Napthine’s train crashes Daniel Andrews’ party

Politicians have been influencing the direction of Melbourne’s rail network for decades, but down on the Frankston line the removal of the North Road, McKinnon Road and Centre Road level crossings has seen the decisions of two former political foes collide, with no acknowledgement from either side.

X'Trapolis 183M approaches the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon with a down Frankston service

The story starts in May 2013, when then-Premier Denis Napthine announced the $100 million ‘Bayside Rail Project’ to appease voters along the Frankston line, home of a number of marginal seats. The headline:

$100 million Bayside rail upgrade brings newest trains to Frankston line

Then elaborated further:

“Since the November 2010 election, the Coalition Government has announced orders for 15 new X’Trapolis trains, but these trains could only carry passengers on the Alamein, Glen Waverley, Belgrave, Lilydale, Hurstbridge and South Morang lines due to the different position in which the driver sits in the cab, affecting the ability to see some signals.

“This $100 million will mean the Frankston line will also be able to accommodate the X’Trapolis trains, giving passengers the fastest, most reliable and most comfortable commute to and from the city,” Dr Napthine said.

A year later in May 2014 another story starts, when the same Liberal government announced a $457 million package of works to remove level crossings at Burke Road in Glen Iris, Blackburn Road in Blackburn and North Road in Ormond.

We now move to the leadup to the 2014 State Election, and both sides of politics pulling out all stops to wow voters.

'Moving Victoria' propaganda among the advertisements on the big screen at Flinders Street Station

The Labor Party promised to remove 50 level crossings across Melbourne if they won the election, while the incumbent Liberal Government pushed Metro Trains and PTV to introduce a token X’Trapolis train to the Frankston line before infrastructure works were completed, requiring special speed restrictions to be put in place due to level crossing issues.

Labor came out in front on election day and Daniel Andrews took the reins as Premier of Victoria. He didn’t spare any time in putting his level crossing plan into action, and wasn’t afraid to revisit existing projects – in May 2015 the scope of the North Road works was expanded to include the neighbouring Centre Road, Bentleigh and McKinnon Road, McKinnon level crossings.

July 2016 saw work on the Frankston line kick up a gear, with train services being shut down for a month to allow all three stations to be demolished and the new railway cutting to be dug.

North Rd crossing at Ormond station - Herald Sun photo by Chris Eastman
North Rd crossing at Ormond station – Herald Sun photo by Chris Eastman

Rail services returned on August 1st, with Premier Daniel Andrews’ office releasing a media statement:

The crossings are gone, the track has been lowered and tomorrow the trains are back, completing one of the biggest construction efforts in Victorian history. We said we would get rid of these dangerous and congested level crossings – and we have got it done.

With the work completed, trains now pass beneath the former level crossings.

Alstom Comeng arrives into the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon on a down Frankston service

Among them is Denis Napthine’s election train – despite his loss at the 2014 State Election, the token X’Trapolis service continues to run.

X'Trapolis 183M on a down Frankston service stops for passengers at the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon

Each weekday morning the dedicated X’Trapolis train to makes two return trips to Frankston, then returns to the city to stable until next day’s junket.

X'Trapolis 183M departs the newly rebuilt low level station at McKinnon on a down Frankston service

I wonder what will come first – the completion of 50 level crossings removals projects across Melbourne, or the rollout of X’Trapolis trains to the Frankston line?

Footnote 1: nitpicking gunzel details

X’Trapolis set 176M-175M and 174M-173M were the initial train allocated to the Frankston line from October 2014, restricted in speed and operated by two drivers to avoid beating the boom gates at level crossings.

X'Trapolis 173M runs express through Hawksburn on an up Frankston service

In February 2015 this set was removed from the Frankston line to undergo maintenance, and was restored to original specifications. It was then replaced by newly delivered X’Trapolis set 181M-182M and 183M-184M, which had the same master control restrictions applied.

Following changes to level crossing timings on the line in August 2016, the restriction on X’Trapolis trains was removed, allowing any X’Trapolis set to run revenue services to Frankston.

Footnote 2: down in the trench

Freshly shotcreted walls were the main sight on my recent trip along the Frankston line.

Fresh shotcrete covered walls at Ormond station

But vandals haven’t wasted any time – trains been back for just a week, and the trench walls at McKinnon station have already been graffitied.

Trains been back for just a week, and the trench walls at McKinnon station have already been graffitied

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5 Responses to “Napthine’s train crashes Daniel Andrews’ party”

  1. Dark Knight says:

    To answer your question MTM rolling stock department are/will be getting a shakeup in preparation for the delivering political policy late 2016/early 2017

    With X-trap units currently has been stored at Newport sidings for test runs to Werribee in which I hear December 2016 early 2017 is where 10 units be allocated for cross running from Werribee and Frankston (possible growth in numbers).

    This means they will be maintained at Newport Workshops oppose from currently at Bayswater and Epping for major works (rumours are part B utilising the jacking road at Newport for the long overdue bogie overhaul project as part of its service life which seen success of the 72 Siemens units, this also secures jobs in Altona as likely Inver Engineering will be external contractor used to do the actual overhauling).

    As for the Siemens fleet while operations wise stay the same but will be prodominatly maintained at Westall so otherwords kids no new jobs just staff shuffle.. why Westall you asked?

    Well Westall being a small workshop maintains a small group (mainly ex North side or EDI refurb) Comengs while Craigiburn has the rest, the big move means Bayswater depo (now X-trap..less) will end up with a heap of Comeng units simply because the lines in the Eastern burbs meant the Comengs will run less km and thus buying service life (as we recall how long it ended up retiring the Hitachi fleet).

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Minimising the number of service km that older trains run is one way to get more life out of them, but only in the short term – keep doing it for too long, and you end up with your entire fleet run into the ground!

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Meanwhile mixing X’Trapolis trains with the slower accelerating Comeng trains means that timetabling staff can’t tighten up the running times to match what newer trains are capable of.

  2. Yifan Yu says:

    What is the M-T-M number for Denis Napthine’s election train?

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