Photos from ten years ago: September 2007

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is September 2007.

We start down at Geelong, where I photographed a SCT Logistics Perth-Melbourne freight service behind a trio of Pacific National locomotives.

Almost into Melbourne

Running from one other side of country to the other, the tank wagon at the front of the train removes the need for refuelling stops along the way. SCT Logistics continue to operate these services today, along with a newer Melbourne-Brisbane service, but now hauled by their own fleet of locomotives.

I also photographed a six car long VLocity train on a Geelong-bound V/Line service.

VL24 and co at North Shore

Made up of three 2-car VLocity sets, such a train is no longer possible – only 3-car long VLocity sets now exist.

A curious advertising campaign was launched by former suburban rail operator Connex Melbourne in September 2007, titled “There is no ‘I’ in Carriage”.

'Martin Merton' book distribution at Glenferrie Station

It featured a book authored by fictitious character Martin Merton, “America’s number one train etiquette expert”. The campaign was created by Leo Burnett Melbourne.

September 2007 also saw V/Line ramp up their marketing – covertly working on a new livery for their fleet of trains.

I spotted the first example poking out of the shed door at Newport Workshops.

Sprinter 7007 in new V/Line livery at Newport Workshops

With a matching carriage set breaking cover soon after, headed to Geelong and back on a shakedown run before the public launch.

Quick shot at North Geelong on the return

September 12 saw the politicians out in force to launch the new visual identity.

Launch of the new livery

Two trains were in place to show off the new livery – Sprinter 7007 and carriage set FSH25.

7007 and FSH25 at the launch

Around the corner at Southern Cross, I swung past the future site of platforms 15 and 16.

Site of partially completed platforms 15/16 at Southern Cross

The bare concrete and gravel platform was partially constructed, minus tracks and escalators, as part of the redevelopment of the station, intended to form part of a future airport rail link. They sat empty until Regional Rail Link was conceived in 2009, with the decision made to incorporate them into the project to increase platform capacity at the Melbourne end of the V/Line network.

But change for V/Line was a backward step – the reintroduction to service of 60-year-old carriage stock.

N455 with newly formed carriage set SN7 on test at North Shore

Built between 1937 and 1956, the last five ‘BS’ type compartment carriages were retired from V/Line service in 2006 following the delivery of new VLocity trains. However the Kerang rail crash of June 2007 saw a 3-car train taken out of service, leaving V/Line scrambling to fill the gap. The decision was made to reactivate the previously stored carriages, and operate them on a return peak hour run between Melbourne and Geelong each weekday. They continued in this role until August 2010, when they were finally retired for good, thanks to the delivery of yet more VLocity trains.

September 2007 marked the Geelong Football Club’s appearance at the AFL Grand Final. V/Line operated a number of special trains from Geelong to carry Cats fans to the game at the MCG, where they saw Geelong defeat Port Adelaide.

P12+P16 in the siding at South Geelong

V/Line still runs football trains today, but only with VLocity trains – the use of 8 carriage long ‘push pull’ trains ended in 2011.

And finally we end on something V/Line still does today – cancelled trains and platform confusion at Southern Cross Station.

The 11am train gets canned at 11:56
The 11am train gets canned at 11:56

I was intending to catch the 11:00am Geelong train from Southern Cross platform 5. After waiting almost an hour, at 11:56am V/Line finally announced that the 11:00am train would not be running, and for everyone to board the 12:00pm train in the platform alongside.

The only difference today is that V/Line trains to Geelong now run every 20 minutes between peaks on a weekday, and every 40 minutes on a weekend.

Further reading

Footnote

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

Flipping trucks with bollards in Melbourne

Bollards are support to protect pedestrians from stray road vehicles. But on Racecourse Road in the Melbourne suburb of Flemington, a set of bollards has done the exact opposite – destroyed a series of emergency vehicles on their way to save lives.

From ABC News on 18 June 2014:

Fire truck rolls on its way to Melbourne apartment blaze, causing traffic headaches on Racecourse Road
18 June 2014

A fire truck has rolled on its way to a blaze at an apartment block, causing traffic dramas at Flemington, in Melbourne’s north-west.

The truck flipped on tram tracks on Racecourse Road underneath CityLink about 5:00am, just 500 metres from the fire.

The road was closed for hours in both directions as crews cleaned up but one lane is now open each way.

Assistant chief fire officer Ken Brown said the four crew members in the truck managed to escape injury.

“The good news for our firefighting families and other firefighters is that all the crew are safe and well,” he said.

“[The crew’s] very shaken obviously and we’re investigating with police the cause of the truck rollover.”

