Photos from ten years ago: December 2012

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is December 2012.

Farewell to Metcard

We start the month following the final days of Metcard tickets in Melbourne.

'Metcard validators will be turned off on Tuesday 4th December' poster - somebody jumped the gun here!

Advertisements for Myki appearing in random shopping centres.

Myki advertising in the almost abandoned Strand Arcade off Elizabeth Street

‘Myki Mates’ were still at work at CBD tram stops helping passengers come to terms with the replacement Myki system.

Myki Mates still working at CBD tram stops

And stores were finally selling a $14 ‘Myki Visitors Pack‘ that was supposed to make up for the lack of ticket machines onboard trams.

Spotted - a store that sells the $14 'Myki Visitors Pack'

The ticketing information board at Flinders Street Station had been updated to remove now-irrelevant information about Metcard.

Ticketing information board at Flinders Street Station finally updated to remove irrelevant Metcard information

And the ticket gates were progressively blocked off.

Installing more cable trunking at Flinders Street Station

So that the Metcard gates could be replaced with Myki ones.

Metcard gates blocked while Myki cable trunking works take place behind

Something new

Not much new this month – just a visit to the under construction railway station at Williams Landing.

Concourse of the station concourse and platforms well underway

It opened to passengers in April 2013.

Something gone

Melbourne used to have five bright yellow ‘Bumblebee’ trams.

C2.5111 westbound at Swanston and Bourke Street

By 2012 they were starting to look rather tatty, so in 2014 they got repainted into the standard PTV livery.

We also used to have restaurant tram that plied the streets at lunchtime and dinner.

Restaurant tram heads south over Queens Bridge - SW6.938 / #4

They’re gone – withdrawn by Yarra Trams in 2018 due to concerns they didn’t meet modern crash safety standards.

And finally, the old Hitachi trains.

Hitachis 283M and 291M at Flinders Street platform 4, with 286M arriving across on platform 3

One of them was headed my way, so I climbed aboard at Flinders Street Station and enjoyed the fresh air over the Viaduct over to Southern Cross Station.

Hitachi bound for Southern Cross, passing the banner indicators on the Viaduct

The final Hitachi train ran in December 2013.

And something completely different

December 2012 also saw me fly off on a month long rail journey through Europe.

Lufthansa 737-330 rego D-ABEI ready to take off

I started my trip in Frankfurt, Germany.

VGF S 228 passes the giant Euro at Willy-Brandt-Platz in Frankfurt

And then headed east to Russia – a journey of 8,898 kilometres six countries, ten cities, three rail gauges and 15 rail operators.

One month: 8,898 kilometres of rail travel!

And the end result – my spin off blog Euro Gunzel – An Australian railfan in Europe.

Footnote

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

Then, now and in between at Moonee Ponds

Then, now and in between – this time it is Moonee Ponds station on the Craigieburn line in the inner north-west of Melbourne.

Moonee Ponds station opened in 1860 as part of railway line to Essendon built by the private Melbourne and Essendon Railway Company, but closed due to financial issues in 1864, reopening in 1871 under government ownership. The brick station building on platform 1 was completed in 1882.


PROV image VPRS 12800/P0001 H 4957

The next change came in 1919, when electric trains took over from steam, following the commissioning of the 1500 V DC overhead wiring.


PROV image VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 0717

And in the years since?

Alstom Comeng 561M on the up at Moonee Ponds

Very little has changed:

  • A timber shelter on the outbound platform has been replaced by utilitarian brick structure.
  • Wall of billboards have given way to a multitude of smaller signs along the station fence.
  • Plastic wheelie bins instead of metal rubbish bins.
  • Platform edge was once bare, it now has a yellow line, and tactile guide markings are in the process of being added.
  • People on the platform are nowhere near as well dressed.

And a bonus photo

Here we see a restored example of Melbourne’s 1st generation electric trains passing through Moonee Ponds in 2022.

