Metro Trains Melbourne managing overcrowded platforms

As Melbourne grows so has congestion, as public transport infrastructure struggles to keep up. But it isn’t just trains becoming overcrowded – the platforms they stop at are also bursting at the seams – but with much more serious consequences if someone falls onto the tracks. As a result, Metro Trains Melbourne has tried various tactics to keep passengers moving.

Up train departs an incredibly congested platform 10 at Southern Cross

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station platform 4 and 5 get incredibly crowded in peak times, with every passenger bound for Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines trying to squeeze onto it, along with a handful of passengers wanting to make their way out to Blackburn on a stopping-all-stations trains.

As a result, in 2012 the entire eastern end of the platform was cleared out – vending machines, seats and timetables.

Eastern end of platform 4/5 at Flinders Street cleared out to make more room for crowds

But that wasn’t enough – Authorised Officers are sometimes deployed on crowd control duty, telling clueless passengers to keep on walking down the platform.

Authorised Officers on crowd control duty at an overcrowded Flinders Street Station platform 4 and 5

North Melbourne Station

North Melbourne platform 1 is another pinch point in morning peak, as passengers wanting to access the City Loop try to squeeze onboard already crush loaded Craigieburn line services.

Platform 1 at North Melbourne packed with passengers for the next City Loop bound service

Authorised officers are deployed to get passengers to wait away from the escalators.

Authorised officers on crowd control duties at North Melbourne platform 1

But sometimes crowds of passengers still get left behind.

Train heads into the City Loop at North Melbourne platform 1, leaving a crowd of passengers behind

Congestion also occurs at North Melbourne platform 5, so ‘For safety reasons please keep hatched area clear at all times’ signs have been added beneath the escalator.

'For safety reasons please keep hatched area clear at all times' sign beneath the escalator at North Melbourne station

But congestion also occurs in the reverse direction – exiting passengers in morning peak swap the single escalator towards the overhead concourse.

Passengers bank up around the escalators at North Melbourne platform 5

So authorised offices have been posted on the platform with portable fences, directing waiting passengers away from the busiest doors.

Authorised offices on crowd control duties at North Melbourne platform 5

At least the number of escalator failures seems to have dropped since their 2015 peak!

Footscray Station

A different problem occurs at Footscray platform 1, where passengers run at the closing doors.

Passengers run for a City Loop service at Footscray platform 1

The reason – V/Line passengers changing for the City Loop have to exit the station then enter again to find their citybound train.

Passengers run for a waiting City Loop train at Footscray platform 1

Metro’s solution – post authorised officers to the platform to tell people not to force the train doors.

Authorised officers at Footscray platform 1

Southern Cross Station

Southern Cross Station is the prime example of platform congestion.

Platform 13 and 14 is ‘bad’ – when in morning peak an entire train load of Werribee line passengers will swamp the pair of ‘up’ escalators at the Collins Street end in no time.

'Normal' crowd waiting to exit Southern Cross platform 13 and 14

But the morning queues on platform 9 and 10 are worse – waiting passengers block the train driver’s view down the curved platform, meaning trains are delayed in departing.

Congestion at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

The queues for the escalator often outlast the train that deposited the passengers.

Slow moving queue of passengers for the escalators at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

So Metro often posts Authorised Officers on crowd control duty to keep the edge of the platform clear.

Authorised Officers on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10

Platform 10 also has a different problem in evening peak – passengers crowding the first door of trains, thanks to the staggered platform layout at the Bourke Street end.

X'Trapolis 191M arrives at Southern Cross with a down service

In February 2018 Metro tried roping off the Bourke Street end to distribute passengers along the platform, as well as prevent last minute arrivals from running for the train, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere.

North end of Southern Cross platform 10 roped off to prevent overcrowding

But the armageddon of platform congestion happened in April, when two of the three escalator failed at the same time.

Two defective escalators at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10 have crippled the rail network

Metro had to post a platoon of customer service staff to direct passengers up the sole remaining escalator.

Two out of three escalators broken down at the Collins Street end of Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

Extra staff at the Bourke Street end, to encourage passengers to use the other exit.

Metro staff on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10

Along with a staff to provide extra ‘incentive’.

Metro staff on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10

As well as a supervisor on the Collins Street configure to keep an eye on the entire operation.

Metro staff on crowd control at Southern Cross platform 10


Over at Melbourne on Transit is a post on the escalator saga – Southern Cross Station: How it works (or doesn’t)

And a sidenote from Hong Kong

Metro Trains’ parent company in Hong Kong deploys plenty of platform staff to keep passengers clear of the doors.

Train doors closing, and MTR staff hold up 'STOP' signs to passengers at Diamond Hill

Holding up ‘STOP’ signs to passengers while the doors close.

Train doors closing, and MTR staff hold up 'STOP' signs to passengers at Ngau Tau Kok

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13 Responses to “Metro Trains Melbourne managing overcrowded platforms”

  1. Kevin says:

    Could the Southern Cross escalator saga happen at suburban stations with only elevators and stairs?

  2. Catherine McDonald says:

    Would increasing the frequency of trains have any impact on overcrowding?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      If the number of passengers stays constant, running more frequent trains would mean fewer passengers per train, and less ‘bursty’ traffic hitting the platform – but why would more trains be running if they’re empty?

      It’s more likely that if each train is packed to the rafters, then more trains means more passengers.

    • Jimbob says:

      I think you’ve made a strong case in the past, Marcus, for reopening the underpass. It’d surely be the cheapest option. Oh, but that wouldn’t force people through the retail areas, would it?

  3. Andrew says:

    As a politician said, we welcome a big Australia, yet we don’t seem to able to deal with it. Even in the middle of the day, stations are overwhelmed with numbers of people arriving by train, as I experienced today at Flinders Street Station. I can’t imagine what it is like in peak time, but at least they will be experienced train users and know what to do.

  4. mich says:

    Congestion at Flinders St and Southern Cross is clear enhanced by Melbourne’s moronic system of not announcing or displaying where trains are going to go, when they arrive there, forcing people to get off just to find out where the train is going next.

  5. Liam says:

    I recall a few years ago, waiting for a train at southern cross which left while passengers were still alighting from the train. It’s high time we had timetables and dwell times which were passenger centered instead of attempting to stick doggedly to performance targets.

  6. David Payne says:

    The default response to congestion often seems to be cause more congestion but also ramp up the sheep herding.

    I’d prefer more ramping up from platforms!

    I wonder what it would take to change the attitude to egress from the North end of the North-soon-to-be-called-West Melbourne station. (Not to be confused with the future North Melbourne station – I expect it will be confused but perhaps then signs and perhaps staff will be deployed ordering people to call the existing station ‘West Melbourne ;~| )

    When hundreds disembark there to catch replacement services they not only have to walk to the South end and then past the North end again, they are queing up to use the few toilets down south and not even told about the facilities at the apparently embarassingly more competently designed North end.

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