Melbourne’s triply inaccessible tram stops

The inaccessibility of Melbourne’s tram network is well known, thanks to hundreds of high floor trams still making up the fleet and modern low floor trams still using old fashioned street level tram stops. However there is a handful of tram stops that have a third level of inaccessibility – the only way to access them is a flight of steps.

B2.2089 picks up a citybound route 64 passenger in the median strip of Queens Way

Stop 31 Queens Way, Windsor

Stop 31 on route 5 and 64 is located in the middle of Queens Way.

Z3.123 heads east on route 5 along the median strip of Queens Way

The tram stop consisting of two narrow strips of concrete linked by a pedestrian crossing.

Tram stop in the median strip of Queens Way

And the only connection to the rest of the world being a single flight of stairs to the Upton Road overpass.

Steps down to the Queens Way tram stop from Upton Road

The tram stop opened in 1969 as part of the St Kilda Junction project, which saw 2 kilometres of tram track along Wellington Street relocated to the current grade separated alignment at a cost of $458,000.

Stop 33 Hornby Street/Dandenong Road, Windsor

Only a short distance away on route 5 and 64 is another tram stop only accessed via steps.

B2.2023 heads west on route 64 along Dandenong Road, Windsor

Again the tram stop is just two narrow concrete strips, linked by a pedestrian crossing.

Footbridge provides the only pedestrian access to the Hornby Street tram stop in the middle of Dandenong Road, Windsor

A pedestrian bridge crosses the eight lanes of Dandenong Road, with two flights of steps connecting it to the tram stop.

Footbridge provides the only pedestrian access to the Hornby Street tram stop in the middle of Dandenong Road, Windsor

Agitation for a safe crossing location of Dandenong Road between Hornby and Westbury streets commenced in the 1970s, with local member D. G. Elliot raising the issue in parliament in 1973.

The current three span, 59 metres long by 1.8 metres wide prestressed and reinforced concrete beam bridge was completed in 1976 by the Country Roads Board as part of the ‘grade-separated crossings to serve schools’ program.

Stop 63 Deakin University/Burwood Highway, Burwood

The outer end of the route 75 runs in the middle of Burwood Highway, and outside the Deakin University campus in Burwood is an inaccessible platform tram stop.

B2.2033 heads east on route 75 along Burwood Highway at Deakin University

A pedestrian crossing links the citybound and outbound platform stops.

Pedestrian crossing links the citybound and outbound platforms at the Deakin University tram stop

But the only way out is via the pedestrian underpass.

Signage directing tram passengers to the Burwood Highway pedestrian underpass at Deakin University

Accessed via a single narrow flight of steps.

Single set of steps down the Deakin University tram stop to the Burwood Highway pedestrian underpass

Leading to a thankfully well lit underpass.

Burwood Highway pedestrian underpass leading to the Deakin University tram stop

The northern end entering the Deakin University campus.

Second pedestrian underpass runs beneath Deakin University gate 2

And the southern end disappearing into a small park.

Southern entry to the Burwood Highway pedestrian underpass leading to the Deakin University tram stop

The pedestrian underpass opened in 1978 as part of the East Burwood tramway extension from Warrigal Road to Middleborough Road, the remainder of the tram stops having been provided with a pedestrian crossing for access.

By 2005 the underpass was described as dirty and poorly-lit.

Whitehorse Leader
Move for safe crossing
Jan Harkin

Students are dangerously dodging Burwood Highway traffic to avoid a dirty, poorly-lit underpass near a tram stop outside Deakin University, Burwood state Labor MP Bob Stensholt says.

“If you stand there at four o’clock and watch the students, they come across the road like Brown’s cows,” Mr Stensholt said.

Mr Stensholt said the long-term plan was for a superstop with an enhanced pedestrian crossing and lights although that would not happen before 2007.

But a meeting of university, VicRoads and Yarra Trams representatives has come up with short-term measures to improve pedestrian safety.

Yarra Trams will upgrade the stop with extra safety rails and VicRoads will tackle the underpass.

“They are going to extend the railings as a temporary measure and put some signage on to tell people to be careful and hopefully put in more lighting,” Mr Stensholt said.

