Tram replacement bus drama on St Kilda Road

On the weekend I paid a visit to St Kilda Road to check out the works to relocate the tram tracks at Domain Interchange to serve the future Anzac Station, and I noticed one major issue – both Yarra Trams and Rail Projects Victoria have forgotten that people actually like to visit Melbourne, and might choose to catch a tram to the CBD on a weekend.

Waiting for a bus

After I arrived at the Commercial Road end of the tram replacement bus service, I had to wait six minutes before the first tram replacement bus towards the city to show up.

Luckily for the big crowd waiting two buses arrived at the same time.

But they filled quickly, with passengers crammed up against the front windscreens of both buses.

But despite two crush loaded buses, there was still a crowd of waiting passengers at Commercial Road

Five minutes after the last two buses left, another one turned up.

I boarded that bus, which was also packed to the gunwales by the time we left.

But we didn’t get far – at the first tram stop down St Kilda Road out path was blocked by some disgruntled passengers, they’d been waiting for the past 20 minutes for a tram replacement bus, but were unable to board any because they were already full.

The bus driver defused the situation with a “sorry mate, not much I can do about it, I just drive the bus – you’ve gotta complain to the Yarra Trams people down there”.

The bus then continued down St Kilda Road, then turned off onto Kings Way to detour around the Anzac Station works site.

Delays at Kings Way and Park Street

We then got stuck at the intersection of Kings Way and Park Street for TEN whole minutes, waiting in a queue of cars trying to make the right hand turn. It was at this point I gave up on the tram replacement bus at the next stop, and walk the rest of the way.

First I wandered back down to Kings Way and Park Street.

Where I spotted two buses stuck in the queue to turn right.

Taking three minutes to crawl a few car lengths through the queue.

Only to be stuck waiting for the next traffic light cycle.

Three more buses joined the queue soon after.

It took these three buses five minutes to turn right at Park Street.

Interestingly the route 58 tram replacement buses were running almost empty.

Presumably passengers were leaving the tram at South Yarra station and catching a train to the city instead.

Empty route 58 buses being a theme throughout the afternoon.

Anyway, I walked back to St Kilda Road, to check out the work on the new tram tracks at Anzac station.

Struggling up St Kilda Road

On St Kilda Road what do I find – another tram replacement bus with passengers pressed up against the front windscreen, this time fleet number #1276.

I kept walking up St Kilda Road, and what do I find stuck in traffic – the same bus #1276 I saw two minutes ago.

Soon enough I caught up on foot.

And then overtook it. (I wonder what the passengers were thinking I was up to?)

Turns out there was a bus lane on St Kilda Road for the tram replacement services, but other vehicles were so banked up that the buses couldn’t actually reach it.

But 10 minutes after I first met bus #1276 on St Kilda Road, it was finally able to overtake me once it reached the bus lane at Southbank Boulevard.

And the crowding never ends

At Southbank Boulevard I found a bus headed back to the suburbs, also with passengers pressed up to the front windscreen.

With articulated buses also unable to cope with the numbers of intending passengers.

Eventually, I reached the Arts Centre.

Where a massive queue of outbound passengers was waiting for a bus back down St Kilda Road.

After waiting 8 minutes, a bus finally showed up.

ONE bus.

Do you think everyone will fit?

Of course not – most of the queue got left behind.

But luckily this time they didn’t have to wait too long – a larger articulated bus showed up a few minutes later, clearing the queue.

At least until next bus also gets stuck in traffic, causing another queue to form.

So what’s the problem?

At first glance the problem is far too few buses were being allocated to the St Kilda Road tram replacement service for the number of intending passengers, but that isn’t the whole story…

Delays due to a lack of bus priority is actually the real issue here – buses are waiting 10 minutes to make a single the right turn off Kings Way, and waiting another 10 minutes behind cars before they reach the bus lane along St Kilda Road – what should be a 10 minute trip up St Kilda Road is blowing out to 30 minute or more!

And there is the crux of the matter – a single bus that could normally move three return loads of passengers per hour, is lucky to make a single return journey instead – giving a third of the possible passenger throughput if buses were not delayed by traffic.

Footnote: a count of the buses I saw

I photographed seven unique buses running the Arts Centre to Commercial Road shuttle along St Kilda Road. Their registration plates were:

  • 7696AO
  • BS07KJ
  • BS02IA
  • 7691AO
  • BS02MF (articulated)
  • 6654AO
  • 7479AO

Along with five unique buses on the route 58 service.

  • 7626AO
  • 6674AO
  • 6370AO
  • 6651AO
  • 6373AO

The cycle time from Arts Centre to Commercial Road and back to the Arts Centre was around 40 minutes: the outbound leg only took 10 minutes because buses could proceeded directly along St Kilda Road past the Anzac station work site, avoiding the 10 minute wait to turn from Kings Way into Park Street, and the second 10 minute wait due to queued traffic trying to access the Melbourne CBD.

