V/Line versus Metro at Southern Cross platform 8

You might assume that a railway station platform is just a place for passengers to board a train, and the type of train doesn’t matter. But at Southern Cross Station platform 8 this is not the case – there is a convoluted process applied every time that usual use V/Line hands it over to Metro Trains Melbourne.

X'Trapolis 19M on a down Mernda service passes VLocity VL46 at Southern Cross

Hello, Southern Cross platform 8

Platform 8 is usually used by V/Line, and the last of the dead end platforms at Southern Cross before the electrified “through” platforms 9 to 14 used by Metro Trains Melbourne.

Refurbished VLocity VL37 arrives at Southern Cross platform 8

But platform 8 has a trick up it’s sleeve – overhead wiring for the use of electric trains.

Life extension EDI Comeng 472M arrives into Southern Cross platform 8 with an Oktoberfest special from the Showgrounds

The overhead wiring dates back to the 1920s, when the entire Spencer Street Station complex was electrified for the use of the new fangled electric trains, including the country platforms.

Weston Langford photo

It remained in place until the 1960s renovation of the station which saw the bulk of it removed, except for platform 8 – spared thanks to the L class electric locomotives used to haul country trains to Gippsland.

Weston Langford photo

But following their retirement in 1987, there was little need for the overhead wires at platform 8 and they fell into disuse – until they were rebuilt as part of the Southern Cross Station project. New overhead wires were installed in 2006, and then – nothing.

Rebuilding work on platform 7/8, works trains in attendance

Metro Trains on platform 8

November 2014 saw the first electric train use Southern Cross platform 8 – a Comeng train minus passengers, sent there to test that it was compatible with the infrastructure.

A new ‘Metro Trains stop here’ sign had been installed at the south end of the platform 8, along with a fixed trainstop to automatically apply the emergency brakes if an electric train passed the mark.

'Metro Trains stop here' sign at the south end of Southern Cross platform 8

So why the change of heart? Metro Trains wanted to run special trains to Flemington Racecourse and Melbourne Showgrounds as shuttles from Southern Cross platform 8, avoiding the need to continue over the viaduct to Flinders Street Station and take up a platform there.

The test was successful, with the first revenue usage being race specials to Flemington Racecourse on 13 December 2014.

In the years since, X’Trapolis trains headed for the Showgrounds have also used platform 8.

X'Trapolis train waiting at Southern Cross platform 8 with a 'Showgrounds' service

As have Siemens trains.

Siemens 743M arrives into Southern Cross platform 8 with an up Flemington Racecourse special

And the complicated bit

No, Metro Trains can’t just send an electric train into Southern Cross platform 8 any time they feel like it – there is a special operating procedure that must be followed each time the platform is handed over from V/Line to Metro.

Spencer Street – Routing Restriction Suburban Electric Trains
No. 8, No. 8A & No. 8 South Tracks

Commencing Monday 8th December 2014, suburban electric passenger trains are permitted to be routed into No. 8 track at Spencer Street via No. 8 North or No.8A tracks from Signal Post No. 520 only.

Suburban electric trains (passenger or empty) are not permitted to be routed into No. 8 South track (from either direction) or towards No. 8 or 8a tracks from Signal No.123 (City Circle Viaduct), Signal No.303 (Burnley Viaduct) or Signal No.567 (Northern Viaduct).

The routing of suburban electric passenger trains towards No. 8 track from Signal No. 520 will only occur when advertised by special circular with the following prerequisites in place;

– Points No. 435 & 448 must be secured in the normal position by lockable point clip.
– The special platform coping infill must be fixed in place.

The Signaller Metrol, Northern Panel must record in the signal control panel log book the details regarding the installation or removal of the point securing devices (points 435 & 448) and the platform coping infill.

The installation or removal of the platform coping infill and the application / removal of point securing devices will be undertaken under cover of an Absolute Occupation.

The “special infill panel” is attached to the edge of the platform.

Platform gap temporarily filled at the south end of Southern Cross platform 8

You need to look very closely to see that is there.

Platform gap temporarily filled at the south end of Southern Cross platform 8

But it fills a missing chunk of platform edge.

N460 runs around a carriage set at Southern Cross platform 8

So why not fill the gap permanently? Trains diverging through a crossover sway outwards at the end of each carriage, putting them closer to the platform edge.

Comeng train heads through the crossover at Southern Cross platform 8

So when the necessary platform gap is filled, trains cannot be allowed to use the crossover.

VLocity VL46 departs Southern Cross platform 8 south

Which explains the “lockable point clip” part of the procedure – it prevents the crossover from being changed to direct trains towards the filled in platform gap.

Crossover between No. 8 road and 8A road clipped while suburban trains use Southern Cross platform 8


And that’s not all

Metro Trains marks the end of the line with a red buffer light.

Friction buffer at the end of Flinders Street platform 13

While V/Line does not.

No buffer lights fitted at the end of Southern Cross Station platforms 1 through 7

So what to do with Southern Cross platform 8, where both operators run trains?

Install a buffer light to meet the standards of Metro Trains.

Buffer light in use at the end of Southern Cross platform 8

But cover it up when the platform is handed back to V/Line.

Buffer light fitted at the end of Southern Cross Station platform 8

Using a sliding metal cover.

Covered up buffer light at the end of platform 8

Why can’t they both just get along!

A technical footnote

I’ve been informed that Southern Cross Station platform 8 is actually part of the Metro Trains Melbourne infrastructure lease – the track and signalling is maintained by them, despite V/Line trains using the platform the majority of the time.

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10 Responses to “V/Line versus Metro at Southern Cross platform 8”

  1. indigohex3 says:

    I was at Southern Cross station last weekend when I saw a XTrapolis train at Platform 8 heading to Flemington Racecourse (I went to a careers expo at Jeff’s Shed). The only reason why it didn’t go all the way to Flinders Street was because it was a minor meet and not big like the Melbourne Cup. I had no idea that Metro Trains has Platform 8 as part of its lease. I thought it was just 9-14. Thank you for this knowledge.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Minor race meets only get a handful of trains – years ago I caught a Flemington Racecourse train on a whim, and had to walk back out to the tram because the next train out wasn’t until after the races were over!

  2. D says:

    This is pretty funny. God forbid that light is visible! Bureaucracy can be quite petty.

  3. John Cooper says:

    Metro is better than vline

  4. Tom the first and best says:

    The cancellation of the other line electrifications (Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo) planned to be part of Operation Phoenix would have been a major contributor to the de-electrification of platforms 1-7.

    V-Line trains should have buffer lights and even in their absence from the rest of the V-Line network, the case for covering one up seems weak (in the absence of the technical argument at least).

  5. jacob says:

    How come the sidings at Brighton Beach have buffer lights but the sidings at Sandringham do not?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I believe Metro’s buffer light requirement was only introduced in recent years – Brighton Beach was upgraded so received them, but Sandringham hasn’t been touched so has been left as is.

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