Photos from ten years ago: February 2008

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is February 2008.

For something completely different, was start with something else I enjoy photographing – aircraft. At Melbourne Airport I spotted something different – a blue painted Virgin Blue jet.

Virgin Blue's 50th aircraft, 737-700 VH-VBY

A decade ago Virgin Australia was called Virgin Blue and painted their aircraft red, but 737-700 VH-VBY was the sole exception – painted blue in 2005 to celebrate their 50th aircraft, remaining in the scheme until the 2012 Virgin Australia rebranding.

I also visited the seaside town of Lorne, where a new pier had opened a few months before.

The 'new' Lorne Pier

You might think Lorne is the last place where you might find railway tracks, but I found some – running between the pier and the Lorne Fisheries Co-op.

Fish shop at the Lorne pier

Originally used to transport trolley loads of fish, they now lay idle, with the historic crane from the pier stored alongside, awaiting a new life.

Stored on dry land, the old crane from the Lorne Pier awaiting a new life

But it was to come to nothing – in November 2009 the crane was cut up for scrap.

Also at Lorne I found a V/Line road coach repainted in what was then the latest version of their livery.

McHarry's 1542AO in new V/Line livery passes through Lorne bound for Apollo Bay

While back in Geelong I found a piece of V/Line history – an orange sign from the 1980s, that still looked fresh.

Old V/Line station signage

But other V/Line trains were also starting to show their age, like this one headed through the train wash at Geelong station.

Y129 pushes set FN3 with shunters float VZKF 17 back towards the yards

Up in Melbourne I paid a visit to East Richmond, where I photographed a Connex liveried X’Trapolis pulling into the station, the Dimmeys clocktower in the background.

X'Trapolis 872M stopping at East Richmond

Metro Trains Melbourne replaced Connex a few years later and the clocktower is now hidden behind apartments, but the train itself is still in service, with new X’Trapolis trains rolling off the production line every month.

Around the corner I was lucky enough to capture track inspection vehicle EM100 out and about.

EM100 headed outbound 15 minutes later bound for Caulfield, at Richmond

Used to inspect the tracks for faults, the vehicle has since been repainted in Metro Trains livery and renumbered IEV100, but is still used in in that role today.

At nearby Flinders Street Station I captured a freight train, conveying containers of coil steel to the Bluescope Steel plant at Hastings.

BL29 on the down load of 'butterbox' coil steel containers through Flinders Street track 9A

Other than the colour scheme of the locomotives up front this service has changed little in the years since – unlike other sources of coil steel traffic that have been lost to road transport.

On the other side of the city, I visited North Melbourne Station, where work had started on a new concourse at the city end of the platforms.

Works at North Melbourne Station

The skyline is a shadow of what is seen today – low rise warehouses dominated the area, with no sign of the apartment blocks that now dominate.

A decade ago train services to Melbourne’s west were stuck in the past – the explosion in rail patronage had only just started, and ‘half sized’ 3-car trains still the norm on off-peak Werribee line services.

3-car Alstom Comeng on the up at Werribee

The same could be said about Geelong line trains, with 3-car long locomotive hauled trains common during off peak, complete with an almost empty first class carriage and locked up snack bar.

N465 on the up at Werribee, crossing the down V/Line

These trains made trainspotting on my commute easy.

Finally caught up again to the SCT train near Manor

All I had to do was stand by the window of the end door of the last carriage, and wait for a freight train to come past. 😛

But today seeing any form of locomotive hauled train at Werribee station is a rare occurrence – since 2015 V/Line services to Geelong use the Regional Rail Link tracks through Wyndham Vale and Tarneit, and VLocity trains now dominating the fleet.


Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago

Escalator of fail at Southern Cross Station

How long does it take to fix a failed escalator? For the management of Southern Cross Station this has become a chance to set a new world record, after the escalator linking the Bourke Street Bridge to Spencer Street broke down back in early November.

November 5.

Failed escalator linking the Bourke Street Bridge to Spencer Street

November 10.