But it turns out this was not the first such accident beneath this very bridge.

From the Herald Sun:

Paramedics escape harm in Kensington ambulance flip
Christopher Gillet
5 October 2012

Two paramedics escaped serious injury after their ambulance flipped over while on the way to a job in Melbourne’s northwest.

The ambulance was travelling along tram tracks in Kensington just before 8.30 last night.

The van flipped on Racecourse Rd when it hit a bollard. It is not yet known if the vehicle was travelling at high speeds.

A patient was not inside the vehicle at the time of the accident.

A police spokeswoman said two paramedics were taken to hospital for observation, but were not hurt.

A spokeswoman from Ambulance Victoria said another ambulance was immediately sent to cover the job.

Nine bollards were originally placed between the tram tracks on Racecourse Road to prevent vehicles turning right towards CityLink from cutting the corner.

It appears the first crash in 2012 took out the first five bollards, with only four left in this March 2014 view.

With the second crash taking out the last of them, leaving just a row holes in the concrete.

The bollards are still missing today – presumably deemed too dangerous to reinstate given the crash history.

Bollards removed from between the tram tracks at the corner of Racecourse Road and CityLink

Bollards removed from between the tram tracks at the corner of Racecourse Road and CityLink

Footnote

Another photo of the flipped fire truck

Photos from ten years ago: August 2007

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is August 2007.

We start at North Melbourne looking towards a sparser looking CBD skyline.

N460 on the North Melbourne flyover

This flyover was previously only used by standard gauge passenger services and light engines accessing the locomotive depot at South Dynon, but has since been rebuilt as part of the Regional Rail Link project to allow V/Line trains to access Southern Cross without conflicting with suburban trains.

Around the corner I paid a visit to the Melbourne Steel Terminal, where steel products were transhipped between broad and standard gauge trains.

Western end of the Melbourne Steel Terminal

The terminal was last remaining part of the vast Melbourne Yard complex that stretched between the Melbourne CBD and the docks, but no longer exists – the land earmarked for the new ‘E’ Gate development.

Over at the South Dynon locomotive depot I saw a pair of CLP class units.

CLP12 and CLP10 shunt over Moonee Ponds Creek at South Dynon

These units were retired from mainline serivce by owner Aurizon in 2012 then put up for sale overseas, but are still sitting in store at Goulburn in NSW.

I also found a pair V/Line locomotives in the red livery of the period.

Note the different logos on P11 and P12

Then found them again later in the day, with a set of carriages between them.

P12 traverses the reversing loop, on the way back from being stabled between peaks at Melbourne Yard

For the past decade the P class locomotives have been used in pairs on ‘push–pull’ trains, a mode of operation that has come to an end following the August 27 V/Line timetable change.

Another everyday V/Line sighting was this Geelong bound train passing through the Werribee Street level crossing south of Werribee.

N457 on the down at Werribee

Since 2015 the level crossings now sees just a handful of trains a day – Geelong services now use the Regional Rail Link tracks to the west.

But a far more unusual sighting was this two carriage long V/Line charter departing Southern Cross.

N457 with Avoca and BTN264 on a charter depart Southern Cross

The brown carriage is dining car ‘Avoca’ – on loan to V/Line from the Seymour Rail Heritage Centre, who restored the carriage to operational condition. Avoca entered service in 1927 and remained in use until the 1980s, when it was replaced by the smaller ‘snack bars’ currently found on V/Line trains.

This month I also scored a tour of the railway workshops at Newport. There I saw locomotives under heavy overhaul.

G521 under refurbishment for SCT, with N473 beside under overhaul

Wheelsets getting reprofiled on a lathe.

Wheel re-profiling lathe with a finished axle

Bogies being lifted in the bogie shop.

Bogies being lifted in the bogie shop

Massive locomotive engines getting reconditioned.

Finished V16 engine

And a pile of spare fibreglass front fairings for the Comeng train fleet.

Fibreglass front fairings for EDI refurbished and original Comeng trains

I also ended up at the top of the former WC Thomas & Sons flour mill in Newport, which gave me a great view of the trains down below.

Look ma - no brakes!

As well as the sidings next door.

Spotswood depot from the south

Demolition commenced in early 2017, with much of the site already gone.

Another long abandoned Melbourne building was the Spencer Street Power Station at the corner of Spencer and Lonsdale Streets.

Spencer Street Power Station

After laying idle for decades demolition commenced in September 2007, being fully cleared by April 2008 with apartment towers now occupying the site.

But one abandoned site that lives on is the former Fyansford Cement Works.