But in the years since a ‘enhanced pedestrian crossing’ has never happened – but the current pair of ‘accessible’ platforms were provided in May 2007.

Grade separated – but thankfully accessible

On route 70 there are three grade separated tram stops serving the spots precinct, but thankfully all are accessible.

Stop 7A William Barak Bridge/Melbourne Park has steps and a lift.

A2.271 heads west on route 70 at Exhibition Street and Batman Avenue

Stop 7B Rod Laver Arena/MCG Gates 1-3 has a loooong ramp to each platform.

B2.2027 passes Rod Laver Arena with an outbound route 70 service

And stop 7C 7C-MCG Gates 4-7/John Cain Arena has stairs and lifts.

A2.271 westbound on route 70 at the Hisense Arena stop

All three tram stops opened in 1999 as part of the rerouting of route 70 trams onto a new reserved track to the Exhibition Street extension, freeing up the previous route via Swan Street and Batman Avenue to make way for the Federation Square project.

And since removed

Stop 14 on St Kilda Road at the Arts Centre once had a set of stairs connecting it to the City Road underpass – opened in 1971 it was replaced by the current ground level tram stop in 2008.

Footnote: close, but not quite on route 59

Route 59 has a number of tram stops beside the Tullamarine Freeway.

Paralleling the Tullamarine Freeway and Matthews Road in Airport West, B2.2056 with an outbound route 59 service

A footbridge crosses the freeway at each tram stop.

Paralleling the Tullamarine Freeway and Matthews Road in Airport West, B2.2056 with an outbound route 59 service

But the tram stops themselves are not connected – access is via a pedestrian crossing.

B2.2088 arrives into a platform stop between the Tullamarine Freeway and Matthews Road in Airport West

St Kilda Junction

The St Kilda Junction tram stop is surrounded by cars.

Z3.217 heads south on route 64 at St Kilda Junction

Served by a maze of pedestrian underpasses.

Headed into the dark and dingy tram stop underpass at St Kilda Junction

Running beneath the surrounding roads.

Dark and dingy tram stop underpass at St Kilda Junction

But thankfully there are no steps – just steep ramps.

Headed into the dark and dingy tram stop underpass at St Kilda Junction

And there is one ground level access route – a pedestrian crossing at the Punt Road / St Kilda Road traffic lights.

Google Street View

And two aborted proposals

Early plans for the Metro Tunnel featured direct access between trams and trains on Royal Parade at Parkville station.

Parkville, artists impression of station entrances

As well as the Domain Interchange tram stop on St Kilda Road as Domain station.

Domain station, trio of entrances at the corner of St Kilda and Domain Roads

But direct tram stop access at Parkville station has been dropped from the current plans.

But thankfully at the renamed Anzac station, plans show the main station entrance is connected to the tram stop.

With a total of three station entrances – one either side of St Kilda Road, and a third between the tram tracks, with a large atrium looking down on the station concourse below.

Upgrading Melbourne’s railway network in the 1970s

Recently I came across a 1973 Bureau of Transport Economics report titled “Review of Public Transport Investment Proposals for Australian Capital Cities“, which listed 16 upcoming public transport projects for Melbourne. But five decades later, how many of these projects actually went ahead?

Passengers board the Hitachi at Kooyong

South Kensington – Footscray railway quadruplication

N464 leads a down Geelong service into Footscray, an EDI Comeng train close behind on the parallel track

In 1973 work on this project was already underway.

The western suburbs of Melbourne are serviced by the electrified suburban railway lines to St Albans and Williamstown / Altona. They have a common section from Footscray to the City, a distance of 5.5 kilometres. These lines also carry passenger and freight traffic for the country rail services to Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

The existing route from the City has six tracks to North Melbourne (junction for the Broadmeadows and Upfield lines) and four tracks to South Kensington. The remaining two kilometres to Footscray have double tracks. This section of double track line crosses the Maribyrnong River and is a bottleneck for the traffic to the western suburbs with trains in each direction converging from two to one track , only to diverge again a mile further on.

The project is to quadruplicate the remaining section of double track between the City and Footscray.

Work was completed on the project in 1976, with track capacity between the City and Footscray expanded to six tracks in 2014 by the Regional Rail Link project.

