V/Line’s new but misleading next train displays

Last week another part of the Regional Rail Link project opened to passengers – the pair of V/Line-only tracks between Southern Cross Station and Sunshine. Along with these tracks are two new platforms at Footscray station, which were provided with a new style of next train display screen. Can you spot the errors?

New V/Line next train displays displaying non-stations like Parwan Loop, as well as superfluous express running

For those playing at home:

  • There isn’t any railway station between Deer Park and Rockbank to run express between,
  • ‘Parwan Loop’ doesn’t exist either,
  • Bacchus Marsh to Ballan doesn’t have any stations to skip,
  • Again, there are no stops between Ballan and Ballarat to miss – and finally,
  • Ballarat to Wendouree has no stops

So what are the stops?

The inclusion of Parwan as a stop on the Ballarat line isn’t new – the previous train information system included it as a skipped stop between Rockbank and Bacchus Marsh.

A railway station existed at Parwan until the 1980s, but today it is just a empty paddock where trains can pass each other on the otherwise single track route.

3VL33 leads 3VL42 on the up at Parwan Loop

As for the gap between Deer Park and Rockbank, Daniel Bowen weighted in with the following:

(Caroline Springs railway station has been in the works since at least 2008)

As for the other section of express running between Ballan and Ballarat, a fellow railfan gave me this light hearted explanation:

Rivetcounter in me says they’re missing Wallace, Millbrook and Ballarat East…

Note that the above three railway stations all closed decades ago!

Finding the truth

However the real explanation for the content of the new screen at Footscray is found in the ‘Working Timetable’ – a set of timetables for the internal use of railway staff, that shows all planned train movements in a defined area.

The relevant part of the Ballarat line working timetable can be found here:

V/Line working timetable for the Ballarat line

If you have never had to read a working timetable before:

  • ‘8109’ is the train number of the ‘0908 Southern Cross to Ballarat’ service,
  • Three letter codes to the left are station code names,
  • Names in CAPITALS are railway stations,
  • Names in italics are just timing points along the route,
  • A ‘u’ against a location that the train only picks up passengers from here,
  • A ‘*’ against a time indicates that the train doesn’t stop – it runs express through the location,
  • The ‘slash’ in the time indicates separate arrival and departure times at a location,
  • ‘ES’ and ‘MS’ are abbreviations for the tracks the train traverses between Southern Cross and Noth Melbourne,
  • ‘(1)’ indicates that a train takes track ‘1’ through a given station,
  • ‘-8126’ indicate that train number 8126 in the opposite direction is crossed at this location,
  • The same logic applies for ‘-8130’

Putting it all together

So what does the working timetable tell us about the V/Line service I found on the next train displays at Footscray?

The train runs express through Deer Park West junction.

VLocity on the up at Deer Park West junction

It stops at Parwan Loop to pass a train coming the other way.

VL17 and classmate VL04 flies through Parwan Loop for the cross

But has a clear run through Bank Box Loop.

VL07 trails a Ballarat bound pass through Bank Box

At Bungaree Loop it has to pass a train on the other track, but doesn’t have to stop.

VLocity Melbourne bound crossing the Moorabool River on the Bungaree deviation on the Ballarat line

Followed by a clear run through Ballarat East.

VL14 leads VL04 through Ballarat East on the down

And a clear run where the Ararat and Mildura railway lines diverge at North Ballarat.

VL21 passes the junction at North Ballarat bound for Ararat

So why?

The answer as to why V/Line’s new next train displays are displaying inaccurate express running and superfluous station stops – the system is being driven by a raw feed of data that is only intended for the use of railway staff, and the irrelevant pieces of information aren’t being scrubbed out before it is delivered to the public.

Now all that V/Line need to go is go back into the system that drives the new displays, and ensure that it only includes the information that actual passengers care about.

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17 Responses to “V/Line’s new but misleading next train displays”

  1. Mike says:

    They could also do with some abbreviating so that it doesn’t show “Bacchus Mars” – how about “Bacchus Mrsh”

  2. Chris Gordon says:

    So in the morning when the trains run via the North Line for Bungaree Loop they have three locations between Ballan and Ballarat, yet in the afternoon when the trains run via the South Line there are only two locations between Ballan and Ballarat. This doesn’t match the working timetable and theory presented, further research is required.

    See a photo of the afternoon PIDs:

  3. Andrew S says:

    What is the story with Werribee suburban trains not stopping (I presume) at Paisley and Galvin?
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/11703606803/in/photolist-iQd3yc-gKV4qB-gKU6jR-gKU9Fm-gKV7N8-gKV2Qn-gKV7M6

  4. Evan Cottle says:

    Regarding those PIDs – the hardware appears to be MetroSpec’s “half height” line of displays, the same as used on the new Gold Coast light rail.

  5. Andrew says:

    Very interesting.

    Regarding abbreviations, I was amused by the old driver Metcard consoles in trams that you could see from inside the tram. They used to display for Gardiner, Gard’ner, abbreviated to save line space, but taking no less line space.

  6. The Author Knows Who I Am says:

    Interesting to note that it appears that it doesn’t use 24 hour time unlike all other V/Line stations and PIDs. I’ve got one for you to investigate, take a look at the PIDs for Seymour at SCS and find out why there is a ——— underneath Seymour (Indicating a stop) for a train that terminates at Seymour (This may have changed in today’s timetable change but it was there beforehand). The train number technically changes when the train runs over to the locomotive depot over the grade crossing so this shouldn’t be the reason. Challenge set! 🙂

  7. […] newly expanded Footscray station – last week I dissected the new but misleading next train displays on the V/Line platforms, but now I’ll look at a bigger problem – the useless next train […]

  8. Alan says:

    On a few occasions over the past few months, I’ve headed over to Platform 4 at Footscray to check out these displays. However, each time, they haven’t been working. Either the little red LED beside the display has been blinking, or else they’ve just been totally dead.

    Last week I took a look and noticed that the display had disappeared altogether. Perhaps it’s in need of major repair or replacement. I suppose V/Line doesn’t have any spares, seeing as there are only two of these screens in use.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I’ve also noticed the dead screens at both Footscray and Sunshine for the past few months – however the screen at Footscray going MIA is something new!

      Possibly the screens were just prototypes, as both platforms 3 and 4 at Footscray have multiple mounting points for next train displays, but only one ever was installed.

      • Alan says:

        The screen on Footscray platform 4 has returned, along with an additional one (that I don’t think was there before) at the Down end. However, they are still not functioning!

        One of these screens has been installed at Waurn Ponds, and is apparently functioning correctly. So the central server (or whatever it is that powers these things) is clearly in working order. Very mysterious!

        • Marcus Wong says:

          I’ve seen new screens appear at Sunshine platform 3 and 4 as well – previously only the outbound platform had one, but the new ones are yet to be switched on.

          V/Line PIDS on Sunshine platform 3, yet to be switched on

          Maybe the network connection between the server and screens still need to be installed?

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