Three sets of of abandoned silos

The cement works closed in 2001, with the bulk of the site demolished in 2004, but the concrete silos atop the hill still remain in place today.

More photos

Footnote

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

Promoting V/Line to new residents of regional Victoria

From time to time you will see a rail operator going out and chasing new passengers via a marketing campaign – but this campaign by V/Line to new residents of regional Victoria was quite clever.

Quad Sprinters led by 7012 on a down Geelong service at Wyndham Vale South

From the 2006-07 V/Line annual report:

Understanding customers even better

The experience of the past year indicates significant potential for sustained patronage growth as long as V/Line continues to develop and offer the services that people are seeking.

The challenge now is to attract new customers from three identified key future growth markets:

  • Families – Melbourne and regional
  • 50+ market – Melbourne and regional
  • Tree changers – regular commuters at key locations

Selling the benefits of rail

Movers’ Campaign – V/Line initiated a targeted direct mail program for the first time. Using Australia Post’s Mover Redirection data, people who relocated to an area served by a V/Line commuter service received a mail pack containing information on local train services and an offer of a free weekly ticket from their local station to Melbourne. At the end of June, more than 850 people had taken up the offer.

Unfortunately promoting further growth in the commuter market wasn’t such a good idea given a politically motivated 20% fare cut pushed patronage through the roof from 2007, so in 2007-08 V/Line changed tack:

In 2007–08, V/Line’s direct marketing program to people moving house in our catchment areas exceeded expectations, with 18 per cent of those contacted taking up the offer of a trial ticket. About 40 per cent of these have indicated they would use V/Line more regularly as a result of the promotion.

While the regular commuter market still accounts for the majority of our patronage growth, with most peak services operating at capacity, some off-peak and counter peak services have spare capacity that could be better utilised – particularly on weekends

The solution – promoting travel on off-peak services.

This year we trialled a new Family Traveller ticket to attract day-trippers to Melbourne or country Victoria. The trial was successful and demonstrated the potential for growing the family tourism market. The number of trips made in January 2008 was 20,000 higher than in the previous January.

As well as travel in the reverse direction.

Working with councils, tourism operators, the Department of Transport, Tourism Victoria and the Victorian Government, we launched a $1.3 million ‘See Things Differently’ advertising campaign to put V/Line – and regional Victoria – into the minds of Melburnians.

Key to its success is that the campaign promoted use of off-peak, outbound train services during quieter periods such as during the middle of the day, or on weekends – making more efficient use of existing services, crucial to our push to deliver a more sustainable operation.

Even a tram featured in the campaign!

B2.2127 advertising 'V/Line' on route 59 on Elizabeth Street at the Flinders Street terminus

Today V/Line continues to promote off-peak travel to families as well as leisure travel to country Victoria.

'Next stop, cosy country pubs' promotion for V/Line, at Southern Cross Station

 'Next stop, bushwalks and fresh air' promotion for V/Line, at a tram stop on William Street

But the explosion in commuter travel still continues to fill trains without any extra advertising.

Footnote

How does Australia Post’s Mover Redirection data work? From their website:

Target movers at the right time

Over 87% of movers use our Mail Redirection service, which means we know when and where they’re moving. A significant number opt in to receive marketing messages – and we can give you access to this receptive audience.

And the way to avoid these marketing messages – make sure you opt out of them when signing up to Australia Post’s mail redirection service!

How V/Line could cater for future growth

Patronage on V/Line rail services has surged in the past decade, with the delivery of new VLocity trains struggling to keep up. So what options does V/Line have other than ‘keep buying more trains’? Let us take a look via the magic of photoshop.

An up Geelong train arrives into Southern Cross only 9 minutes late

Longer trains

Currently the longest trains run by V/Line are six car VLocity train, at around 150 metres. Until 2015 V/Line used to run 7 car trains on the Geelong line: something impossible to do today given that VLocity trains only come in 3 car sets.

Add an extra three car set to that consist, and you get a nine car long train stretching 225 metres from end to end.

[FAKE] Triple 3-car VLocity units in PTV livery

As part of the Regional Rail Link project 250 metre long platforms were provided at Footscray, Tarneit and Wyndham Vale stations so running such a long train is possible today – the ‘VL9’ marks on each platform indicate the stopping mark for these hypothetical trains.

'VL9' - nine-car VLocity set stopping mark on the RRL platform at Footscray

More carriages per train

When originally delivered each VLocity train consisted of two carriages seating a total of 140 passengers, with a drivers cab at each end. Coupling multiple small trains together is inefficient, so in V/Line ordered their first three-car long VLocity set, which entered service from August 2008.