Failed escalator linking the Bourke Street Bridge to Spencer Street

November 24.

Escalator linking the Bourke Street Bridge to Spencer Street is still broken

December 29.

Escalator linking the Bourke Street Bridge to Spencer Street is still broken

January 9.

Escalator linking the Bourke Street Bridge to Spencer Street is still broken

January 29.

Escalator linking the Bourke Street Bridge to Spencer Street is still broken

How many more months until this escalator finally gets repaired?

Previous form

Southern Cross Station has a long history of failure – back in 2012 there was a plague of failing floor tiles, with escalators joining the club soon after.

In 2012 I first noticed hefty timber barriers being used to prevent passengers from trying to use failed escalators.

'Escalator out of order - use stairs'. What stairs?

Despite their size, the barriers could be disassembled into smaller components, ready to be moved to the next failed escalator.

Escalator under planned maintenance at Southern Cross Station platform 11 and 12

By 2015 the barriers had been so frequently used they needed a repaint and some new signage.

Escalator under repair at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

But that wasn’t enough, so by 2017 the signs were replaced a second time.

Escalator under planned maintenance at Southern Cross Station platform 11 and 12

Which was a good thing, given the signs were getting more of a workout.

Broken down escalator linking the main Spencer Street entry to the suburban concourse

Popping up around the station on an increasingly frequent basis.

Failed escalator at Southern Cross platform 9 and 10

And why are they breaking anyway?

North Melbourne Station also has a reputation for failing escalators – my theory being that undersized units were originally installed, leading to premature failure. Given that the rest of Southern Cross Station is almost at design capacity, could this be the same case here?


Turns out I photographed the very same escalator under repair back in June 2016.

Failed escalator to the Bourke Street bridge under repair at Southern Cross

Unfortunately I can’t remember how long it took to get fixed last time.

Which discount department store are you again?

Kids playing with toys, low prices highlighted in a red bubble, and a bouncy pop soundtrack to back it all up. Can you tell which discount department store these TV commercials are for?

Can’t tell the difference?

The first advert is for Kmart.

The second is Target.

Go it?

Can’t tell the difference

Turns out even parent company Wesfarmers has trouble, as this 2016 article by Gary Mortimer, senior lecturer at the QUT Business School, explains:

Cannibalisation happens when a company offers a brand, product or service that competes with another within that same company. When this level of internal competition is directly head-to-head, only the strongest will survive. Shoppers and retail commentators have been seeing this play out across the Australian retail landscape with Kmart and Target. Yet, a limited degree of overlap can be a successful strategy if well implemented and where markets are clearly defined.

With increasing disposable incomes and an apparent insatiable desire for superior quality and “luxury for the masses”, mid-tier shoppers originally turned to Target for a range of popular brands at reasonable prices. But times have changed. Economic strains are now causing consumers to trade down, and many mid-tier and premium brands are losing share to low-price rivals.

Today, Kmart is where Target was seven years ago, with Kmart’s first-half earnings in 2016 at $319 million, while Target has slumped to $74 million. Quite simply, Target lost its way and confused its core customer.

When Target is selling $7 kettles and $10 children’s clothing, it is starting to look a lot like Kmart. One of the ways to successfully ensure a good cannibalisation strategy is to ensure a strong brand loyalty to the original business. However, as Target moved further into increasing their range of private label products, brand equity reduced and shoppers migrated to the lower priced alternative, Kmart. Simply shoppers didn’t see the difference between a Kmart t-shirt versus a Target t-shirt.

And in the blue corner

And here is another similar TV commercial from the other side of the fence – Big W.

Target and Kmart both use red in their branding, while Woolworths-owned discount department store Big W uses blue.

Rebranding Target as Kmart

Back his 2016 article Gary Mortimer predicted the two brands would soon merge:

Where you have two very similar businesses, serving the same market, with essentially the same offer; close one. The Kmart model works. Rather than merge, I’d expect Westfarmers department stores CEO Guy Russo to rebrand Target to Kmart.