Caulfield – Mordialloc Railway third track

Ramp down to the island platform at Moorabbin station

At the time of the report, the Frankston line was something of a basket case.

The railway between Caulfield and Frankston provides a passenger service for residents on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay. The line also carries limited passenger and freight traffic from the Mornington and Stony Point Lines.

At present the electric suburban services suffer from congestion in peak hours resulting in little travel time advantage from the operation of express trains. Although the capacity of the present line between Caulfield and Mordialloc can be increased by improved signalling, there would still be delays to the peak hour trains serving Mordialloc to Frankston.

The project is based on the provision of a third track signalled for two-way operation, between Caulfield and Mordialloc. This would provide significant benefits from improved travel times, and express and local services would be more efficiently combined. The peak hour express trains between Caulfield and Cheltenham/ Mordialloc would save up to six minutes travel time per trip.

The project would involve construction of 15.5 kilometres of single-track railway, together with the installation of associated signalling and electrical equipment. The capital expenditure on the project would occur between 1973 and 1976 for Caulfield to Cheltenham, and 1976 and 1978 for Cheltenham to Mordialloc.

But work on a third track was slow to start – by 1981 the the scope cut back to just Caulfield-Moorabbin – a distance of 6.5 kilometres. The project was given the go ahead by then Transport Minister Steve Crabb in 1984, and took until 1987 to be completed. It also also done on the cheap, with level crossings instead of grade separations.

Sunshine-Deer Park West Railway

VLocity VL21 and classmate on the down runs through Deer Park West

Rail services to the west have long lagged the west of Melbourne, with Deer Park especially forgotten.

The Melbourne western suburbs of Ardeer, Deer Park, and Deer Park West are served by bus routes of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, as well as by private operators. All of the bus routes serve Sunshine Station, where a bus-rail interchange is proposed to replace the existing limited bus terminal facilities. The “TB bus routes at present continue on to the city but function mainly as a local bus service, because the Sunshine to the City running time by bus is 17 minutes longer than by train.

Sunshine is at the junction of the main Ballarat and Bendigo railway lines. The Ballarat line is single track with a station and crossing loop at Deer Park. This station is served by only a limited number of short distance country trains.

The project is to duplicate and electrify the existing railway to Deer Park West, and to introduce a suburban passenger service. This would involve the construction of a second track for about 7 kilometres and electrification of 14 track kilometres. New stations would be built at Ardeer and Deer Park West and the existing station at Deer Park would be rebuilt.

Two evaluations were completed. The first included the immediate electrification as well as the duplication. The second was on the basis of immediate duplication of the track, but deferment of electrification for ten years. The initial service would be provided by a shuttle service, using reconditioned railcars, between Deer Park West and Sunshine. This service would be supplemented by the existing Melton/Bacchus Marsh commuter trains.

The duplicated line opened to trains in 1976, in addition to the rebuilt Ardeer station, but no extra services were provided – something not addressed until the opening of Regional Rail Link in 2015, and the opening of Caroline Springs station in 2017.

As for electrification – 18km of track was duplicated between Melton and Deer Park West in 2019, but we’re still waiting for electric trains.

Macleod-Greensborough Railway Duplication

EDI Comeng arrives into Watsonia on the down

The Hurstbridge line was another goat track in need of upgrading.

The Hurstbridge Line is an electrified suburban railway in Melbourne serving the north-eastern suburbs of Ivanhoe, Heidelberg and Eltham, and the Diamond Creek valley to Hurstbridge.

The line is double-track for the first 16.5 kilometres to Macleod, except for single-track sections across the Merri Creek Bridge (Clifton Hill-Westgarth) and Heidelberg-Rosanna. Beyond Macleod the line is single-track for the remaining 20.5 kilometres with crossing loops at Greensborough, Eltham and Diamond Creek. The basic service is for alternate trains to Eltham and Hurstbridge, with extra trains to Heidelberg and Macleod during peak hours.

The numerous sections of single track, particularly between Clifton Hill and Eltham, considerably constrain the frequency of service which can be provided on this line without incurring excessive delays at crossing loops. The project is to extend the double track from Macleod to Greensborough, a distance of about 5.5 kilometres. The Merri Creek Bridge and Heidelberg-Rosanna single-track sections are expensive to duplicate and have not been included in the project.

