriacou


Public Transport Victoria artist’s impression

Heatherdale, 2017

Kyriacou


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

Caroline Springs, 2017

HBO+EMTB (phase 1+2), Jackson Architecture (stage 3, including duplication)

VLocity VL32 and VL60 head onto the recently commissioned up platform track at Caroline Springs

Bayswater, 2016

AECOM


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

St Albans, 2016

Kyriacou


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

Ginifer, 2016

Kyriacou


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

Ormond, 2016

Grimshaw


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

McKinnon, 2016

Grimshaw


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

Bentleigh, 2016

Grimshaw


Level Crossing Removal Authority artist’s impression

Gardiner, 2016

Grimshaw

 Sea of concrete and asphalt has replaced the Burke Road level crossing at Gardiner station

Ringwood, 2016

Kyriacou

North side of the overhead concourse at Ringwood station

Wyndham Vale, 2015

DesignInc

VLocity 3VL47 and classmate lead an up service into Wyndham Vale

Tarneit, 2015

DesignInc

Station building on the citybound platform at Tarneit

Balaclava, 2014

CCG Architects

Siemens train arrives into Balaclava station on a down Sandringham service

Waurn Ponds, 2014

GHD

Waurn Ponds station

Mitcham, 2014

Arup / Grimshaw

X'Trapolis 895M arriving into Mitcham station on the up

Springvale, 2014

Jackson Architecture

Siemens train pauses at Springvale station on the down

Williams Landing, 2013

Arup / Cox / HBO+EMTB

Williams Landing station

Footscray, West Footscray and Sunshine, 2013

Hassell

Footscray station

Sunbury, 2012

Grimshaw

Down train changes from the down line to platform 1 at Sunbury

Diggers Rest, 2012

Grimshaw

One loooooog platform shelter at Diggers Rest platform 1

Cardinia Road, 2012

Arup / Cox

Myki outnumbers Metcard at the down platform at Cardinia Road station

Lynbrook, 2012

Arup / Cox

Looking across to the station building at Lynbrook platform 1

South Morang, 2012

Cox

Main entrance to South Morang station

Epping, 2011

Cox

Entrance to the new station at Epping

Thomastown, 2011

Cox

Massive footbridge at the rebuilt Thomastown station - only one side is sheltered?

Laverton, 2010

Unknown

VLocity 3VL33 and classmate passes through Laverton on the up

Coolaroo, 2010

Architectus

Coolaroo - all lit up and waiting to go, but waiting for the June 2010 timetable change

Westall, 2010

Hassell

Westall station platforms 1 and 2, looking up the line

Nunawading, 2010

Grimshaw

Transdev bus #8380 rego 7653AO on a route 902 service at Nunawading

North Melbourne, 2009

Cox

VLocity 3VL32 runs through North Melbourne under the new concourse

Heatherdale, 2007

Hassell

Passenger shelter on platform 2 at Heatherdale

Kananook, 2007

Hassell

Alstom Comeng arrives into Kananook on an up Frankston service

Southern Cross Station, 2007

Grimshaw

VLocity VL12 at Southern Cross Station

Roxburgh Park, 2007

Cox

Concrete and steel footbridge at Roxburgh Park station

Craigieburn, 2007

Cox

Street frontage of Craigieburn station

High vis vests make anyone look official

If you every have to wear a high visibility vest, don’t walk through a railway station – confused passengers will flock to you like seagulls on a chip.

Funnelling V/Line passengers past the Myki gates on the Collins Street concourse

Just look at this contractor attempting to fix a broken myki gate at Southern Cross Station.

‘Q: The next train to Geelong?’
‘A: Sorry, you want the guy in the V/Line vest. I’m just a contractor’

'The next train to Geelong?' 'Sorry, you want the guy in the V/Line vest. I'm just a contractor'

‘Q: Where do I buy a ticket?’
‘A: Sorry, you’ll need to find one of the V/Line guys hiding over there’

'Where do I buy a ticket?' Sorry, you'll need to find one of the V/Line guys hiding over there'

Best to save your high vis vest for the zoo, the movies, or a gig. You’ll waltz right in without paying.

The world is a stratified place. Important people get into exclusive places. Everyone else has to pay shit loads of money, or watch longingly through the fence. But there’s a loophole into getting into places for free, if you’re so inclined. You just need to pretend to be an important person. And people who wear hi-vis are important in the sense that they fix things no one else cares about. If you see someone in hi-vis stepping through a barricade, or marching past a bouncer, you naturally assume they’re headed to fix something. This makes a hi-vis vest the keys to life.

Footnote

Back in the days I worked in retail I had similar problems – walk into any shop in uniform while on my lunch break, and I’d get questions from confused customers asking where to find something, despite the fact I didn’t work there.

