Poor planning replacing the City Loop lifts

All infrastructure eventually wears out, and in the case of Melbourne the thirty year old lifts in the City Loop have come up for replacement. However the planning of these works leaves a lot to be desired.

Lift linking Flagstaff station to the street closed for total replacement

Worked started on January 3, with lifts at Flagstaff and Parliament taken out of service, rendering the stations inaccessible to anyone unable to use an escalator.

Morning queue for the escalators at Flagstaff platform 3 and 4

These passengers are being directed to Melbourne Central station, where a wheelchair accessible taxi will carry them on the final leg of their journey.

Smashed up Maxi Taxis outside a collision repair workshop in Brunswick

Of course, alternate transport is no good if you don’t know about it.

Disabled train passengers have been left stranded at Parliament and Flagstaff stations, as drivers keep forgetting to let them know lifts are out of action.

Disability advocates are fed up with the lack of warnings, as the lifts have been down for nearly a month.

Metro Trains has told its drivers to broadcast warnings on the approach into the City Loop but they are still regularly failing to do so.

Sarah Nankervis, who suffers from a serious fainting condition that prevents her from using escalators or stairs, said she was recently caught at the bottom of Parliament station not knowing what to do.

“There was no warning on the approach into the city to get off at Melbourne Central,” she said. “I had to go up the escalators and doing that makes me really dizzy and there is chance I can faint.

“My disability isn’t as bad as some people. I’ve got friends in wheelchairs who couldn’t get to where they needed to go.”

Ray Jordan, of the All Aboard group, said Metro Trains had promised him there would be alerts on every train since work began to replace the lifts on January 3.

“I believe it happened in the first couple of days but then we just forgot about it,” he said.

“If you’re going to do this, you need to get it right and do it consistently. We understand there was a need to upgrade the lifts. But you need to have a backup plan and right now it isn’t working as it should be.”

Metro spokesman Marcus Williams said information on the upgrades was being provided through a “wide range of channels” including train ­announcements.

“Passengers requiring lifts and wishing to disembark at Parliament or Flagstaff should travel to Melbourne Central station where staff are on hand to provide a maxi taxi to either station for their onward journey,” he said.

Metro Trains told disability support groups earlier this month it would take up to two weeks for consistent messaging by drivers due to a “wider driver management and support issue”.

A senior Metro source said there was no reason why it should take a fortnight for drivers to follow the directions.

At least since the works started, signage has improved – I found this sign at Flagstaff station.

Notice of lift upgrade works at Flagstaff station

Plus the extent of the works has been clarified – Flagstaff station still has a working lift linking the two platform levels.

Notice of lift upgrade works at Flagstaff and Parliament stations

But there is still one question – why close the lifts at two stations at the same time?

This isn’t like a level crossing removal project, where it makes sense to work on multiple work sites while the trains are not running. The lifts at each station in the City Loop all operate independently from each other, so why not stagger the works, and complete each station in turn?

To prove my point

Sunday January 29th illustrated why closing the lifts at two City Loop stations at the same time was a bad idea – at Melbourne Central the single shopping centre lift linking the eastern station concourse with Swanston Street failed.

The workaround – taking the long way around through the shopping centre.

One lift failure at Melbourne Central – with a cascading effect on every City Loop passenger. I wonder if the extra usage thanks to passengers diverted from other stations contributed to the failure?

Diversity in access

Having multiple ways of accessing the platform other than stairs isn’t new.

Boronia station was rebuilt in a cutting back in 1998, and has stairs and a pair of lifts linking platform and concourse.

Pair of lifts link platform and concourse at Boronia station

But by the mid-2000s this practice went out of fashion – the designers of Laverton, Coolaroo, Westall, Footscray, Thomastown, Epping and South Morang stations took the cheap option, and provided just a single lift to each platform, with no alternate access for people unable to use the stairs.

Looking upstairs to the concourse at Epping

Laverton station is infamous for failing lifts and standard passengers:

Greens MP Colleen Hartland tabled a question in Parliament asking how many times the lifts at Laverton broke down between July 2010 and April 2011.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder told Parliament in his reply that they were inoperative on 105 occasions. And he said that a $15 million footbridge at Footscray station, also built last year without ramps, had lifts that broke down 117 times over the same period.