In 1979 the line between Macleod and Greensborough was duplicated, with the ‘too expensive’ sections also tackled in recent years – Clifton Hill – Westgarth in 2009, and Heidelberg – Rosanna in 2018.

Electrification of Newport-Werribee Railway

EDI Comeng departing Werribee for Flinders Street

Once upon a time Werribee was a country town and not a suburb of Melbourne, and had a rail service to match.

The Geelong railway provides services for the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. The services to Altona and Williamstown operate over the electrified section between Altona Junction/Newport and the city. A diesel service operates to Werribee.

The population in the area between Newport and Werribee is growing rapidly and so is the demand for suburban rail travel. The project provides for the electrification of the 18.5 kilometres of double track between Altona Junction and Werribee, allowing the service to be integrated with the electrified suburban system.

The project would be commenced in 1973 and would be completed by the end of 1974. New stations are proposed at Newport West and Tarneit at an estimated cost of $100,000 each.

It took until 1983 for electric trains to start running to Werribee, with services rerouted via Altona from 1985 following the completion of a new railway via Westona to Laverton.

However the extra stations proposed in the 1970s were never built, and instead two stations were closed – Paisley in Newport South and Galvin on the northern edge of Altona, made redundant following the rerouting of Werribee line services via Altona in 1985.

Capacity on the rail corridor was expanded in 1995 following the opening of the parallel standard gauge Melbourne-Adelaide track in 1995, and expanded again in 2015 following the diversion of Geelong line services to the new Regional Rail Link route via Tarneit.

Frankston Railway Resignalling

Decommissioned double line block instruments at Castlemaine 'A' signal box

Track amplification on the Frankston line already appeared in the report, but the life-expired signalling elsewhere on the line was also in need to replacement.

The Frankston Line provides a passenger service to the residents on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay. The line also carries the limited passenger and freight traffic from the Mornington and Stony Point lines.

The present signal capacity on the Caulfield-Frankston section of this line is only sufficient to carry the existing number of peak hour trains, The double line block telegraph system of signalling is still in use between Glenhuntly and Bentleigh, and between Highett and Frankston, a distance of nearly 27 kilometres. This system is labour intensive and is not readily modified for the close headways usually required on urban railways.

The project would be the replacement of the existing double line block telegraph system between Frankston and Mordialloc to increase track capacity and improve reliability. The minimum headway would be reduced from 6 minutes to 3 minutes.

Thankfully this these upgrades happened much quicker than the track implication works – Glenhuntly to Bentleigh was upgraded in 1974, followed in 1976 by Carrum to Seaford and Carrum to Chelsea.

The last examples of double line block safeworking were replaced on the Williamstown line and Upfield line in the 1990s, and on the Bendigo line in 2005, leaving just the Seymour line.

Signal Improvements – Oakleigh Station

Signal 8 for down trains approaching Oakleigh station

Way back in the 1920s Oakleigh station was rebuilt as the terminus for suburban services from Melbourne, but by the 1970s it had been left behind by post-war suburban sprawl towards Dandenong.

The Dandenong Line is one of a number of railway lines serving the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The line also carries the Gippsland rail traffic.

Oakleigh is the mid-point of the line, being 15.5 kilometres from Flinders Street Station ad 14.5 kilometres from Dandenong. During the peak hours, additional trains are run between the city and Oakleigh to supplement the Dandenong trains. Adjacent to Oakleigh Station there is a small goods yard and stabling facilities for suburban trains.

At either end of Oakleigh Station there are manually operated signal boxes. These control the section through Oakleigh Station, this being the only remaining section of manual signalling between Caulfield and Dandenong. These signal boxes also control entry of trains to the goods yard, suburban trains storage sidings and the movements of terminating suburban trains.

The project would replace the two existing signal boxes with one consolidated box within the station building. The design of the new signal box would be compatible with the proposed third track between Caulfield and Huntingdale.