But instead he decided to convert underperforming Target stores to the Kmart brand. The first such conversion in Victoria was completed at The Pines Shopping Centre in north-eastern Melbourne in December 2016, with Broadmeadows Shopping Centre completed soon after.

And Kmart and Big W cross over

This is from the Sydney Morning Herald in 2015:

Kmart boss Guy Russo has his eyes on at least 50 stores of struggling rival Big W as he hunts for ways to double the size of his department store business and drive revenue to $10 billion.

While Woolworths is considering what to do with its underperforming Big W chain, Wesfarmers-owned Kmart has no designs on the struggling business itself — it’s the leases Mr Russo wants and the Big W employees.

Kmart has reached out to every Big W landlord across the 152 store network and Mr Russo said there were about 50 shops he’d like to convert to Kmart stores.

The cross overs continue.

SkyBus – remember 20 minutes to the airport?

There was once a time when SkyBus would whisk you from the Melbourne CBD to the airport in just 20 minutes – but thanks to traffic congestion and a lack of bus priority, that is now a distant memory. So what went wrong?

SkyBus articulated bus #74 7487AO on the Tullamarine Freeway near Essendon Airport

Born out of the airline operated shuttle bus services that operated out of Franklin Street at the north end of the Melbourne CBD, in 2000 the city terminus moved to Spencer Street Station, which combined with upgrades to the Tullamarine Freeway as part of the CityLink project, saw the travel time to Melbourne Airport cut to just 20 minutes.

As late as 2008 the 20 minute travel time was front and centre on the SkyBus website front page.

By 2010 the 20 minute reference was dropped from the front page, but still appeared on their FAQ page. There it remained through 2012, 2014 and 2015 – but with the addition of an asterisk – “times may vary due to traffic conditions”.

By 2016 the SkyBus FAQ admitted that travel times had blown out by 50% in peak periods, to 30 minutes.

And by 2017 it had blown out further – 30 minutes the best case scenario, with a 45 minute journey expected in peak periods.

My recent SkyBus trip took 50 minutes to travel from Southern Cross Station to the airport.

SkyBus double decker #111 BS02KI southbound on CityLink at Moreland Road

Why is SkyBus taking longer?

The short answer – traffic congestion.

Traffic comes to a dead halt at the Bell Street / Pascoe Vale Road interchange

During the 2000s upgrade of the Tullamarine Freeway as part of the CityLink project, an ‘express lane’ for buses and taxis was added between Flemington Road and Bulla Road, operating between 6:30 am and 9:30 am inbound and 3:30pm and 6:30pm outbound, weekdays only.

Taxi / bus / VHA/C lane only operates between 3:30pm and 6:30pm

As traffic congestion increases this lane is the key to reducing SkyBus travel times, allowing buses to bypass other vehicles, as The Age reported in 2011:

SkyBus was designed to provide a 20-minute run between Southern Cross Station and the airport but is consistently failing to do this during peak periods, with times blowing out to as much as 51 minutes in the morning and 59 minutes in the afternoon peak.

A study by engineering and consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff found that “the future will see a continuation of the significant but relatively gradual degradation of travel time on the CBD-airport bus route”.

The study provided three options for improving travel times, with the department’s preferred one involving creating an express bus lane and putting SkyBus on a public transport fare.

A 2011 briefing to Transport Minister Terry Mulder said: “Putting SkyBus on a Met fare and enforcing express lanes would significantly reduce travel time on the express lanes without significantly affecting travel times on the non-express lanes.”

The SkyBus lane would be created relatively cheaply by removing the emergency lane and nominally narrowing the other lanes.

However, Transurban is believed to be bargaining hard to ensure it is not locked out from any extra lane on CityLink. A spokeswoman said: “Transurban supports any further augmentation of CityLink for the benefit of all the travelling public.”

Public Transport Victoria spokeswoman Andrea Duckworth said: “The government does not have immediate plans to install myki readers on SkyBus or widen CityLink.”

Despite the “no plans to widen CityLink” line, what did the government decide to do a few short years later? More roads, of course!

