William Street upgrades and forgotten route 605 bus

During December 2019 a massive upgrade was completed on William Street in the Melbourne CBD, with platform stops built for tram passengers and separated bike lanes for cyclists. But there was one mode of transport that has completely been forgotten as part of the work – the route 605 bus.

B2.2028 heads south along relaid track on route 58 at William and Little Collins Street

Some history

Blink and you’d miss it is the story of most buses in Melbourne, and route 605 from Gardenvale is no different.

Alstom Comeng train on the 'new' viaduct

For many years route 605 travelled in a loop around the Melbourne CBD via Flinders Street, Queen Street, Lonsdale Street and Exhibition Street.

Eastrans 7509AO on a route 605 service along Flinders Street

But was rerouted in 2017 to travel via Queen Street and Flagstaff station, as part of a package of changes made due to Metro Tunnel works at Domain Interchange.

The State Government boasted about the changes when they were announced.

The Andrews Labor Government has announced changes to the route of bus 605 to ensure passengers can continue to get where they need to go when work ramps up on the Metro Tunnel.

Parliamentary Secretary for Public Transport Ros Spence announced the new route for bus 605 today, which will travel around the works for the new underground station at Domain.

Route 605 currently travels between Punt Road and Swan Street into the city. Starting 25 June this year, the route will travel along Anderson Streets and Birdwood Avenue into the western end of town, along Queen Street as far as La Trobe Street.

The new route will allow passengers to connect to trams along St Kilda Road, as well as trains at Flagstaff Station.

It will now pass Melbourne Grammar School and Melbourne Girls Grammar School, providing students with direct connections into the city.

The new route reached Flagstaff station via La Trobe Street.

CDC Melbourne bus #150 BS04FI on route 605 at Flagstaff station

Stopping outside the Supreme Court at William and Little Lonsdale Street.

CDC Melbourne bus #158 BS05GX on route 605 at Flagstaff station

And then back to Queen Street via Lonsdale Street.

CDC Melbourne bus #149 BS03DO on route 605 at William and Lonsdale Street

As for bicycle lanes on William Street, cyclists once needed to fight their way around cars, until the 2014 installation of chevron separated lanes in the space between parked cars and moving traffic.

B2.2028 southbound on route 55 at Little Lonsdale and William Street

Enter the William Street works

Tram passengers and cyclists were quoted as the main beneficiaries of the work on William Street.

We’re upgrading city tram stops on Route 58, to make travelling by tram easier for everyone – including passengers who are vision impaired or using wheelchairs, prams, and other mobility aids.

Stops 5 and 7 on William Street in Melbourne’s CBD will be upgraded in late 2019 to improve safety, accessibility, and journey times.

William Street is being upgraded around these new tram stops to keep pedestrians, trams, and bikes moving, helping everyone get around.

In partnership with the City of Melbourne, we will deliver new separated bicycle lanes along William Street between Little Collins and La Trobe streets.

Doing these works together means we can limit impacts on the community through fewer road closures and deliver the benefits of these upgrades sooner.

But buses were a mere footnote.

Bus stops will be moved to enable dedicated bicycle lanes to be built along William Street.

Works commenced in November 2019 with a full road closure.

Tracks all removed from outside Flagstaff station

With route 605 bus operator CDC Melbourne publishing a diversion notice, and PTV publishing a terse version at the Flagstaff station bus stop.

Saturday 23rd November – Monday 9th December 2019

Due to roadworks on William Street, there will be a diversion in place that will affect Route No 605 on the affected dates above.

The following diversion will be used for the 605 route travelling towards Flagstaff Station.

The bus will travel along Queen Street, Melbourne and conduct a u-turn at the roundabout near Queen Victoria Market to go back onto Queen Street and resume it’s normal route.

Come December the works were completed, with new bike lanes in place, and platform stops making life easier for tram passengers.

New Flagstaff station platform stop at William and La Trobe Street

But route 605 buses were still missing in action.

The PTV website pretends everything is fine – only Southbank Boulevard and New Years Eve diversions are listed.