VL01 leads two classmates on an up Geelong express service at Corio

These new sets consisted of the same driving carriages found in the existing 2-car long sets, but with an extra motorised carriage placed between them. Lacking a toilet or drivers cab, these new carriages increased the total passenger capacity to 216 seats – each pair of 3-car sets having 12 extra seats compared to a six carriage train made up of three 2-car long sets.

Add an extra carriage to each three car VLocity set, and you get similar benefits – an eight car train made up of two 4-car sets will only have four cabs and four toilets taking up valuable passenger pace, compared to the six cabs and six toilets found on a nine car train made up of three 3-car sets.

[FAKE] 4-car VLocity unit in PTV livery

Smarter carriage layouts

If you have ever stood at Southern Cross Station of a morning and watched a VLocity train empty out, you might have noticed how bloody long it takes until the last passenger exits.

Passengers depart a VLocity train at Southern Cross platform 3

The reason: each carriage only has two narrow doors, located at the end of the passenger saloon.

V/Line passengers board a VLocity train at Southern Cross platform 2

This layout made sense for the original purpose of the VLocity train – express runs to country areas – but are woefully inadequate for their new use ferrying commuters from Melbourne;s outer suburbs to the CBD.

One possible solution – replace each opening with a set of double doors, increasing the amount of standing room inside the saloon, and making a wider opening for passenger to enter and leave the train at stations.

[FAKE] Hypothetical VLocity-derived high capacity regional train

So what is V/Line actually doing?

Strangely enough, V/Line has actually known about the problem for some time – their ‘Initial Strategic Operations Plan’ dated November 2011 has the details, obtained by the Greens under the Freedom of Information Act.

For the Geelong line:

From 2018

V/Line anticipates that by this point in time a high capacity style DMU will be required for Geelong services. It is expected that these trains would operate in 8- or 9-car consists and would each be able to carry 750 – 800 customers. It is expected that the eight peak hour services would be operated with the high capacity DMUs.

And the Ballarat line:

From 2018 (assuming Melton duplication but no electrification)

High capacity DMUs would be required to operate from Bacchus Marsh to cater for the forecast patronage from Melton. These could be added to those expected to be procured for operation on the Geelong corridor. Any units purchased for use on Melton services would not be wasted after electrification because of the need to eventually retire H sets and Sprinters. High capacity DMUs would be suitable replacements for those vehicles

V/Line GM of network engineering Jim Hunter delivered a presentation to the Monash IRT in September 2016, raising the same issues with the VLocity fleet:

Classic fleet performance
• The Classic fleet performance in relation to acceleration and braking plus mean distance between failures is preventing the full potential of the Vlocity fleet being utilised.

VLocity patronage capacity
• The VLocity fleet cannot meet the projected growth in patronage required without full body redesign from the bogie up.

As well as the change in traffic pattern to ‘outer suburban’:

Southern Cross is by far our busiest station, with four out of five journeys starting or ending at Southern Cross.
• Tarneit recorded the second highest number of trips with 76,082.
• On the Ballarat line, there were 63,601 trips at Melton and 50,668 at Ballarat.

But it took until 2016 for the State Government to announce funding to plan for such a ‘high capacity next generation regional train’ – from the PTV website:

High capacity next generation regional trains

The 2016-17 State Budget includes $10 million in development funding for High-Capacity Next Generation Regional Rolling Stock to cater for the future needs of regional Victoria.

A next generation high capacity regional train will be commissioned in the coming years to cater for strong patronage growth and provide new peak services.

With only development money allocated so far and more VLocity trains coming off the production line based on a 15 year old design, V/Line passengers will be stuck on overcrowded trains for some time to come.

A door related footnote

Another worthwhile addition to a redesigned VLocity train would be a separate crew door to the cab – with the present configuration passengers standing in the front doorway block the driver’s door and prevent them from existing the train in an emergency. From 2010 V/Line rolled out illuminated warning signs behind each cab door, but do you think any passenger has ever noticed it?

Illuminated 'keep clear' sign behind the cab of 3VL37

And platform lengths

The current Victorian Rail Industry Operators Group Standards mandate 160 metre long platforms at suburban stations, and 180 metre long platforms at regional stations. The Regional Rail link project provided 250 metre long platforms at Footscray, Tarneit and Wyndham Vale stations, but only a 190 metre long platform at Sunshine.

Trio of trains at Sunshine: pair of V/Line services outnumber the single Alstom Comeng

Why? There is plenty of space at the city end, so I have no idea!