Footnote: “Busminder”, a nifty tool

The Ventura buses being used on the St Kilda Road tram replacement service are using a real time tracking system called “Busminder” to report their current location.

On the evening of Saturday 3 December there were only four buses running the tram replacement service along St Kilda Road, and six buses on the route 58 service between South Yarra and the CBD.

However I’m told that the non-Ventura buses also being used on the tram replacement service aren’t capable of showing up on said map, so the actual number of buses may be under-reported by Busminder.

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19 Responses to “Tram replacement bus drama on St Kilda Road”

  1. Daniel Bowen says:

    There’s chatter of a shortage of buses and drivers due to so many project and maintenance work occupations happening at once … which in turn is partly due to so many having been postponed from November before the State Election.

    But what really exacerbates it is the lack of bus priority. It seems they just couldn’t bring themselves to ban cars from turning right from Kings Way into Park St, or give that turn more green arrow time (slowing down SE-bound cars) or start the St Kilda Rd bus lane earlier (despite the same issue having occurred for Metro rail replacement buses in that location)

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Shortage of buses and drivers is an interesting theory – when I was there the St Kilda Road works were predominately Ventura buses, with one bus from Nuline, and none of the multitude of small sub-sub contractors who show up on rail replacement works with their ex-Perth and Brisbane buses bought cheap at auction.

  2. Steve Gelsi says:


    Presumably all the car traffic was trying to do the same thing – go around the works area – so no-one’s going to win. Was that the marked detour around the works area for normal traffic? Normally you’d also have cars turning right at Albert Rd too. Seems a bit silly to send both the same way where the traffic infrastructure won’t cope.

  3. tramologist says:

    On the topic of tram disruption for the ANZAC station, some trams from Malvern and Glenhuntly car out / in via St Kilda light rail to operate the shuttles between Melbourne University and Arts Centre. The trainer at Glenhuntly, whether driving himself or training, displays route 3a and takes passengers. Other drivers just don’t want the trouble with confused passengers and not carry passengers at all.

  4. Andrew says:

    I can only speak from my experience. You saw what you saw but from inside the bus four times I have seen a very long green arrow cycle for the traffic and bus turn from Kingsway into Park Street and that hasn’t been a problem.

    I agree with everything else you have said. It has been a disgraceful disaster, as described our personal experience, posted this morning.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      It’s quite possible VicRoads have updated the traffic signal programming to give a long right turn cycle from Kingsway into Park Street.

    • Andrew says:

      I think it was the first day of bus replacement when I caught the bus to the city. I was mentally prepared for the delay to turn right into Park Street from Kingsway, but there wasn’t a delay and it was clear to me then the signal had been extended. I do know that the right turn arrow is normally quite brief.

      I’ve seen two buses, or maybe the same one twice, without obvious roof top mounted air conditioning units. It or they must be very old.

      I’ve no idea of where Nuline buses operate/operated (Moorabbin?) but I’ve seen one on the tram replacement.

  5. M says:

    Aha, I was waiting for your take on this one 😀 Was at Arts Centre on Saturday. Fortunately I didn’t have to travel south but the crowds for the buses were long and growing with very few in sight. Hopefully YT manages to sort out the mess, as Christmas shopping (etc) crowds are only going to increase till the 17th.

  6. Tom the first and best says:

    If the Kingsway tramline had been extended along to the end of Kingsway at St Kilda Rd, then the trams could just divert around via Kingsway, Sturt St and Southbank Boulevard.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The only tramway extensions floated around that part of town is the “Park Street tram link” from Kings Way to Heather Street in South Melbourne, which would allow trams from St Kilda Road to reach the west end of the CBD.

  7. […] the election we’ve had tram replacement buses on St Kilda Road due to Metro Tunnel works and buses on the Upfield and Craigieburn lines due to Dynon Road works for the West Gate Tunnel […]

  8. Andrew says:

    Maybe I read it on Twitter, no matter, you indicated that the bus timing for St Kilda Road tram replacement was inadequate with buses running very late, which of course makes it a bad service for passengers. I am not a tech person but surely there is a programme that could predict delays because of the changed traffic conditions.

    I am meeting my sister and her daughter tomorrow in the city for brunch tomorrow. What was a fifteen tram trip has blown out to about 45 minutes by bus/tram with quite a good bit of walking. We will bus or walk to 58 tram Fawkner Park stop, tram to South Yarra Station and then a train. No way are we going to use the St Kilda Road bus replacement. It won’t take her much longer to come from Geelong Station.

  9. Bearbrass says:

    I’m pleasantly surprised to see that someone has documented this schmozzle. I gave it a go one weeknight on my commute home and it was pretty terrible. I’m hoping that the trams are now back to running all the way down St Kilda Rd.

  10. Kevin says:

    What was the ultimate outcome of the protest by the passengers blocking the bus?

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