But every day operator CDC Melbourne publishes a new diversion notice via Twitter.


After day.

So how long until PTV realises something is wrong, and does something about it?

So why can’t buses use William Street?

The former route 605 bus terminus at William and Lonsdale Street is now occupied by a separated bike lane – so buses can’t stop there.

Separate bike lane southbound on William Street at Little Lonsdale Street

With the rest of the road turned over to the police to park their cars.

Route 605 bus stop at William and Lonsdale Street replaced by a bike lane and police parking

There is a bus stop around the corner at Lonsdale and William Street – but route 605 buses can’t stop there for extended periods between runs, because multiple Lonsdale Street routes also pass through this stop.

Bus passengers waiting at Lonsdale and William Street

The Queen Victoria Market bus terminus on Franklin Street is another option – but it’s a block further north, extending the kilometres travelled, and the payments that PTV needs to make to the bus operator.

Transdev bus #975 rego 8257AO on a route 239 service at Queen Victoria Market

How about cyclists and bus passengers sharing the road?

Turns out Melbourne has a precedent for bus stops on a bike lane, and on the very same route – down on Southbank Boulevard, completed in July 2019.

'Platform stop' across the bike lane for eastbound buses on Southbank Boulevard

Where cyclists on the bike lane have to give way to bus passengers.

'Platform stop' across the bike lane for eastbound buses on Southbank Boulevard

Just the same as Swanston Street and tram passengers.

Cyclists stop for route 67 passengers boarding B2.2011 at Swanston and Collins Street

So why wasn’t the same design used on William Street? Turns out one can’t use Southbank Boulevard as a precedent – route 605 buses have been diverting from the area since the stop was created, awaiting the completion of works in 2020.

So perhaps bus operators ran away screaming that the thought, and rejected the same solution on William Street – putting route 605 back to square one.

Update: the obvious answer!

As soon as I published this post, multiple people asked – “why don’t the buses use the tram tracks“. Good question – route 605 buses do exactly that along the route 58 tracks on Queensbridge Street in Southbank!

Smartbus liveried Transdev bus #566 6334AO on route 219 on Queensbridge Street

The only possible explanation I can see is that the turn for buses from La Trobe Street into William Street is too sharp, and there isn’t an easy way for buses to exit the tracks again at Lonsdale Street – but they don’t seem like an impossible issues to resolve.

March 2020 update

Looks like PTV have given up on buses along William Street – route 605 has been renamed “Gardenvale to City (Queen Street)” to reflect that the interim A’Beckett Street and Queen Street terminus is a permanent change.

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9 Responses to “William Street upgrades and forgotten route 605 bus”

  1. Michael Angelico says:

    Buses using tram stops is, of course, not an option. Because someone might realise that they’re basically the same vehicle on a different underframe, and that would change the face of transport planning.

    • Julian Calaby says:

      That already happens in Southbank on Queens Bridge Street: buses travel in the tram reservation on Queens Bridge between Flinders Street and City Road, using the stops at the south end of the bridge and Power Street.

      (I’d also point out that buses and trams are different points on the capacity vs maneuverability spectrum: trams can carry larger loads of passengers, buses are restricted to a specific route.)

  2. Beren Scott says:

    I’ve got a question, why does this bus need to run all the way into the city? I mean, it passes god knows how many train stations and tram routes. Isn’t the point of having trams moving people into the city, to avoid having these loud smelly buses in the city? Buses have legitimately no good reason to operate all the way into the city, just terminate this bus near the new Domain train station nearby and all good.

  3. gxh says:

    The suggestion that route 605 be re-directed to Victoria Gardens overlooks the fact that this route currently serves a regular band of commuters boarding in Bruce Street/Alexandra Av with access to the city.

  4. mich says:

    am I the only person who would write “buses will not service flagstaff station in EITHER direction “?

  5. […] a whirlwind of work to upgrade William Street through the Melbourne CBD. But it isn’t just buses that they forgot when building the new tram stops and bike lanes – they’ve screwed up the pedestrian […]

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