Dunny drama at Diggers Rest station

This is a tale of big dollars being spent on an upgrade Diggers Rest railway station, and the public toilet that has never been used.

EDI Comeng 427M departs Diggers Rest on a down Sunbury service

The ‘upgrade’

Once upon a time Diggers Rest station was just a wayside stop on the outskirts of Melbourne.

N463 speeds express through Diggers Rest

Locals were served by V/Line trains headed for Bendigo.

3VL28 at Diggers Rest, on a train bound for Bendigo

Until 2011 when the Victorian Transport Plan announced the Sunbury electrification project, which would extend suburban train services from Watergardens to Sunbury.

'Victorian Transport Plan' sign at Diggers Rest spruiking the Sunbury electrification project

The Department of Transport promised the world.

Upgrading both Diggers Rest and Sunbury stations.


Department of Transport flyer, August 2011

With a fact sheet from the time promising.

• Additional 500 commuter parking spaces
• Refurbished waiting rooms
• CCTV security cameras
• Improved lighting
• Passenger Information Display
• Updated toilet facilities
• Installation of platform shelters, extra seats and clocks

Work started on the massive platform verandas soon after.

Work on the massive platform verandas at the down end of Diggers Rest

As well as upgrades to the station building on platform 1, including a new toilet block.

Station building and toilet block at Diggers Rest platform 1

But nothing

But the upgraded facilities were never opened – ‘staff shortage’ the excuse given in November 2012.

Sign at the waiting room entrance - 'Diggers Rest station closed due to staff shortage'

The station office was still gathering dust in 2015.

Disused booking office and waiting room at Diggers Rest platform 1

The story still the same in 2020.

Station office and waiting room at Diggers Rest still locked up

The only change – a sign reading ‘These toilets are no longer in use’ on the toilet door.

'These toilets are no longer in use. Please use the toilets in Stan Payne Reserve during daylight hours' sign at Diggers Rest station

A ‘Public toilets (daylight hours)’ sign on the station building.

'Public toilets (daylight hours)' sign at Diggers Rest station

And a sign pointing out towards the nearby park.

'Public toilets (Toilets open during daylight hours)' sign at Diggers Rest station

Where a small public toilet block can be found.


Google Street View

So what gives?

Locked toilets is a common situation at Melbourne railway stations.

Trashed toilet bowl in the locked up public toilets at Kensington station

But Diggers Rest residents aren’t happy about the same thing happening at their local station.

Despite all promises by the former Brumby Labor Government to provide additional services to Diggers Rest as part of the $270 million upgrade to the Sunbury line, the toilets and waiting rooms will stay locked.

In response to a recent letter from Melton City Council, the Minister for Transport, Jacinta Allen MP, said “I appreciate your continued concerns that the facilities at Diggers Rest Station remain closed. As you are aware, PTV (Public Transport Victoria) advised that the decision to staff a station is based on passenger numbers. PTV confirmed that there are no plans to open the waiting room and toilets at Diggers Rest station or to staff the station, until passenger numbers increase”.

The Minister seems reluctant to provide any further indication to Council with respect to when the waiting room and public toilet facilities will be made available to commuters.

The situation got a mention in the Melton & Moorabool Star Weekly back in 2018.

The existing toilets and passenger waiting area were upgraded as part of the Sunbury electrification project in 2012 and the toilets have remained locked ever since.

Diggers Rest resident David O’Connor has long campaigned for the toilets to be reopened for public use, with no success.

In a letter to Mr O’Connor in 2015, Metro Trains said that its policy was to only provide public amenities when stations are staffed. Diggers Rest Station is unstaffed.

“Public amenities are unavailable at unstaffed stations such as Diggers Rest due to vandalism, anti-social behavior and criminal activity,” the letter stated.

But it took until 2019 for the Victorian Government to give locals an answer – effectively a ‘sod off’.

Dear Mr Tori

DIGGERS REST STATION TOILET FACILITIES

Thank you for your letter of 2 April 2019 on behalf of Melton City Council regarding toilet access at Diggers Rest station.

I acknowledge Council’s concerns about amenities at Diggers Rest station.

As you are aware, this station was upgraded as part of the Sunbury Electrification Project. The decision was made not to staff the station at this time, which means the toilet facilities are not currently available for public use.

The decision to staff stations is based on several factors, primarily driven by expected patronage, whether the station is an interchange point, and whether the station provides services for special events.

Based on current passenger levels at Diggers Rest station, there are no plans to provide staffing at the station. This position will be reviewed should passenger numbers significantly increase.

