Flagstaff station and weekend services

Flagstaff station is an oddity on Melbourne’s rail network, being the only station not to be open to passengers on the weekend. So how did it end up in this situation?

Flagstaff station all locked up for the weekend

Some background

The story starts on May 27th 1985, when Flagstaff station was officially opened by then-Minister for Transport Tom Roper.

Opening plaque at Flagstaff Station: unveiled by Minister for Transport Tom Roper on May 27th 1985

Initially the entire City Loop was open to passengers on Saturdays, but trains reverted to running direct to Flinders Street on Sundays – this Belgrave / Lilydale weekend timetable effective 20/7/1986 shows the level of service provided during the period.

The first change came in February 1997 when the City Loop was opened on Sundays until 7pm, with Flagstaff closed for the entire weekend, and with Parliament closed on Sundays. In July 1999 the timetables were fiddled with again when Parliament station was opened on Sundays until 7pm, and in November 2000 the level of service seen today was introduced – Parliament and Melbourne Central open until last train each weekend.

Presumably the reason for the weekend closure was cost cutting – each underground station requires a number of staff to run the ticket office, monitor the control room, and manage any possible emergencies – and the area around Flagstaff station is mostly offices and law courts that don’t open on weekends, resulting in few passengers.

In the years since, there have been many calls to open Flagstaff station on weekends – the PTUA raised it in 2011, and local traders circulated a petition in 2012, with the Queen Victoria Market and increasing residential development in the north-west corner of the CBD being used to justify it.

The issue got some real traction in the leadup to the 2014 State Election, when both parties committing to it.

Flagstaff station to open on weekends
Richard Willingham
September 21, 2014

Flagstaff station will be opened on weekends regardless of who wins the November state election, with both major parties making a Sunday pitch for votes on the issue of public transport.

The City Loop station is currently closed on weekends but Labor on Sunday pledged to open the station if it wins the November 29 poll.

Opening the station was part of Labor’s Homesafe policy to have 24-hour train and tram services on Friday and Saturday nights, and would cost $1 million, he said.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the government planned to open Flagstaff station on weekends from April, when the train timetables will be changed.

Greens candidate for Melbourne Ellen Sandell said the Greens had long supported the proposal.

Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala said opening the station was worthy and the costs were manageable.

I’ll believe it when I see it!

Locking up a station

Each weekend at Flagstaff, the roller doors to the main entrance are pulled down.

Flagstaff station locked up tight for the weekend

The same is done to the lesser used entrance located in the Flagstaff Gardens.

Flagstaff Gardens entrance to Flagstaff station closed for the weekend

And down on the platforms ‘STATION CLOSED’ signs are placed in position, to ensure train drivers don’t accidentally drop off passengers.

Left over from the weekend - 'STATION CLOSED' sign incorrectly displayed at Flagstaff station on Monday morning

Getting ‘left behind’ at Flagstaff is a real thing – back in 2005 one passenger had such an experience.

Man trapped in rail loop
Ashley Gardiner
October 18, 2005

A train passenger has spent a lonely 45 minutes trapped inside the City Loop after a driver mistakenly made a stop.

Clive Seiffert was unaware when he stepped from a train on Flagstaff station that it was closed for the weekend. “The first thing I noticed was the TV screens were blank,” he said. The next thing, “I noticed that one train zoomed past and didn’t stop”.

Mr Seiffert had disembarked when the train stopped at Flagstaff to switch to a Sydenham train.

Realising something was wrong he walked from the platform up stationary escalators to the concourse.

“The station was deserted,” he said. All the shutters were closed and there was not a soul to be seen.

He called police on his mobile phone and was told a Connex staff member would come to help.

Mr Seiffert said he waited for up to 45 minutes before he could get out. “I should get a job as a security expert for Connex,” he said.

Connex spokesman Andrew Cassidy said staff were at Flagstaff within seven minutes of being told of Mr Seiffert’s predicament.

Human error – you can’t avoid it.

Timetable related footnote

While digging through old timetables to research this post, I discovered that the some timetables included Flagstaff station before it actually opened – the Belgrave / Lilydale timetable effective 16/6/1984 depicted it as a skipped stop.

Bonus tramway double feature

Between 1971 and 2005 tram route 55 also skipped Flagstaff station on Sundays – it ran as route 68 via Elizabeth Street to Flinders Street Station, avoiding the entire length of William Street and Kings Way. Presumably the logic was the same as the railway station – nobody wanted to visit that end of the city outside of business hours.

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10 Responses to “Flagstaff station and weekend services”

  1. gobillino says:

    On the Route 55 Sunday deviation Marcus – whilst the ‘Flagstaff closed’ situation might have been a factor, I suspect it was probably more about providing a more direct connection between the core of the CBD/Flinders St Station and the Melbourne Zoo, given the fact that up until 2000ish, the Upfield Line didn’t operate at all on a Sunday.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I forgot to consider Melbourne Zoo – in the early 1990s heritage trams used to run out there of a Sunday:

      http://tdu.to/164122.msg
      http://tdu.to/164062.msg
      http://tdu.to/164128.msg
      http://tdu.to/164139.msg

      • David Watson says:

        I was the Railway representative on the Ministry of Transport’s Railway-Tramway-TRB working group which resulted in the Sunday closure of the Upfield railway line. Gobillino’s conjecture that tram route 55 became route 68 via Elizabeth street on Sundays to service the Zoo was certainly a factor, but not the only one. Another consideration was that those living to the west of the railway would then be able to use the Melville Road (West Coburg – old 55, new 68) tram to access Flinders Street Station, thus avoiding the further inconvenience of having to walk to Sydney Road to use route 19.
        It is true that diverting the West Coburg service to operate on Elizabeth Street was not seen as disadvantageous as there certainly was little demand for Sunday services along William Street at that time.

  2. Tom the first and best. says:

    The Melbourne Magistrates Court now hears bail applications on weekends (due overcrowding in prisons and courts).

  3. Chris Gordon says:

    There have been periods where Flagstaff has been opened at weekends for special events. One example was the Commonwealth Games in March 2006 which saw the station open over two weekends. I also think there was a period of time when the station was opened on Saturdays in December for Christmas shopping for the nearby Queen Victoria Markets.

  4. Crystle says:

    Still not open!!!!!!!!!

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