Looking back at when V/Line ran longer trains to Geelong

Next time you are squeezed onboard an overcrowded a train to Geelong, remember this – until a few years ago V/Line used to run trains longer than they run today. So how did they come about, and why did they disappear?

7 car Vlocity heads back empty to Geelong from Marshall

Some background

The story starts back in December 2005, with the introduction of the VLocity trains to the V/Line fleet. Each set consisted of two carriages seating a total of 140 passengers, with a drivers cab at each end.

VL12 at South Geelong

The maths for carrying more passengers was simple – put two units together to make a four car train, or three units to make a six car train.

On the Geelong line the busiest trains were the four ‘super’ expresses: a pair of trains stopping at Marshall, South Geelong, Geelong, North Geelong, North Melbourne and Southern Cross each weekday morning, matched by a pair of trains heading in the return direction in the evening.

VL01 leads two classmates on an up Geelong express service at Corio

We then saw a politically motivated 20% cut in V/Line fares in 2007, resulting in an explosion in patronage, especially on the Geelong line.

One response to this was the ordering of additional trains for V/Line, who saw their first three-car long VLocity set enter service in August 2008.

3VL41 heads back to Melbourne at North Shore

These new sets consisted of the same driving carriages found in the existing 2-car long sets, but with an extra motorised carriage placed between them. Lacking a toilet or drivers cab, these new carriages increased the total passenger capacity to 216 seats – each pair of 3-car sets having 12 extra seats compared to a six carriage train made up of three 2-car long sets.

These new three car long VLocity sets also expanded the combinations of trains that could be made:

  • two car
  • three car
  • four cars (two 2-car sets)
  • five cars (2-car with 3-car set)
  • six cars (three 2-car sets)
  • six cars (two 3-car sets)

But with patronage still growing and suburban and V/Line trains sharing the tracks out of Melbourne, running more services on the Geelong line wasn’t an option. But V/Line did see one possible solution – an even longer VLocity train, made up of two 2-car sets with a 3-car set.

Minor infrastructure changes were required, as this September 2008 media release by then Minister for Public Transport, Lynne Kosky, detailed.

PLATFORM EXTENSIONS PAVE THE WAY FOR LONGER GEELONG TRAINS
Monday, 08 September 2008

Platforms at two Geelong stations will be lengthened to allow V/Line to run the biggest short-distance passenger trains in the state from the end of this year.

The bigger trains are in response to a massive 23 per cent growth in passenger numbers in the past year alone on the Geelong line – Victoria’s busiest regional passenger line.

Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said peak Geelong trains already operated at the maximum six-carriage length, and seven-carriage trains would operate on semi-express peak services when platforms could accommodate the longer trains.

Marshall was the first station to undergo platform extension works throughout September and would be followed by South Geelong.

“The Brumby Government is taking action to build on our record investment in regional rail services and that is why we have committed $236 million to purchase 50 new carriages to allow for longer trains on our most popular routes,” Ms Kosky said.

“V/Line is now receiving one new carriage every month and will do so until 2012. By that time, more than 3800 extra seats will be added to the network.

“I know Geelong passengers have suffered some overcrowding and I’m pleased to announce that some peak hour Geelong line trains will be increased from six to seven carriages from the end of this year.

“It is important that we complete these infrastructure upgrades before we introduce longer trains to ensure passenger safety and accessibility.”

The Geelong line is V/Line’s most popular route and has more peak hour services and carriages
than any other line but booming patronage means more carriages are needed.

“With V/Line patronage at a 60-year high, the platforms works and extra carriages will make a real difference for Geelong line passengers,” Ms Kosky said.

Work begins

By October 2008 work was well underway on extending platforms along the Geelong line.

Connex moved quickly, extending North Melbourne platforms 5 and 6 to the south by one carriage.

Extending platform 5/6 to the south to fit longer V/Line trains on the Geelong line

Work on the extension of platform 5/6 to permit 7 car Vlocity consists

Work at South Geelong also commenced, relocating an existing siding to make for for a platform extension towards the east.

New pointwork for the siding, to permit platform extension

While at Marshall station the platform opened just a few years before also had to be extended – a short section at the Melbourne end.

Platform extension at the up end

And a longer extension at the Warrnambool end.

Platform extension at the down end

And they begin

November 2008 saw the first seven car long VLocity train run on the Geelong line, but with one problem – the platfomr extensions at South Geelong were yet to be finished.

Old points removed and straight railed

Passengers for South Geelong were warned not to board the rear carriage of the new longer trains.

Signage at Marshall for the 7 car train, the South Geelong platform is not finished

With a second conductor having to travel onboard each train, preventing passengers from using the door that hung off the end of the platform.

7 car train hanging off the platform at South Geelong

It took another month for the platform extension to appear at South Geelong.

Platform extension about complete

With the half finished platform finally opening to passengers in January 2009.