In 1975 the new signal panel replaced the aging mechanical signal boxes, but in the years that followed the reason for it existing has disappeared. The first casualty was the goods yard which was removed in 1984, followed by the stabling sidings in 1995. A turnback platform was built at Westall in 2012 removing the need to use Oakleigh for the purpose, with the signal panel abolished in 2018 following the opening of the Dandenong Signal Control Centre to control the entire line.

As for the third track from Caulfield – we’re still waiting. The idea was revived in 2006, but the elevated tracks from Caulfield completed in 2016 only have space for two tracks.

Melbourne Train Replacement

Inside of a Hitachi M car

In the 1970s Melbourne rail travellers with still stuck onboard old ‘red rattlers’.

The Victorian program for 1973-74 includes $10.7m for replacement trains. The cost of the trains has increased 7 per cent since 1972.

In view of some adverse press comment about seating on the one new train which has come into service since the 1972 evaluation, it is noted here that a sensitivity test of the evaluation was made in which passenger benefits were halved.

However, in response to the press criticism the Victorian Minister for Transport now has arranged for improved seating to be incorporated in the new trains.

The stainless steel ‘Hitachi’ trains were constructed between 1972 and 1981, remaining in service until replaced by the current Siemens and X’Trapolis trains in 2003–2004. The last Hitachi train carried passengers in 2014, with the last set moving on the Melbourne rail network in 2015.

Melbourne Eastern Railway – Stage One

The 1970s saw yet another proposal to build a railway to Doncaster.

The section of the Eastern Freeway at present under construction is between Alexandra Parade, Collingwood and Thompsons Road, North Balwyn. This section of the freeway provides a central reserve for the proposed Eastern Railway. The railway would link Doncaster and Templestowe with central Melbourne.

The railway is planned to be constructed in two stages.

Stage One would construct the railway a distance of 8.5 kilometres to a station near Thompsons Road, Bulleen. The railway would branch from the Hurstbridge and Epping Lines at Victoria Park and use the railway reserve provided by construction of the Eastern Freeway. The only station on the new line would be at Bulleen, where interchange facilities would be provided for buses and cars.

Stage Two would extend the railway from Bulleen through Doncaster to East Doncaster.

In 1977 the Eastern Freeway opened to Bulleen Road, being extended to Doncaster Road in 1982 and Springvale Road in 1997, but today we’re no closer to a Doncaster railway.

Melbourne Bus Replacement

MMTB Annual Report 1979

Buses – the forgotten mode of Melbourne’s public transport network.

Of the 260 buses operated by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB), 135 are over 20 years old. It is intended to purchase 30 buses in 1973-74 to replace an equal number of 22 year old AEC Regal Mk I11 buses. The MMTB believes the new vehicles – integral construction National buses fully imported from UK – would have an economic life of approximately l5 years. Accordingly, the evaluation assumes a project case of replacing the 22 year old Leyland buses in 1973-74, followed by 15 year replacement cycles thereafter

And the story isn’t any different today – some Melbourne bus operators kept buying high floor buses despite the availability of accessible low floor models, and today we’re still buying old fashioned diesel buses instead of hybrid or 100% electric buses.

Melbourne Tram Replacement

Weston Langford photo

W class teams might be a Melbourne icon, but they served as everyday public transport for far too long.

The rolling stock of the MMTB consists of 696 trams of which 70 per cent were built before 1939. The MMTB have indicated that over the next five years they intend to purchase 205 new trams, of which 100 have already been ordered.

The first ‘modern’ tram was the 100 Z1 class trams that entered service in 1975 – 1978, followed by 15 Z2 class trams in 1978 – 1979, and 115 Z3 class trams in 1979 – 1984.

However this was not enough to send the aging W class fleet to the scrap yard – it took the arrival of 28 A1 class trams in 1984 – 1985, 42 A2 class trams in 1985 – 1986 to finally kill them off, with the last W2 class tram carrying paying passenger in December 1987.

Ringwood Corridor

Down end of the station building at Ringwood East

Back in the 1970s the railway east to Ringwood was the ‘darling child’ of the Melbourne suburban network, but was still not up to scratch.