Tait set on the up at Moonee Ponds, headed back to Flinders Street then Newport Workshops

Rail replacement buses and the 2022 State Election

As the Level Crossing Removal Project and ‘Big Build’ have ramped up across Melbourne in recent years, rail replacement buses have been a constant spectre following those wanting to catch a train. But early November they suddenly disappeared, only to return with a vengeance a few weeks later. But why?

Lively Bus BS02WC at Sunshine station on an emergency rail replacement service

Tracking the rail replacement buses

PTV rolled out a new, more readable style of poster summarising upcoming rail replacement buses across the Melbourne suburban network back in May 2022, giving passengers an overview of which lines were going to be closed for weeks on end, just for a weekend, or just for evening works.

New, more readable style of poster summarising upcoming rail replacement buses across the Melbourne suburban network

Throughout August and September 2022 the Mernda line was closed for an extended period, while the lines to Upfield, Lilydale, Belgave and Alamein were closed for a weekend.

'Buses replace trains 25 August to 4 September' summary poster at a railway station

In late September the Craigieburn and Sandringham lines joined the weekend closure club.

'Buses replace trains 8 September to 18 September' summary poster at a railway station

October it was the Williamstown, Werribee and Sunbury lines.

'Buses replace trains 13 to 23 October' summary poster at a railway station

But come November – trains running everywhere, except for a single night on the Lilydale and Belgrave lines.

'Buses replace trains 10 to 20 November' summary poster at a railway station

But come Sunday 27 November, buses were replacing trains on six separate lines.

'Buses replace trains 17 to 27 November' summary poster at a railway station

And they’re back – during December 2022 nine lines were replaced by buses, including two extended line closures.

'Buses replace trains 24 November to 4 December' summary poster at a railway station

So why the lack of replacement buses?

Turns out there was one major event in November – the 2022 State election, held on Saturday 27 November.

Early voting centre at the Sunshine scout hall

So did someone high up in the government tell transport operators November was off limits for project works, because they wanted trains to keep running? I don’t know, but I can’t think of a better explanation.

And they’re still more

Since 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 project.

Anzac station superstructure complete, works underway on the future tram stop

And coming up – closure of the underground stations on the City Loop from 2 January through to 15 January 2023; replacement buses on the Cranbourne, Pakenham, Frankston, Stony Point and Sandringham Lines for three weeks from 4 January 2023 for Metro Tunnel works; and the Lilydale and Belgrave lines from 23 February to end of May for the removal of the level crossing at Union and Mont Albert Roads.

Road closed at Union Road with work underway at the level crossing

However the ability for operators to supply buses and drivers might be in trouble – the most recent round of occupations have been described as “the worst ever” with run times not allowing traffic conditions, with buses running 15+ minutes late compared to the driver’s schedules, and multiple concurrent projects have seen the available fleet of buses spread thin, causing even further crowding.

The only respite – the rumoured hiring of buses and drivers from South Australia and New South Wales to shore up the rail replacement fleet.

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.

Photos from ten years ago: November 2012

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is November 2012.

Sparks to Sunbury

We start the month at Sunbury station, which was in the final days of being a station only served by V/Line trains.

P14 and P11 waiting in platform 2 at Sunbury, before returning to Melbourne

Upgraded as part of the Sunbury Electrification Project, the new overhead wires had been installed, but Metro Trains had yet to take over the operation of the rail service.

P11 arrives into Diggers Rest with an up push-pull from Sunbury

But at Diggers Rest station the toilets were locked up tight – a ‘closed due to staff shortage’ sign a forerunner of the complete abandonment of the station building when it was handed over to Metro.

Sign at the waiting room entrance - 'Diggers Rest station closed due to staff shortage'

The first electric trains carried passengers to Sunbury on Sunday 18 November 2012, with the country platforms at Southern Cross receiving ‘Sunbury trains depart from platform 11’ signage to redirect passengers who previously had to catch V/Line services.