Throwing good money after bad

Approval for the CityLink Tulla Widening project was given in 2015, adding an extra lane to the Tullamarine Freeway between Melbourne and the airport, at a cost of $1.3 billion.

'New lanes now  open. Getting you home sooner and safer' propaganda from the CityLink Tulla Widening project

The section of elevated viaduct opened by CityLink in the 2000s as the ‘Western Link’ has had the emergency lanes removed and the speed limit dropped to 80 km/h, allowing an extra traffic lane to be squeezed in.

Emerging from the Tullamarine Freeway sound tube

An additional lane has also been added to the five lane section north of Flemington Road.

Six lanes northbound from Flemington Road

As well as the four lane section north of Moreland Road.

Back down to five lanes north of Moreland Road

But on the bus priority front, nothing has changed, despite the addition of a new lane for general traffic – limited operating times, no enforcement when it is active.

Variable speed limit signs hang from the new Bell Street ramp

And it still comes to an end at Bulla Road – only half way to the airport!

'Taxi / bus / VHA/C lane end' notice at Bulla Road northbound

And to make matters worse, there are no emergency lanes on the upgraded section of freeway.

'In case of emergency exit freeway' notice at Flemington Road northbound

Broken down taxis are a common sight on the Tullamarine Freeway.

Taxi passenger taking a piss in the middle of the freeway

As are rear end crashes.

SkyBus articulated bus #81 passes a broken down taxi on the Tullamarine Freeway at Essendon Airport

Today a mere inconvenience, but without emergency lanes any minor incident will result in an entire traffic lane being closed down. $1.3 billion well spent?

High voltage power lines to nowhere

On the outer eastern edge of Melbourne there is a curious piece of infrastructure – a high voltage power line to nowhere. So why was it built, and why is it currently sitting idle?

Dead end transmission line at Coldstream, Victoria

Running south-west from Coldstream to Templestowe, via Chirnside Park, Wonga Park and Warrandyte, I was first tipped off to the existence of the transmission line by someone who lives in the area.

Transmission lines at Coldstream, Victoria

The path taken was quite easy to see on the Melway – the eastern end is located at tower T293 in Coldstream.

While the western end terminates at tower T342 in Templestowe.

Eventually I paid a visit in person, and the dead-end nature of the transmission line was easy to see.

The northern end at Coldstream is located alongside two 500 kV transmission lines.

Dead end transmission line at Coldstream, Victoria

While the Templestowe end is located among the transmission lines that serve the Templestowe Terminal Station.

Dead end transmission line at Templestowe, Victoria

But unfortunately I was no closer to finding the reasons for the lines laying abandoned, until my recent post on transmission line crossovers. What started with an exploration of power lines in Sydney, expanded to Rowville Terminal Station in Melbourne, and then down a rabbit hole of State Electricity Commission of Victoria reports.

I eventually landed on a 1983 report on transmission lines serving Melbourne by the Natural Resources and Environment Committee. The purpose of the report was as follows:

This report specifically addresses the SEC’s proposal for a 500 000 volt transmission line from Coldstream to South Morang and in particular:

(i) The need for reinforcing transmission to the 500 000 volt terminal stations in the outer metropolitan area;
(ii) The feasible route to be subjected to detailed examination of environmental issues; and
(iii) The recommended process for assessment and approval of the route in this instance.

The report detailed the current state of the high voltage transmission lines linking the power stations of the Latrobe Valley to Melbourne.

The existing transmission system from the Latrobe Valley to the Melbourne metropolitan areas consists of three 220 kV double circuit lines and three 500 kV single circuit lines.

Two of the 500 kV lines were established in the late 1960s on a northern easement in conjunction with the Hazelwood Power Station and supply the western metropolitan area from the Keilor Terminal Station (KTS). The lines were routed via Coldstream and South Morang with one line being on a direct Coldstream to South Morang easement and the other routed via Templestowe to provide for later development of supply for the north-eastern metropolitan area. The easements from Coldstream to South Morang were each approved with capacity for a second circuit, thereby providing for the four incoming 500 kV lines to South Morang.

