Change at Footscray for the City Loop?

With no platforms for the Regional Rail Link tracks at North Melbourne, V/Line trains no longer stop at the station, forcing passengers for the City Loop to change trains at Footscray instead. So how much harder is this transfer for commuters?

Siemens 747M arrives into Footscray with a City Loop bound service

With the current setup at Footscray, each set of platforms is in effect a separate railway station, with passengers often having to touch off, head across the bridge, and then touch on again in order to change trains.

Citybound V/Line services arrive at Footscray platform 3.

Citybound VLocity 3VL20 arrives at Footscray platform 3

Passengers for the City Loop have to leave the train here.

Passengers depart a V/Line service at Footscray, so they can change to a City Loop service

Then head up the stairs, escalators, ramp or lift to the overhead concourse.

V/Line passengers climb one flight of stairs at Footscray for their City Loop service

At the top they find a set of ticket gates, where these is a queue to touch off.

Now a set of ticket gates at Footscray for V/Line passengers changing to City Loop services

Once outside the paid area, it is time to head down to street level.

V/Line passengers have to head downstairs at Footscray for City Loop services

At the bottom, you want to make a right.

Changing trains at Footscray - head down the escalator, and down to the street

That will lead you toward the entrance to platform 1.

Changing trains at Footscray - now down the ramp for platform 1

Note the entrance isn’t anywhere near the footbridge.

Changing trains at Footscray - keep going down the ramp for platform 1

Now it is time to line up again, this time to touch on.

Changing to a City Loop service at Footscray, and you have to touch on again

And once you get inside the ticket gates you’ll finally find out when the next City Loop train is due to arrive.

Changing trains at Footscray - one train was cancelled, so you'll have to wait 9 minutes for the next one!

Note that on the day I visited, the next City Loop train ex-Sunbury had been cancelled, leaving passengers a 9 minute wait for the next one!

No wonder that Commuters from Bendigo say the “upgrades” have made their commuter take longer:

Castlemaine’s Bernadette Ervin said she had been using the same service once a week for about four years, but started driving when the Regional Rail Link work began.

“There’s no real advantage for me catching the train anymore,” she said.

“It’s much easier for me to get in the car, even as one person – which I am philosophically opposed to – than deal with the stress of my train commute now.

“It used to be quite a convenient service but it’s not now. It’s maximum inconvenience for regional commuters.”

She said having to change trains at Footscray rather than North Melbourne meant she had to “run like mad” to catch the next connecting train to get to work on time.

“What happens is you arrive at Footscray and you get spat out of the station and then have to get back in to the station,” she said.

“Then you miss your connecting train and have to get the later train, so it’s about a 10 minute delay.”

That’s progress for you!


At Footscray station passengers can only change between platforms 2 and 3, and platforms 4 and 5 without leaving the paid area. Any other transfer requires passengers to touch off, head across the bridge, and then touch on again.

In the case of passengers heading from platform 3 to platform 1, there is room to add a staircase linking platform 1 to the ‘paid’ side of the overhead footbridge, which would make things much easier for V/Line passengers changing for the City Loop.

Passengers make their way to platform 1 at Footscray station

Linking platform 4, 5 and 6 into the same paid area would require a little more work, as the existing footbridge might have to be widened to allow for separate ‘paid’ and ‘unpaid’ passages.

They cover over the top of the new Footscray footbridge, but use perforated panels that left water through?

Unfortunately for Victorian commuters, bottlenecks at station entrances and interchanges seem par for the course – we can only hope for the improvements suggested above!

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25 Responses to “Change at Footscray for the City Loop?”

  1. Philip says:

    So are there no signs on the Metro platforms telling you when the next VLine service goes, and vice versa? That would have been very easy to get right, but clearly the powers-that-be simply do not care about the travelling public.

  2. Simon Russell says:

    Considering that the regional rail link only really exists because Metro and VLine couldn’t figure out how to communicate properly, it’s no real surprise — same with the on-platform information displays.

    It’s going to be worse if the Melbourne Rail Link gets built, as there’ll be no city-loop services from the west at all.

    • Tom the first and best. says:

      There was a significant amount of conflict between V-Line services and suburban services in the west. It constrained future service increases as well. Now there is significantly more capacity and reliability.

      • Marcus Wong says:

        V/Line and Metro like to pretend that their services are somehow ‘special’ and need to be kept separate, and that mixing electric and diesel trains will cause all sorts of bad things to happen.

        In reality the problem is mixing stopping all stations trains with express ones – Regional Rail Link fixes it in a clunky way, by adding a new set of non-electrified express tracks alongside the existing suburban ones.

        For the purposes of comparison, look at Sydney’s train network – quad tracks as far as Revesby in the south and St Marys in the west allow both express suburban services and long distance country trains to pass local services.

        If Melbourne’s rail operators were not so dysfunctional, then a sufficient number of shared tracks like any other country around the world would work just fine.

        • Evan says:

          “In forming the CBI architecture a number of options were considered including:
          a. distributed interlockings with the interlockings controlling both RRL and MTM lines;
          b. distributed interlockings with separate interlockings for the RRL and MTM lines;
          c. centralised interlocking controlling both RRL and MTM lines;
          d. centralised interlockings with separate interlockings for the RRL and MTM lines. The analysis identified that a centralised interlocking (item c.) was the best architecture however both AROs wanted to be responsible for their lines so the centralised and separate interlockings (item d.) was the ARO preferred architecture.”

