Public transport timekeeping troubles

On the weekend Victoria switched over the daylight savings time. Meanwhile on the railways, they have some trouble of their own keeping track of time.

If you look at the clocks around Southern Cross any time after noon things start to get messy – the V/Line side of the display continues counting upwards to “13 hundred hours”, while the Metro side drops back to “1 o’clock”.

V/Line operates on 24 hour time, Metro uses 12 hour time

Meanwhile a few stations down the line at Footscray, they have bigger problems – each platform is operating on their own timezone!

One station - two different time zones?

When I paid a visit at 5:40 PM, the clock on platform one said it was 9:24 (AM or PM?) while over on platform two the clock thought it was 2:08 (again – morning or afternoon?).

Faulty clock at Footscray station

With clocks like that, what hope do we have of trains running on time?

So why is V/Line different?

On the subject of time formats, here is a Metro Trains Melbourne public timetable showing their use of AM/PM time. Times after noon are marked in bold, and an extra row at the top indicates morning (AM) or afternoon (PM):

Metro Trains Melbourne public timetable - it operates on 12 hour AM/PM time

Yarra Trams also use 12 hour AM/PM time in their public timetables.

Yarra Trams public timetable - it operates on 12 hour AM/PM time

Bus timetables published by Public Transport Victoria are another in the 12 hour AM/PM time camp.

Public timetable for buses published by Public Transport Victoria - it operates on 12 hour AM/PM time

But over at V/Line, their public timetables use 24 hour time:

V/Line public timetable - it operates on 24 hour time

To help out those who don’t understand hours past 12 o’clock, V/Line includes a conversion table on the rear of their pocket timetables.

24 hour time conversion table on the rear of a V/Line pocket timetable

So how long has V/Line been odd one out from a time formatting perspective?

Public timetables from 1954, 1967 and 1975 all use 12 hour time, so it took a quick email to my mate who knows everything V/Line to give me the answer – 9th April 2000. The change was made as part of private operator National Express’ first timetable redesign, after they took over V/Line from the State Government in August 1999.


Up in New South Wales their upcoming 20 October 2013 timetable change also includes a change to the 24-hour clock.

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10 Responses to “Public transport timekeeping troubles”

  1. Tom the first and best says:

    Is the a case of; they use long distance rail a lot in Europe and European railways use 24 hour time therefore the usage of long distance rail travel will go up if 24 hour time is used?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      That might explain why it took UK-based National Express to introduce the 24 hour clock format to V/Line.

  2. mich says:

    I don’t like to be picky, but the “extra column at the top” of those timetables you printed, are what normal people call a “row”.

    24 hours time is going to be a disaster in NSW, hardly anyone knows what it is.

  3. mich says:

    Actually, there is only 1 hour in the day where the 24 hour clock gives me grief.

    17:45 is a quarter to six, and 19:45 is also a quarter to six.

  4. Scott says:

    On our online request system at work, we had to adjust booking times back to am/pm cause no one was capable of understanding a 24 hour clock!

    • Marcus Wong says:

      At my work we had a recent debate whether out new online timesheet system would use a 12- or 24-hour clock. I believe we came to the cop out answer of making it configurable, and making the end user worry about it.

  5. Offtrack says:

    They broke the communications line to those clocks in footscray as part of the early RRR upgrade works. Without a synchronization signal, they just start counting from 12:00 at power-up.

  6. […] uses 24-hour time in most cases, including on their public timetables — they switched back in 2000. Other public transport operators in Victoria use 12-hour time in […]

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