Hunting the remains of the Spencer Street Station subway

The pedestrian subway that once ran beneath Spencer Street Station only closed in 2005, yet in that time it has become shrouded in layers of mystery. So let’s sort fact from fiction, and see what’s left of it beneath today’s Southern Cross Station.

Travellers Aid buggy heads into the subway from platform 9 and 10

Finding the entrances

The first remnant of the Spencer Street Station subway is on Little Collins Street, outside the Savoy Hotel. Now boarded up, it once contained a stairwell down into the subway.

Former Spencer Street Station subway entrance on Little Collins Street, now all boarded up

A roller door on the Spencer Street side of the Savoy Hotel was another entry point, secured by a roller door.

Former Spencer Street Station subway entrance via the Savoy Hotel on Spencer Street

It remained in this state until May 2019, when the stairwell inside was covered over.

Former entrance to the Spencer Street subway from the Savoy Hotel, now boarded up

And the space converted into a shop.

Former entrance to the Spencer Street subway from the Savoy Hotel, now turned into a shop

Meanwhile on the other side of the street, the basement of the old Spencer Street Station building still exists, converted into staff offices.

Staff offices in the basement at Southern Cross Station

But the connection under Spencer Street was bricked up.

Looking across Spencer Street from the Southern Cross Station basement

And a second life

The subway might no longer continued under Spencer Street, but beneath the station it has been retained as a ‘back of house’ area.

The path it takes beneath the platforms still visible.

Former passenger subway beneath the Southern Cross suburban platforms

But the ramps from platform level have been fitted with doors to keep prying eyes out.

Ramp down to the former pedestrian subway at Southern Cross Station

Storage cages filling the subterranean space, along with water, power, data, gas and fire systems.

Storage cages in the former pedestrian subway beneath Southern Cross Station

And the western end turned over to a reclaimed water treatment facility.

Entry to the Southern Cross Station reclaimed water treatment facility

And new users

Passengers might be gone from the old subway, but rail staff still use it everyday.

Luggage hall staff use the subway to deliver parcels and baggage to trains.

Wilson Security staff drives an electric buggy loaded with parcels and baggage into the subway from platform 14

As do V/Line catering staff delivering food to buffet carriages.

Electric truck delivering catering supplies to the buffet in the BRN carriage

V/Line fitters on their way to fix trains.

Electric buggy heads down into the subway from platform 15

And Travellers Aid volunteers in their electric buggies.

Travellers Aid buggy heads into the subway from platform 13 and 14

Helping passengers unable to walk long distances around the station.

Travellers Aid buggy heads down into the subway

But the most famous users passed through on 27 August 2009.

How many political minders does it take to run a photo op?

Victorian Premier John Brumby, Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky and Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.

Pollies emerge from the subway

Who used the subway to reach the future site of platform 15 and 16, where they turned the first sod for the Regional Rail Link project.

Pile driver on the way down, very slowly

What about reopening it?

With Southern Cross Station at capacity in peak times and pedestrians spilling out onto Spencer Street, many people have called for the pedestrian subway to be reopened, including the City of Melbourne.

Pedestrian subway may re-open
CBD News
April 1, 2016

The City of Melbourne has pledged $750,000 to investigate the re-opening of a subway between Little Collins St and Southern Cross Station.

According to a council spokesperson, the tunnel formed part of the passenger subway through the former Spencer Street Station, before it was redeveloped as Southern Cross Station.

“Council has agreed to allocate funding in the current capital works budgets to investigate the feasibility of re-establishing a connection to an existing tunnel which runs under Spencer St and which could connect the station frontage to Little Collins St,” the spokesperson said.

According to the council spokesperson, the disused subway now supports a number of service and utility ducts for the station.

But these proposals came to nothing.

A council spokesperson said an investigation found that “significant” underground services had been installed in the tunnel along the west side of Spencer Street.

“These large pipes prevent access through the tunnel,” the spokesperson said.

With the only upgrades completed since being an extension of footpaths along Spencer Street.

Bonus content – a second subway to the north

At the northern end of country platforms 1 through 8 is another set of ramps, secured with automatic gates.

Gates at the entrance to the northern baggage subway at Southern Cross platform 3 and 4

And ‘DANGER KEEP OUT’ signs at bottom.

Ramp to the northern baggage subway at Southern Cross platform 3 and 4

This subway was once used for the transport of baggage to country trains, and is large enough for light trucks to pass through, such as the V/Line toilet pumping truck.

Toilet truck emerges from the northern baggage subway

And also has road access to the wider world via the coach terminal.

'Push button to activate green light' protects access along the single lane road to the northern vehicle subway

Footnote – more photos

Over on Reddit someone posted some photos showing the current state of the station subway.

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11 Responses to “Hunting the remains of the Spencer Street Station subway”

  1. andrew says:

    One of the eastern exits was an escalator – I think it was the one that was in the Savoy hotel. I’m also quite sure there was a southerly exit into or near the MMBW building.

    The ‘country’ part of the subway had a number of retail outlets on the southern side – these can be seen on the modern plan – and a refreshment outlet on the northern side. The only retail outlet that I can remember in detail was a very tiny Commonwealth Bank branch. This was surprisingly busy in the days before EFTPOS, but closed in the early ’90s when the Commonwealth rationalised its city branches.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Spot on – the Savoy Hotel exit had stairs and a decommissioned escalator.

      Savoy Hotel exit to Bourke Street from the subway under Spencer Street

      As did the southern exit that emerged in the ground level of MMBW House.

      Exit from the subway, leading onto Spencer Street from under MMBW House

      I’ve got some more detail around the shops in the station subway itself, but that’s for a blog post coming up next week. 🙂

  2. Matthew says:

    The northern subway also had access across Spencer St into the basement of the Mail Exchange (which was the GPO at the time this tunnel was built). I believe at the western end of the northern subway there was a pistol range.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Thanks for that extra info on the subway – I omitted mentioning the Mail Exchange connection and pistol range because I didn’t have anything definitive on them.

  3. […] week I went sniffing around Southern Cross Station, on the hunt for the remains of the pedestrian subway that until 2005 was the main access route through the station This week we go digging deeper into […]

  4. Rohan says:

    Yes they should reopen the underground subway at Southern Cross Station to Wurundjeri Way and Little Collins Street and to Bourke Street and they should do redevelopment and upgrade the subway at Southern Cross Station

  5. […] July 2021 piece on the remains of the Spencer Street Station subway also got a run, alongside my follow up piece Building the Spencer Street Station subway – a […]

  6. ben says:

    I have an old door which I was told when I brought it, that it was the old counting room door where they use to pay the workers. looks like an timber door on the outside but on the inside is covered in steel with a multi point rivers lock. looking for some info or pics to verify.

  7. Brian says:

    There was also a pistol range under the old Spencer Street platforms, where some station staff were trained in pistol use back in the 70’s and even later, and railway investigation officers did annual re assessments there also. Victoria Police also used it at times, if they could not gain a spot at their own range.

    There were also 2 jail type cells for ticket examiners and investigation officers to use for railway offenders, but they ended up as storerooms due to their location being too far from the offices of RIO’s, and also had no air conditioning.

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