N452 departs South Geelong and the finally opened platform extension

Seven car VLocity trains then became became an everyday part of the V/Line timetable, stopping at Marshall, South Geelong, Geelong, North Geelong, North Melbourne and Southern Cross each weekday morning, matched by a pair of trains heading in the return direction in the evening.

Fade to black

In May 2009 Regional Rail Link was approved, to allow V/Line trains on the Geelong line to avoid sharing tracks with suburban trains on their way into Melbourne, traversing a new route via the growth suburbs of Wyndham Vale and Tarneit.

Early works on Regional Rail Link didn’t stop seven car long trains on the Geelong line.

Future Manor Junction and a down Geelong service, one of two 7-car consists that run on the Geelong line in peak

Neither did the removal of the stop at North Melbourne, or the opening of the new platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross Station.

VLocity 3VL37 leads a 7 car VLocity consist into the RRL platforms at Southern Cross

But it was another simultaneous change that saw the end of the seven car trains to Geelong – a desire by V/Line to standardise their VLocity train fleet.

Operating a mix of two and three car trains might be flexible, but makes operations more complicated, so in November 2012 an additional 19 VLocity intermediate carriages were ordered – enough to lengthen the last remaining two car sets to the new ‘standard’ three car length.

VLocity 3VL00 on an up Geelong service approaches the Boundary Road bridge at Tarneit

The end finally came in June 2015 when Geelong trains commenced using the new Regional Rail Link tracks, with the new timetable adding extra stops to the former ‘super’ express services, and cutting the trains back to just six cars in length.

Pair of VLocity units pass Wyndham Vale South on a down Geelong service

The two car long VLocity trains hung around a little longer, running as part of five car long trains, until the final set was converted – VL14 in June 2016

VLocity VL16 and classmate depart Tarneit on a down Geelong service

Today the platform extension at North Melbourne remains in place, empty and unused.

Unused 7th car section of platform 5 and 6 at North Melbourne station

While the new Regional Rail Line platforms at Footscray bear the painted letters ‘VL9’ – stopping mark for a nine car VLocity train that is yet to come.

'VL9' - nine-car VLocity set stopping mark on the RRL platform at Footscray

Footnote

More detail on the Geelong line platform lengthening works of 2008 can be found on the Railpage Australia forums.

Meanwhile on the Seymour line

Over on the Seymour line V/Line stops overlength trains at short platforms at Donnybrook and Heathcote Junction every day in morning peak – a story for another day!

Carriage set VSH26 departs Donnybrook

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12 Responses to “Looking back at when V/Line ran longer trains to Geelong”

  1. Leigh says:

    When the Regional Rail Link first opened and they got rid of 7 carriage trains, I thought that overcrowding wouldn’t be a problem as there are now twice as many trains and all the other trains would now be 6 carriages long, so this would make up for the loss of the 7 carriage trains. Unfortunently, even though they doubled the number of trains, double the number of passengers now get on at Wyndham Vale and Tarneit, so longer trains are still needed!

  2. Jordan says:

    why isn’t the government acting now to configure 9 car trains at least on V/line’s busiest peak hour trains?

    • Michael Wyres says:

      Because they need more carriages to do it, or run less services.

      Consider:

      – to create a nine-car, you need 3 x 3VL
      – to create a nine-car, you therefore need to take 1 x 3VL *away* from another service 6-car service
      – that other service either:
      —– becomes a 3-car service
      —– disappears because the remaining 3VL gets joined to a different 6-car to become another 9-car

      As more and more 3VL’s come into service – (VL67 hit the tracks in the last few weeks) – they’ll be able to do it. But without extras, you can’t do many 9-cars without affecting existing services.

  3. Steve says:

    At Rockbank on the Ballarat line, the 6 carriage trains don’t fit on the platform. It’s quite amusing when the conductor comes over the PA telling passengers to “make sure there is a platform to step onto when leaving the train”.

  4. James Stewart says:

    Always wondered about the longer platforms at 5/6 at North Melbourne, thanks for the history lesson. By the time there are VL9 trains on the Geelong line, wouldn’t the line be electrified at that point of time. The question is will the government continue to build Velocity trains, or do they have a newer version Velocity train planned out?

  5. Cam Reed says:

    Several of the stations on the Bendigo line were lengthened over the summer of 2013-2014 so that they could all accommodate 6 car trains. Macedon, Gisborne, Riddels Creek and Kangaroo Flat were all lengthened. Strangely, Clarkefield was not extended along with the rest.

    I remember at least one occasion where due to passengers in wheelchairs being in both VLocity units, the Conductor asked the Driver to stop twice at Gisborne to make sure they were on the platform to alight.

  6. […] trains run by V/Line are six car VLocity train, at around 150 metres. Until 2015 V/Line used to run 7 car trains on the Geelong line: something impossible to do today given that VLocity trains only come in 3 car […]

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