The Victorian Government is expanding and upgrading toilet facilities across Melbourne’s train network, with new facilities already installed at several stations. Toilets are provided at all premium staffed stations, at host stations when staff are on duty, and at some unstaffed stations by self-cleaning, automated toilet blocks. Traditional toilet facilities are unavailable at unstaffed stations because of the misuse of facilities, security problems, cleanliness and public liability concerns.

The nearest station toilet facilities on the Sunbury line are at Sunbury and Watergardens, during staffed hours. For information about other station toilets, passengers are encouraged to visit the PTV website at ptv.vic.gov.au or call PTV on 1800 800 007 between 6 am and midnight.

I understand public toilets are also available at Stan Payne Reserve, approximately 170 metres from the station.

I trust this information is of use to Council. Thank you again for sharing these concerns with me.

Yours sincerely
Jeroen Weimar
Chief Executive Officer
Public Transport Victoria

I suspect the ‘These toilets are no longer in use’ signage was added by PTV following the above letter, formalising the closure.

'These toilets are no longer in use. Please use the toilets in Stan Payne Reserve during daylight hours' sign at Diggers Rest station

Footnote: automated toilets

Hawkstowe station opened on the Mernda line in 2018 – unstaffed, but with automated Exeloo public toilets provided at concourse level.

Exeloo automated public toilet at Hawkstowe station

The same applies at Altona – an existing station provided with automated toilets in 2018.

Exeloo automated public toilet on the platform

The Victorian Government found it fit to spend millions on jail cells at each Melbourne railway stations – so why not public toilets?

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8 Responses to “Dunny drama at Diggers Rest station”

  1. Michael Angelico says:

    Earlier this year Stan Payne Reserve was getting done up and the public toilets were closed. The sign was covered over with duct tape. I don’t know if there were any objections from a public transport point of view but probably not since we were in the 5km lockdown and the nearest stations are over 5km away.

    Incidentally next time you’re in Diggers Rest drop in for a cuppa.

  2. albert3801 says:

    Where do people go to the toilet when it’s not daylight hours? Around the station or on the platform. Not an ideal situation.

  3. Tom the first and best says:

    Southland and Seaford also have Exeloo automated loos. A rollout of automated loos at unstaffed stations should have commenced in the 1990s.

    The upgrade of the staffing based facilities at Diggers Rest station was ill conceived and caused waste. Meanwhile the proposed Calder Park/Hillside station (Mel Ref 3 B9) was not included in the Sunbury extension, reducing patronage and convenience.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The rollout of automated toilets didn’t end up happening until ~2018 and only at a handful of stations. The 1990s replacement of station staff by Metcard equipment only provided the beige steel ‘bus shelter’ style structures at station entrances.

      Metal shelter on platform 2 at Officer station

  4. andrew says:

    Back when McKinnon was being grade separated, the LXRA demolished a public (council) toilet block located on public land immediately adjacent to the excavation. For a while it was replaced by a fairly large portable toilet block, but eventually even this was removed as construction work gathered pace.

    The LXRA announced that it would be replaced by a new set of public toilets located in the new station building – not in the paid area. And this indeed happened. The new toilets were tucked away down a side alley, but they did exist.

    Unfortunately, shortly after the grade separation opened, Metro locked the toilets. The reason was the policy that toilets were not provided at unstaffed stations.

    Eventually, and I’m not sure when, they were quietly reopened. They now have big plaques next to the door indicating that they are council toilets. I would suspect that this is to prevent errant busybodies from Metro locking them again.

    They are still, however, totally unsignposted – you have to be a knowledgable local to know they exist.

    (This blog post reminds me of the person who had some success in convincing small rural towns in Western Victoria to relocate their public toilets from an obscure corner of the sports ground to the middle of the shopping centre in the main street. The idea was that regular toilet stops were essential for many travellers. So a clean, centrally located, toilet meant that they stopped in your town right next to your shops where they would buy food and drink.)

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Road trips across Australia is quite easy when every small town seems to have a public toilet – compare this to the United States, where “gas station toilets” are the butt of jokes.

  5. Somebody says:

    Diggers Rest was staffed part time during the morning peak when it was a Vline station, in line with other minor stops on the line e.g. Clarkefield.

    This staffing ended at the time when it switched from being operated by Vline to Metro, or perhaps slightly earlier based on your photograph of Vline’s sign referring to it being unattended due to staff shortages.

    It sounds like the electrification project did not take into the account that the threshold for staffing a regional vs metropolitan station appears to be different.

  6. […] Along with the upgrade of Diggers Rest station. […]

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