”It is quite clear that they didn’t put any thought into these two stations,” Ms Hartland said.

The stations were unsafe without ramps, she said, because in an emergency wheelchair passengers and parents with prams needed an alternative to broken lifts. ”They need ramps at these stations before someone is seriously injured.”

In response to these failures, at the 2010 State Election the Liberal opposition made a commitment that they would ensure all new railway stations would feature ramps as well as lifts. Ted Baillieu won the election, and duplicated access to railway platforms has been part of all projects since, from both sides of politics.


During the first few days of the lift outage, audio announcements still included the January 3 start date in their spiel. Thankfully someone has realised that small bit of information is superfluous given that the work had already started, and the announcement has been trimmed down.

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19 Responses to “Poor planning replacing the City Loop lifts”

  1. Daniel says:

    Also worth noting: the opposition called for staff to be placed at street level, presumably to help/direct people seeking lift access. Such staff have been in place at Flagstaff since day one of the works – presumably at Parliament as well.

  2. Beren Scott says:

    Here is the problem. These lifts are failing because they are being constantly used by lazy passengers who are too lazy to walk up a flight of stairs. I’ve seen it happen constantly. This is why the lifts keep breaking down. They were meant for occasional use. The widespread public are causing this issue.

  3. Tim says:

    Even the train drivers are complaining about this over the PA on the train. Metro knows all the people affected by it already. The train drivers know a lot of them personally.

  4. Tim says:

    This already caused me problems with my back issues. It hurt me too much to even use stairs.

  5. Rohan Storey says:

    Finally the reason why those huge long ramps are being built at most stations. They seem extravagant, and visually dominant, and presumably rarely used, only when the lifts break down – I would have thought they’d make sure the lifts that are installed are ones that don’t break down (by now) – use by lazy passengers can’t be the reason, not sure there’s such a thing as a lift designed for occasional use. Wonder if there are new ones at Laverton now ? And in future, the elevated stations, and the underground metro stations, won’t have ramps – so what happens when those lifts break down ?? (My suggestion has been installing those inclined elevator things on the stairs as a back up instead of ramps, though not really suitable for prams, and not sure if all these high and tunnel stations will have stayed at all). Again, surely preferable that good reliable lifts are intalled everywhere, instead of spending so many $ on enourmous ramps.

    Come to think of it, the city loop lifts must have been quite reliable over 30 years, never noticed one not working (I’m lazy) nor heard of a wheelchair passenger being stranded.

    Rant over.

  6. Thede3jay says:

    For new stations with no ramp access it has been determined that Two lifts both large enough to fit an ambulance stretcher will suffice.

  7. rohan storey says:

    Two lifts ! what a great idea. Despite the cost of lifts, probably still cheaper than those great long long ramps.

  8. Rob says:

    As a daily user of Parliament Station (boarding there to travel to Southern Cross in AM and reverse in PM) I’ve witnessed that the on-station announcements are very frequent, and there are platform staff on both levels who attend to each train. The announcements direct people to press the red button in case there aren’t people on the platform. Whilst it’s inevitable that some people will get caught out, to me it seems that the on-station info has been managed as well as it can have been, and not really worthy of this much of a beat up.

    Re on train announcements: I’ve been on a few trains where driver announced lift closure at Flagstaff between Parliament and Melb Central – the issued statement did seem a bit too long for someone to read whilst driving a train.

    Rather than relying on drivers, MTM or PTV really ought to have some means to broadcast a centralised message over the trains PA in the same way that Yarra Trams do

    • Daniel says:

      Some announcements are by drivers, but centralised broadcast announcements are being rolled-out and have been heard on some trains. They usually begin with something like “This is Bernadette from the network control centre”.

      Whoever wrote the announcements has given it some thought, ensuring that the key word “lift” is included multiple times for those who mishear the initial part of the announcement about “Parliament and Flagstaff” and “not available”/”closed”.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Centralised messages from the control centre are a recent addition in the last year or so – I believe a feature of the new Digital Train Radio System? I’ve also head them used in the lead up to level crossing removal shutdowns.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I also spotted these signs at North Melbourne the other day, reminding train drivers to make an announcement.

      'Driver reminder: lift upgrades FGS and PAR announcement required' sign at the entrance to the City Loop at North Melbourne

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