'Sunbury trains depart from platform 11' signs on the country platforms at Southern Cross

However Sunbury passengers were still allowed to use V/Line trains to travel to Melbourne, as an exception to usual V/Line travel rules, which was withdrawn in 2015, only to be backflipped on soon after.

Forgotten trains

One warm autumn evening I captured a Hitachi train heading through Ascot Vale bound for Craigieburn.

Hitachi 299M leads a down Craigieburn train at Ascot Vale

It took until December 2013 until the last one was finally withdrawn from revenue service.

And on a hot Sunday afternoon I made my way to the dustbowl that was the old Rockbank station…

Not much at Rockbank station...

Waiting for sixty year old V/Line locomotive A62 to lead a 10 car long train of similarly aged carriages from Melbourne to Bacchus Marsh, ready to form two commuter trains the next morning back to Melbourne.

A62 leads the carriage transfer through Rockbank

These now 70 year old locomotives were eventually retired from V/Line service, but the carriages are still in use today, including occasional trips to Shepparton, Warrnambool and Swan Hill thanks to incompetent V/Line management.

But one upside – Rockbank got a modern new station in 2019.

The Myki rollout drags on

My 10 years ago series keeps on bringing up the extended saga that was the Myki rollout, and this month is no different.

One morning I was greeted by every single Myki gate at Flagstaff station being completely dead, forcing passengers to trudge through the pair of remaining Metcard ‘Frankenbarrier’ gates.

Middle of morning peak, the Myki gates at Flagstaff station are completely dead

Defective Myki readers onboard trams were an even more common sight – this one was stuck in a reboot loop, giving a stack trace from the open source ‘log4net‘ library.

Error message on a Myki FPD stuck in a reboot loop

But still the rollout pressed on – ‘Myki Mates’ deployed to CBD tram stops to assist passengers making the switch from Metcard.

Myki Mates at the Swanston and Collins Street tram stop

And ‘Myki is the only ticket you can use from 29th December’ posters covered the public transport network.

'Myki is the only ticket you can use from 29th December' poster on tram Z1.95

Thankfully in the decade since these drams are mostly forgotten, as the system “just works”.

Ding ding on the trams

I paid a visit to Preston Workshops, where I found an aging W class tram parked outside the sheds.

SW6.870 sitting outside road 13

The entire complex has since been redeveloped as New Preston Depot to run services on route 11, 86 and 96; but the W class trams haven’t been as lucky – they’ve just been dumped in a paddock at Newport Workshops.

I also wandered down to Ascot Vale for Stakes Day at Flemington Racecourse, and found a row of stabled trams at ‘Showgrounds Loop’, awaiting the flood of drunken racegoers wanting to kick on in the city.

D2.5005 leads a row of stabled trams at Showgrounds Loop for Stakes Day

Special trams continue to service major events at Flemington Racecourse and the Melbourne Showgrounds, but the service levels leave something to be desired.

Meanwhile on Sydney Road I found a pitiful scene – a high floor tram on route 19 stuck behind slow moving cars, fenced in by parked cars, a ‘dooring zone’ bike lane, and no platform stops.

B2.2066 heads north up Sydney Road at Glenlyon Road, Brunswick

The only difference today is you might find a low floor tram along Sydney Road – but with no platform stops on the 5.5 kilometre stretch between Brunswick Road and the Coburg North terminus, the service is just as inaccessible as ever.

And something different

Who remembers Melbourne Bike Share?

Trio of tourists head down Swanston Street with hired Melbourne Bike Share bikes and helmets

After years of little love from the public, it finally closed down in November 2019.

And finally, we close the month with a train ride on this dinky little train.

Only one carriage on the train this time

It’s running on the Kerrisdale Mountain Railway, a 2ft narrow gauge tourist railway running up a hill in the Tallarook Ranges outside Seymour.

Footnote

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