Bike lanes and bus stops on Southbank Boulevard

In 2018 the City of Melbourne started work to transform Southbank Boulevard, reclaiming underused roadways to create 2.5 hectares of public space and neighbourhood parkland for the people of Southbank, Melbourne’s most densely populated suburb.

Turning road into parkland at the corner of Sturt Street and Southbank Boulevard

Something new

Work started at the eastern section of Southbank Boulevard and was completed in three stages.

  • Stage 1 A – Early works: Early July to 21 September 2018
  • Stage 1 B – Tram occupation works: 22-30 September 2018
  • Stage 1 C – Civil and footpath works: 1 October 2018 to August 2019

Rebuilding the route 1 tram tracks on a new alignment.

Relaid tram tracks at Southbank Boulevard and St Kilda Road

With bike lanes along either side.

Z3.171 heads east on route 1 along Southbank Boulevard

Four bus routes also travel along Southbank Boulevard:

  • 216 Sunshine Station – Brighton Beach
  • 219 Sunshine South – Gardenvale
  • 220 Sunshine – City – Gardenvale
  • 605 Gardenvale – Flagstaff Station

So something new was provided – a ‘platform stop’ for bus passengers.

'Platform stop' across the bike lane for eastbound buses on Southbank Boulevard

The bike lane passing right beside the bus stop on a raised hump.

'Platform stop' across the bike lane for eastbound buses on Southbank Boulevard

With cyclists on the bike lane having to give way to bus passengers.

'Cyclists stop behind buses' sign at a bus stop on Southbank Boulevard

This design having replaced the original plans where the bike lane disappeared through each bus stop.

But will it work?

Trams have been stopping in the middle of the Melbourne roads for years.

Westbound Z3.205 picks up passengers on Maribyrnong Road near Ascot Vale Road

Despite the fact the motorists keep driving past tram stops, leaving a trail of injured passengers.

After almost hitting a few people, driver of WZV799 decides they should stop

And Melbourne also has a precedent for cyclists travelling along a bike lane sharing space with passengers boarding public transport vehicles – the tram stops on Swanston Street.

Northbound Z3.141 arrives at the Melbourne Central tram stop on Swanston

Back in 2011 nobody had any idea how to use them.

Cyclists at the Swanston Street tram stop navigate a pack of passengers blocking the bike lane

But in the years since you could almost consider them a success.

Cyclists stop for route 67 passengers boarding B2.2011 at Swanston and Collins Street

And there is one problem yet to be solved – there doesn’t appear to be legislation backing the ‘cyclists stop behind buses’ sign at the bus stop.

'Cyclists stop behind buses' sign at a bus stop on Southbank Boulevard

Road rule 163 describes “driving past the rear of a stopped tram at a tram stop” – but makes no mention of passing stopped buses to the left.

And so far the new ‘platform’ bus stop has yet to see a bus stop at it – CDC Melbourne route 605 has been diverting around the area since July 2018 until work is completed on Southbank Boulevard, and Transdev bus routes 216, 219 and 220 no longer pass through the area, having been split into two sections in September 2018, and then completely reformed in November 2019.

But with the completion of the Southbank Boulevard works not coming until 2021, it will be some time until we find out whether cyclists will ever be asked to share the road with bus passengers.

Footnote

City of Melbourne diagram of the area.

And the bus stop itself.

Further reading

Photos from ten years ago: December 2009

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is December 2009.

We start overlooking Southern Cross Station, where the Docklands skyline was a lot emptier.

Waiting for a signal onto the main line

As was that of Spencer Street.

Three car running already underway at 6.05pm? What a joke!

And the western edge of the CBD.

B2.2083 on route 86 crosses the La Trobe Street bridge

Back in 2009 the explosion of (flammable!) apartment blocks was yet to take off, with 3-car trains still used after 6 PM on some suburban railway lines, and low floor E class trams not appearing on route 86 until 2016.

Metro Trains Melbourne had just taken over from Connex, so a rebranding effort was underway, like this train at West Footscray.

City bound train departs Tottenham

These ones parked for the night at North Melbourne.

Pair of Siemens with Metro stickers stabled at Melbourne Yard

And this one at Footscray.

St Albans on the headboard, and Metro stickers on the front

Passing beneath the new footbridge.