The Box Hill-Ringwood Railway is the main railway serving the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. There are four tracks over the first 4.5 kilometres to Burnley, the junction of the Glen Waverley Line. The next 10.5 kilometres to Box Hill has three tracks, allowing express trains to operate on this section in peak hours. The remaining 10 kilometres to Ringwood is double track.

Ringwood is the junction for the electrified service to Lilydale (13 kilometres) and Belgrave.(l6.5 kilometres). Ringwood is also an important terminal station for peak hour trains. The Lilydale line is single track except for the section Croydon-Mooroolbark (3.5 kilometres). The Belgrave line is also single track except for double track between Bayswater and Ferntree Gully (5 kilometres). There are crossing loops at Upper Ferntree Gully and Upwey.

The railway continuing beyond Lilydale to Healesville (25 kilometres) has an infrequent diesel rail car service which connects with the electric suburban service at Lilydale. The railway beyond Belgrave is the narrow gauge (0.76 metre) ‘Puffing Billy Tourist Line.

The railways beyond Ringwood were originally built in the 1880’s as low capacity branch lines. They were electrified in the 1920’s. The recent growth of the Melbourne urban area into the area served by the lines has increased the demand on the rail service. The improvements are designed to upgrade the railway lines to meet projected demand.

The proposed improvements are as follows:

(i) Ringwood Station: Third Platform. The improvement is the provision of a third platform. The estimated cost is $0.7m, which includes associated resignalling.

(ii) Ringwood-Bayswater: Duplication of 5 kilometres. This would complete the duplication between Ringwood and Ferntree Gully. The estimated cost is $1.3m.

(iii) Ringwood-Croydon: Duplication of 5 kilometres. This would complete the duplication between Ringwood and Mooroolbark. The estimated cost is $l.1m.

(iv) Signalling Croydon-Lilydale and Bayswater-Ferntree Gully. The existing signalling on the two existing double track sections is Double Line Block Telegraph System. The single track section between Mooroolbark and Lilydale uses the electric staff system. It is proposed to replace these systems with power signalling at an estimated cost of $1.3m.

The third platform at Ringwood, the track duplications, and the signal improvements are proposed for commencement in 1973 and completion during 1975. Additionally, it is proposed to build a third track from Box Hill to Ringwood between 1975 and 1978 at an estimated cost of $7.2m.

The first change to occur was the closure of the line to Healesville in 1980.

As for duplication, it had to wait – Ringwood to Bayswater completed in 1982, followed by Ringwood to Croydon in 1984.

The third platform at Ringwood – that didn’t happen until 1999. And a third track from Box Hill to Ringwood – the Middleborough Road Project of 2007 left space for it, but subsequent upgrades have kicked the idea off into the never-never.

Huntingdale-Ferntree Gully Railway

The government wanted funding to reserve land for a railway to Rowville.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Transportation Plan provides for the eventual construction of a railway line between Huntingdale and Ferntree Gully. As residential development is now proceeding along the alignment of the proposed route, the Victorian Government desires to make the land acquisitions necessary for an eventual construction of the railway.

The most recent feasibility study was completed in 2012-14 but we are still no closer to building it.

Frankston-Lyndhurst Railway

Another proposed cross-country railway line was one from Dandenong to Frankston.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Transportation Plan provides for the eventual construction of a railway between Frankston and Lyndhurst to improve public transport services between Frankston and Dandenong. As residential development is now proceeding along the alignment of the proposed route, the Victorian Government desires to make the necessary land acquisitions.

But the only progress in the years since was the extension of suburban services to Cranbourne in 1995, using the existing railway from Dandenong.

Additional Melbourne Railway Stations

Side platforms getting worked on at Coolaroo

Melbourne has a long history of building new ‘infill’ stations on existing railways, and the 1970s was no different.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Transportation Plan proposes the construction of a number of additional railway stations.

Where these coincide with other rail improvements for a corridor the cost of providing additional stations .has been included in the corridor evaluations.

There are six additional stations which are not associated with corridor improvements of which two are planned for construction in 1973-74 at an estimated cost of $0.2m.

In 1975 two new suburban station opened – Kananook outside Frankston, and Yarraman outside Dandenong, followed in 1982 by a third – Ginifer station south of St Albans.