The third 500 kV line was established in late 1982 on a southern easement via Cranbourne, Narre Warren and Templestowe, in conjunction with commercial service of the completed Yallourn W Power Station and in preparation for service of the initial Loy Yang A units. The planning permission for the section of this line between Hazelwood and Cranbourne included easement provision for two further 500 kV lines. The section between Cranbourne and South Morang was established on an existing easement.

As well as how the SEC planned to add a fourth 500 kV transmission line into the system:

The further 500 kV line from Hazelwood to Melbourne is planned to be established on the southern 500 kV easement adjacent to the existing 500 kV line from Hazelwood to Templestowe. The section of the line between Narre Warren and Templestowe has already been constructed and the Rowville to Templestowe part of this section is temporarily in service at 220 kV.

And the interesting bit – the abandonment of the transmission line between Coldstream and Templestowe.

To achieve connection of the fourth 500 kV transmission line into South Morang, the SEC propose to take the existing second 500 kV line (the southern circuit on the northern easement) directly into South Morang from Coldstream, so as to free up the section between Templestowe and South Morang for inclusion as part of the fourth 500 000 volt line.

The short section on the northern easement between Templestowe and Coldstream would then be left out-of-service until the future establishment of new 500 kV switching stations at Templestowe and Coldstream.

If that wasn’t clear as mud, this diagram depicted the current state, as well as three proposals for adding a fourth 500 kV circuit between Hazelwood and Melbourne.

Abandoning a section of high voltage transmission line sounds like an odd thing to do – something which Mr. R.F. English, resident of the Bend of Islands Environmental Living Zone immediately adjacent to the proposed transmission line easement, pointed out in his submission to the Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

The decision to take the Coldstream to Templestowe 500 kV line out of service until at least the fifth 500 kV line is constructed and required – this would probably be in at least 25 years or more.

As the Coldstream to Templestowe line is approximately 20 kilometres long, and based on $470,000 per km, this would mean a $9 million asset would remain idle and depreciating for 25 years.

This appears to me to reflect a gross planning error in the SEC’s long term plans “to scar the landscape with 500 kV power lines”.

So what ended up happening?

Transmission lines at Coldstream, Victoria

And you guessed it – State Electricity Commission of Victoria got their way, with the fourth 500 kV transmission line being pushed through the Bay of Islands bushland along the “LV1: second Coldstream to South Morang line” route, and the transmission line from Coldstream to Templestowe abandoned.

But will it be used in the future?

Back in the 1980s the SECV believed that a fifth 500 kV transmission line would be required by 1990 to serve the increasing energy demand of Melbourne.

Transmission lines beside the Maribyrnong River at Footscray

But this prediction was overly optimistic – development of the massive 4,00 MW Driffield Project west of Morwell was abandoned follwing a change of government, and the Loy Yang power station petered out at 3,250 MW of the 4,400 MW capacity originally planned.

In 2009 Victorian energy network operator VENCorp dusted off the old SEC plans, in their ‘Vision 2030’ document:

Development of eastern corridor distribution

A new (fifth) 500 kV power line from the Latrobe Valley to Melbourne via the Northern easement terminating at Templestowe via Coldstream, and establishment of new 500 kV switching stations at Coldstream and Templestowe (140 km). This line would incorporate the currently unused 500 kV line between Coldstream and Templestowe.

Cost: $460 million

But with the decommissioning Hazelwood power station, no new coal fired power stations on the horizon, and the rapid growth of distributed rooftop solar and battery storage, the need for additional capacity between Melbourne and the Latrobe Valley seems redundant.

And another example

Sent in by a reader – a dead end transmission line outside the Geelong Terminal Station.

The transmission line runs north towards the Moorabool Terminal Station, but terminates a short distance to the south.

My guess – the original 220 kV circuit to Geelong was replaced by parallel 220 kV circuits on a new set of pylons, with a 220 KV circuit to Terang taking over the northern-most part of the easement.