Western steps between the bridge and the shops

A decade on Regional Rail Link has changed this entire rail corridor beyond recognition, with new tracks at North Melbourne, the near new Footscray footbridge demolished then rebuilt, a rebuilt station at West Footscray, and an extra pair of tracks between the city and Sunshine.

Next up – a ride to the country, where there was a long line at Southern Cross Station to buy a V/Line ticket.

A long wait in the V/Line ticket line at Southern Cross Station

In the days before myki paper tickets were the only option for V/Line travel, and had to be purchased for a specific date, leading to massive queues in the leadup to holiday periods.

But I followed it up with a far more laid back train journey, heading to Tocumwal with the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre.

Crowds throng the platform, including Santa

With Santa even coming along the the ride.

Santa out on the balcony of parlor car 'Yarra'

I also headed home to Geelong for Christmas, and passed a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 firefighting air tanker stationed at Avalon Airport.

Firefighting air tanker N17085 (McDonnell Douglas DC-10) stationed at Avalon

Registration N17085, it was based at Avalon from January to March 2010 for the summer fire season, but I don’t think it was ever called into service.

On the other side of Geelong, I photographed a V/Line train headed further afield to Warrnambool.

N458 leads a down train out of Grovedale

Back then the area south of Grovedale was empty paddocks.

Edge of suburbia

And empty country roads.

Empty country road

But change was coming – stage 4A of the Geelong Ring Road was underway, turning the area into a commuter destination.

Tangle at Waurn Ponds Creek

Today the paddocks are the Armstrong Creek urban growth area – the Anglesea Road level crossing was grade separated in 2011, Waurn Ponds station opened in 2014, and the Baanip Boulevard connection to the Surf Coast Highway was completed in 2015.

Footnote

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

Delivering concrete segments to the Metro Tunnel

The tunnel boring machines responsible for digging Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel started work in August 2019, but the concrete segments that will line the new tunnel have had a much longer journey.

Site clearance works continue at City Square

Their start their life behind an anonymous gate in Ravenhall, next door to the Regional Rail Link tracks.

Metro Tunnel tunnel lining segment manufacturing facility at Ravenhall

But the ‘tunnel lining segment manufacturing facility’ sign gives it away.

Metro Tunnel tunnel lining segment manufacturing facility at Ravenhall

Overhead cranes travel over the casting yard.

Production started early, so that a stockpile of tunnel lining segments could be built up.

The first segments were delivered in August 2019.

Driven across Melbourne six at a time on the back of a semi-trailer.

Semi trailer delivers a load of six precast concrete tunnel segments to the site

Until they arrived at the future North Melbourne station site.

Semi trailer delivers a load of six precast concrete tunnel segments to the site

In September work on the shed over the station box was still underway.

Shed taking shape over the station box

But was completed in October.

Completed shed over the station box for the storage of precast concrete tunnel segments

Ready to store the concrete segments, before they are lowered into the tunnel.

Precast concrete tunnel segments ready to be lowered into the tunnel

Loaded onto a rubber tyred TBM support vehicle.

And driven through the tunnel to the TBM itself.

Which then assembles them into a tunnel wall.

A sidenote on the gantry cranes

The gantry cranes at the casting yard were supplied by Australian manufacturer Eilbeck Cranes, as were cranes at the Melbourne CBD worksites.

Lifting a six sided Calbah Engineering kibble loaded with spoil out of the City Square shaft

Those cranes seem to be more successful than those at Parkville station – dismantled due to safety concerns.

Meanwhile on the West Gate Tunnel

The West Gate ‘Tunnel’ might be predominately surface roads, but it actually features two tunnels: 4 kilometre long outbound and 2.8 kilometre long inbound.

Freeway widening works beside Richards Court in Brooklyn

The precast concrete segments for this project are being manufactured by LS Precast in Benalla, served by a dedicated rail siding.

Perils of design when rebranding a train

In August 2009 the Victorian Government was announced that Connex Melbourne would be dumped as the operator of the Melbourne suburban rail network, replaced by Metro Trains Melbourne.

Rolling out a new look

The government released a flashy video alongside the media release, featuring an X’Trapolis train bearing the new Metro corporate image.

Back in 2009 X’Trapolis trains were the newest in the Melbourne suburban fleet, following a hurried order for 20 new trains to cater for an explosion in patronage.