          That’s from this paper from the designers of the RRL control systems (free registration to download – it’s a good read):

          So basically, experts said that the system should be integrated, but V/Line and Metro were adamant from the outset that they couldn’t possibly cooperate. Yeeerp.

        • Tom the first and best. says:

          All the V-Line services are express and most of the suburban services are stoppers therefore it is mostly a express/stopper split.

          Using the tracks for suburban expresses would have significantly complicated the city end of the project as it is also eliminates the flat junction use between the suburban tracks and V-Line platforms at Southern Cross, making both networks more reliable and capacious.

          Using the RRL tracks between Sunshine and Footscray for suburban services would significantly reduce the capacity available for extra V-Line services since most of the V-Line services use this route.

          • Marcus Wong says:

            Untangling suburban and V/Line trains at the city end would require flyovers or flat junctions as you suggest, but having the flexibility to use both track pairs for either type of service would be a good thing.

            I foresee a day where the electrified tracks get blocked, leaving suburban trains banked up at Sunshine along with hoardes of stranded passengers. Knowing the pigheadedness of the two rail operators, I doubt V/Line would even let suburban passenger use their trains to get past the blockage!

            The reverse may also apply to V/Line services – if the RRL tracks get blocked in a disruption, will country services use the suburban tracks as far as Sunshine, or will V/Line just call in the buses from Melbourne all the way out to Geelong / Ballarat / Bendigo.

          • Tom the first and best. says:

            Not having the RRL electrified to 1.5 kv DC allows for future electrification with 25 kv AC, which makes regional electrification more economic.

          • Marcus Wong says:

            Point taken, but by the same logic not upgrading the Melbourne-Sydney railway means we are prepared for a 500 km/h Maglev train. 😛

    • Tom the first and best. says:

      I suspect the boat has sailed on the subject of flyover relocation, unfortunately. Which make platforms for most RRL trains not viable.

      A link from North Melbourne Station to Docklands, via E-Gate, is a very good idea however it should have a tram link so as to give better access to Waterfront city and Digital Harbour to people using the lines that have stops at North Melbourne, so they do not have to go to Southern Cross and backtrack.

      • Marcus Wong says:

        You’re right about the ship having sailed on RRL platforms at North Melbourne – to build an extra flyover would require ripping up the new tracks they just built as part of RRL, and making room outside West Tower for the flyover approach.

        A tram link from North Melbourne station would be useful, but I’m unsure as to how you would integrate it into the existing network, given there are already tram termini on Footscray Road and at Waterfront City.

        At the very least the new E Gate development will need to be linked to the existing station concourses at North Melbourne, by either decking over the suburban train stabling yards, or footbridges.

        • Tom the first and best. says:

          The termini actually make integrating it into the existing system quite easy because lines terminating at one or both of those termini can be extended to North Melbourne Station.

          It is probably easier to extend along Footscray Rd and then up through E-Gate because, unfortunately, there is no easy path to extend the tram line up from the tram terminus in Waterfront City to E-Gate.

          • Marcus Wong says:

            The downside I saw with extending the Footscray Road terminus to North Melbourne station is that it makes sending the tramway to Footscray more difficult – through that is a problem to deal with in the distant future!

  3. Tom the first and best. says:

    Building a staircase from platform 1 to the paid area of the footbridge could run into some difficulty providing a top entrance to the stairs because of the lift. The lift should be on the other side of the stairs, where the ramps and lifts are that the lift users use (not being stair or escalator users). The roof over platform 1 would need some work and is there enough length for stairs there? Other than that, a staircase or escalators, are good ideas.

    There is always the option of making the footbridge paid area only. This would inconvenience a few people but would only require a Myki to use. The other solution is rebuild the older section of the footbridge.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Building a staircase from platform 1 to the pair area should have been part of the original design – there is space there, but as you point out, retrofitting it around the existing platform shelters and the lift would be difficult.

      Squashing both paid and unpaid areas into a narrow walkway is a problem that Flinders Street Station also has with the Elizabeth Street subway. In both cases, enlarging the passage would be a costly endeavour.

      • Tom the first and best. says:

        The Elizabeth St subway should be made paid area only, the stupid fence ripped out, the stairs west to platforms 10 & 11 reopened and the barriers at the Flinders St end extended across to allow transfer between platform 1 and the subway entirely within the paid area.

        The non-paid are of the subway is underused and anyone who wants to use it can get a Myki and use it for no further cost (as long as they take less than 15 minutes).

        A new subway could be built near between Queens St and the Sandridge Rail Bridge to assist with non-Myki pedestrian flow.

  4. […] platforms were built on the new tracks at just two stations: Footscray and Sunshine. With an inconvenient interchange at Footscray and no platforms at North Melbourne, Sunshine is the stand out station for passenger […]

  5. wxtre says:

    It also appears there is also no covering from the elements as you transfer between platforms. It is quite bad design and gaudy, the only positive part of the station upgrade is the escalators.

  6. […] Completed in 2010, in 2013 the northern end was demolished as part of the Regional Rail Link project to make room for two additional platforms, which despite the money spent delivered a worse experience for interchange passengers. […]

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