Poor planning replacing the City Loop lifts

All infrastructure eventually wears out, and in the case of Melbourne the thirty year old lifts in the City Loop have come up for replacement. However the planning of these works leaves a lot to be desired.

Lift linking Flagstaff station to the street closed for total replacement

Worked started on January 3, with lifts at Flagstaff and Parliament taken out of service, rendering the stations inaccessible to anyone unable to use an escalator.

Morning queue for the escalators at Flagstaff platform 3 and 4

These passengers are being directed to Melbourne Central station, where a wheelchair accessible taxi will carry them on the final leg of their journey.

Smashed up Maxi Taxis outside a collision repair workshop in Brunswick

Of course, alternate transport is no good if you don’t know about it.

Disabled train passengers have been left stranded at Parliament and Flagstaff stations, as drivers keep forgetting to let them know lifts are out of action.

Disability advocates are fed up with the lack of warnings, as the lifts have been down for nearly a month.

Metro Trains has told its drivers to broadcast warnings on the approach into the City Loop but they are still regularly failing to do so.

Sarah Nankervis, who suffers from a serious fainting condition that prevents her from using escalators or stairs, said she was recently caught at the bottom of Parliament station not knowing what to do.

“There was no warning on the approach into the city to get off at Melbourne Central,” she said. “I had to go up the escalators and doing that makes me really dizzy and there is chance I can faint.

“My disability isn’t as bad as some people. I’ve got friends in wheelchairs who couldn’t get to where they needed to go.”

Ray Jordan, of the All Aboard group, said Metro Trains had promised him there would be alerts on every train since work began to replace the lifts on January 3.

“I believe it happened in the first couple of days but then we just forgot about it,” he said.

“If you’re going to do this, you need to get it right and do it consistently. We understand there was a need to upgrade the lifts. But you need to have a backup plan and right now it isn’t working as it should be.”

Metro spokesman Marcus Williams said information on the upgrades was being provided through a “wide range of channels” including train ­announcements.

“Passengers requiring lifts and wishing to disembark at Parliament or Flagstaff should travel to Melbourne Central station where staff are on hand to provide a maxi taxi to either station for their onward journey,” he said.

Metro Trains told disability support groups earlier this month it would take up to two weeks for consistent messaging by drivers due to a “wider driver management and support issue”.

A senior Metro source said there was no reason why it should take a fortnight for drivers to follow the directions.

At least since the works started, signage has improved – I found this sign at Flagstaff station.

Notice of lift upgrade works at Flagstaff station

Plus the extent of the works has been clarified – Flagstaff station still has a working lift linking the two platform levels.

Notice of lift upgrade works at Flagstaff and Parliament stations

But there is still one question – why close the lifts at two stations at the same time?

This isn’t like a level crossing removal project, where it makes sense to work on multiple work sites while the trains are not running. The lifts at each station in the City Loop all operate independently from each other, so why not stagger the works, and complete each station in turn?

To prove my point

Sunday January 29th illustrated why closing the lifts at two City Loop stations at the same time was a bad idea – at Melbourne Central the single shopping centre lift linking the eastern station concourse with Swanston Street failed.

The workaround – taking the long way around through the shopping centre.

One lift failure at Melbourne Central – with a cascading effect on every City Loop passenger. I wonder if the extra usage thanks to passengers diverted from other stations contributed to the failure?

Diversity in access

Having multiple ways of accessing the platform other than stairs isn’t new.

Boronia station was rebuilt in a cutting back in 1998, and has stairs and a pair of lifts linking platform and concourse.

Pair of lifts link platform and concourse at Boronia station

But by the mid-2000s this practice went out of fashion – the designers of Laverton, Coolaroo, Westall, Footscray, Thomastown, Epping and South Morang stations took the cheap option, and provided just a single lift to each platform, with no alternate access for people unable to use the stairs.

Looking upstairs to the concourse at Epping

Laverton station is infamous for failing lifts and standard passengers:

Greens MP Colleen Hartland tabled a question in Parliament asking how many times the lifts at Laverton broke down between July 2010 and April 2011.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder told Parliament in his reply that they were inoperative on 105 occasions. And he said that a $15 million footbridge at Footscray station, also built last year without ramps, had lifts that broke down 117 times over the same period.

”It is quite clear that they didn’t put any thought into these two stations,” Ms Hartland said.

The stations were unsafe without ramps, she said, because in an emergency wheelchair passengers and parents with prams needed an alternative to broken lifts. ”They need ramps at these stations before someone is seriously injured.”

In response to these failures, at the 2010 State Election the Liberal opposition made a commitment that they would ensure all new railway stations would feature ramps as well as lifts. Ted Baillieu won the election, and duplicated access to railway platforms has been part of all projects since, from both sides of politics.

Footnote

During the first few days of the lift outage, audio announcements still included the January 3 start date in their spiel. Thankfully someone has realised that small bit of information is superfluous given that the work had already started, and the announcement has been trimmed down.