But for the launch of Metro Trains Melbourne on 30 November none of the new trains were ready to carry passengers, so one of the older X’Trapolis trains was rebranded, with a design looking much like the train featured in the animation.

They didn't clean the bogies or underframe however...

But it wasn’t a full repaint, but a change of stickers – goodbye Connex logo, hello Metro Trains Melbourne.

Old Connex decals showing above the doors of a 1st series X'Trapolis

The same process followed with the rest of the fleet – the first Siemens train to receive the Metro livery appearing a week later, with the fractal design and large ‘METRO’ text fitting easily onto the flat carriage sides.

Siemens 751M taking the side streets, departing Yarraville

But that design wouldn’t fit over the fluted sides of the older Comeng trains, so a cut back version was devised – which didn’t appear until April 2010.

Comeng 376M and 670M at Caulfield station

But if in doubt – rebrand again!

'PTV' branding covers 'Metro' branding, which covered the 'Connex' branding

Following the launch of Public Transport Victoria in 2012, the Metro Trains Melbourne brand was taken off the side of trains, replaced by new PTV logos – resulting in three layers of branding visible.

Feedback from the workshops

In the years that followed, more X’Trapolis trains continued to be delivered – each one being painted plain white at the factory, with Metro stickers applied over the top.

X'Trapolis carriage XT2016 MC2/025 beside completed carriages 245M and 248M

Until July 2018 when a new X’Trapolis train emerged from the Alstom workshops at Ballarat, with a smaller Metro logo on the side.

Original (left) and modified (right) Metro logos on the side of X'Trapolis carriages 273M and 276M

But why was it changed? Take a look at the side of the side of an X’Trapolis train, when coupled to a classmate.

Sequential X'Trapolis carriages 262M and 263M coupled at Southern Cross Station

The previous version of the livery required four different types of door sticker to be kept in stock:

  • ME (left side, left door)
  • ET (left side, right door)
  • TR (right side, left door)
  • RO (right side, right door)

While the new design only needs one kind – plain blue. I wonder who made this clever observation?

Siemens train footnote

The Metro livery applied to the Siemens trains went through a far less noticeable evolution. Can you spot it?

The answer: the train to the left has the early version with one piece stickers, with the train on the right has stickers that avoid the seams in the stainless steel panels.

Presumably the stickers over the seam was would bubble up over time and eventually come loose, hence the change to a more secure two piece design.

And finally – level crossings

There is one that that features prominently in the government’s flashy video from 2009 – single track railways.

And level crossings!

Daniel Andrews took a ‘Level Crossing Removal Project’ policy to the 2014 State Election, with much work done since, but progress on duplicating single track railways is only happening on a sporadic basis.

Ten years since Connex left Melbourne

Remember when Connex ran suburban trains in Melbourne? November 30 marks ten years since they left Melbourne, and Metro Trains Melbourne took over the operation of the suburban rail network.

Two down Siemens and an up EDI Comeng at Footscray, the new footbridge lurks behind

The fall

For years the state government had been underinvesting in rail infrastructure, leading to debacles such as the 2008 Oaks Day failure:

Connex did not have enough staff to respond to a rail meltdown on Oaks Day last year that left tens of thousands of furious racegoers stranded, the state’s rail safety chief has found.

Trains between Flemington and the city failed on the afternoon of November 6 last year, just as 90,000 people were spilling from the racetrack.

Overhead wires melted above one train stopped between North Melbourne and Newmarket. This knocked out power and halted all services in the area.

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded aboard one hot, airless and broken down train. The risked their lives by abandoning the train and walking on train lines to escape.

Tens of thousands more in the CBD had peak-hour trips home thrown into chaos by the fault.

Victoria’s director of public transport safety Alan Osborne has today released his findings into the incident.

He found Connex’s contingency plans for the emergency were “somewhat inadequate”.

However, despite finding Connex did not have sufficient staff to manage the incident, it had complied with all safety procedures, Mr Osborne said.

Experienced rail maintenance staff at the time of meltdown told The Age it had occurred due to long-term neglect of Melbourne’s rail system.

But Mr Osborne did not find this to be the case. Instead, he said that all maintenance procedures had been followed.

However, Mr Osborne noted that the city’s entire rail network was now being checked to make sure identical faults did not occur.

And mass cancellations during the 2009 summer heatwave:

Melbourne’s frazzled train commuters should brace for another nightmare day, after one of the worst in Connex’s history yesterday.

The city’s crumbling rail system failed as tracks buckled and trains broke down amid baking temperatures for the second consecutive day.

And with the mercury already in the mid-30s this morning on the way to an expected top of 43, Connex had already cancelled 34 trains by 8am, following the failure of about 234 services yesterday.

Scores of trains were cancelled due to faulty air-conditioning and other heat-related faults. Passengers on the Hurstbridge and Epping lines faced extra delays after tracks between Jolimont and Flinders Street buckled.

Connex repair teams, armed with hoses, sledgehammers and crowbars, worked for more than an hour to bash the rails back into shape.

Rails on the Glen Waverley line, at Holmesglen, also buckled in the heat.

Clawing back

Connex eventually responded by ramping up maintenance, such as replacing rotting timber railway sleepers with concrete ‘partial replacement sleepers’.

3-car Alstom Comeng departs Newport bound for Werribee, passing new concrete sleepers

Wanting to hang onto the contract to run the train system:

Connex admits it could have done more to cope with Melbourne’s record surge in rail patronage and the resulting passenger frustration, but it wants another chance to run the network for at least the next eight years.

As Connex fights to renew its contract before the Government’s mid-year decision on who will run Melbourne’s rail system, chairman Jonathan Metcalfe conceded that the organisation had made mistakes.

But the biggest problem, he said, was record patronage growth on a network neglected for decades by state governments..

“We’ve had more than our fair share of issues and difficulties,” Mr Metcalfe said. “(But) have we made mistakes? Yes, we have. Of course we could have done more and we should have done more, but the sheer scale of (patronage growth) has been greater than anywhere in Australia or probably anywhere else in the world.”

But lost the contract during the 2009 renewal process.

The decision to oust Connex is likely to be warmly greeted by train passengers who have become increasingly infuriated with late, overcrowded and cancelled services across the network.

May was the fifth month in a row that Melbourne trains did not meet punctuality targets with almost one in 10 failing to arrive at their destination on time.

Connex this year had $11 million wiped from its revenue by the Government after 2.8 per cent of all train services were cancelled in the first months of the year.

Asked if the tender decision was a condemnation of Connex, Mr Brumby said it “wasn’t helpful to look back”, but he admitted Connex’s record showed that in some areas “obviously their performance could have improved”.

Ms Kosky, a regular target of commuter fury, said MTM would deliver improved reliability and fewer cancellations for Melbourne’s train passengers.

The people of Melboune were hopeful that something might change – some wags even put on a ‘Goodbye to Connex’ party.

Handing out flyers for a 'Goodbye to Connex' party outside Flinders Street

Enter Metro Trains Melbourne

November 30 saw the first Metro Trains Melbourne branded train break cover at Newport Workshops.

Mostly white with blue ends and doors

And head for Flinders Street Station.

Waiting around at Flinders Street

Where Premier John Brumby and Transport Minister Lynne Kosky were in attendance, along with Metro Trains Melbourne CEO Andrew Lezala, and members of the press.

The press still gabbling away

But in the end, nothing really changed.

Thirteen months after Labor scrubbed the tarnished Connex brand from Melbourne’s history, Metro’s performance record is even worse. This, despite the newcomer costing Victorians many millions more in its first year than Connex in its last. The Brumby government is no more and ALP state secretary Nick Reece has pointed to disruption in train services before the November poll as a key factor in his party’s demise.

While it is early days for Metro in its eight-year contract, there is a widely held view among rail industry insiders and commentators that the company has hit a wall in Melbourne; that an entrenched inertia and old boys’ network in the state bureaucracy and unions has made reform in Melbourne public transport impossible.

Metro neglected rail infrastructure.

The tracks on Melbourne’s rail network are riddled with serious faults – some left unfixed for years – a leaked internal Metro Trains report shows.

And an email sent by one of the rail operator’s senior staff last month appears to show the company responding to the massive repair backlog by simply deleting reports of faults if they had not yet failed.

But in 2016 was given the exclusive right to negotiate a contract extension, which was awarded in 2017.

And a trainspotting footnote

X’Trapolis train 863M-1632T-864M897M-1649T-898M was the first in the fleet to receive the Metro Trains Melbourne livery.

Further reading

I’ve also got a ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.