Melbourne Station Rebuilding

Entrance to the 1980s brick station building at Alphington

By the 1970s suburban sprawl had seen what were once country railway stations absorbed into suburban Melbourne, and passenger were finding the facilities lacking.

It is proposed to reconstruct 50 Melbourne suburban railway stations. These stations are timber structures more than 60 years old, many of which were designed to handle peak traffic volumes much less than current day levels. The reconstruction would be designed to complement, where appropriate, modal interchange improvements, and alterations to platforms and facilities required for the provision of additional tracks.

So in the years that followed aging timber buildings were replaced by brown brick bunkers, a process which continued until a growing interest in heritage saw them restored instead of demolished.


The report listed 16 public transport projects – so how many actually happened?

  • completed on time: 5
  • completed, and subsequently improved further: 2
  • completed, but with scope cut: 2
  • delayed but eventually completed: 2
  • delayed and completed after scope cut: 2
  • never started: 3

And a surprising outcome – completed on time, and improved further in the years that followed: 2.

Footnote: public transport patronage in the 1970s

The 1970s was a time of falling rail patronage – cars had already taken over the streets of Melbourne.

In Melbourne the share of journeys to work taken by private vehicles climbed from 19% in 1951 to 69% in 1976. That’s more than a threefold increase in share over 25 years.

On the other hand, public transport’s share of work trips plummeted. It fell from 57% in Melbourne in 1951 to 24% by 1976; walking also halved, from 14% to 6%; and cycling was virtually wiped off the map, collapsing from 9% to 1%.

So the improvements listed above were a belated attempt by the railways to make themselves relevant to the modern world.

When temporary platforms trump permanent stations

Back in 2015 work on removing the Main Road level crossing in St Albans was in full swing, and I noticed a curious situation – the ‘temporary’ St Albans platform 2 was better constructed than many railway stations in Melbourne!

'Temporary' platform in place at St Albans platform 2

The good

The platform was smooth and level, with plenty of room for passengers.

Looking down the 'temporary' St Albans platform 2

With a roof over the seat and a next train display.

Passenger information and signage installed on the temporary St Albans platform 2

And the bad

Albion station has a platform so decrepit it’s been fenced off.

Crumbing section of platform at the down end of Albion platform 2

The brick platform face at Caulfield is cracked.

Cracked brick platform face at Caulfield

At Mont Albert it’s the concrete that is crumbing.

Crumbling concrete platform face at Mont Albert platform 1

Canterbury station is stupidly narrow.

Incredibly narrow platform and crumbling surface at the up end of Canterbury platform 1 and 2

Mont Albert is so narrow the yellow lines merge into one.

Incredibly narrow platform at the up end of Mont Albert platform 2 and 3

The concrete edge at Thornbury is cracking up.

Crumbling platform face at Thornbury station

East Camberwell is covered with lichen.

Lichen covered asphalt at East Camberwell platform 1 and 2

The timber edge at Strathmore has rotten away.

Crumbling platform edge marked for replacement at Strathmore station

Weeds grow through deep cracks at Kensington.

Weeds growing in a crack in the asphalt on the platform at Kensington station

South Kensington once had a yellow line.

Faded yellow line at South Kensington platform 2

With the other side of the platform falling down towards the fence.

Platform subsidence at the back fence of South Kensington station

So why did St Albans need a temporary platform anyway?

St Albans once had three platforms – one for the city, a second for trains towards Watergardens, and a third turnback platform on the western side.

EDI Comeng about to shunt into the siding from St Albans platform 3

To speed the removal of the Main Road level crossing, it was decided to use this extra space on the western side as the site of the new low level St Albans station, allowing trains to continue running through the old station.

The first stage of works saw platform 2 and 3 closed to passengers in October 2015.

Waiting shelters removed from platform 2 and 3

The old platform was cleared over a weekend, with piling works able to proceed while trains were running.

Citybound Sunbury service arrives into St Albans, with grade separation works underway on the opposite side

Steel brackets were then installed along the tracks.

Steel brackets used to support the cantilevered 'temporary' St Albans platform 2

Allowing a cantilevered platform to be opened over the future station site in November 2015.

Cleared land to the west of St Albans platform 2

Excavators then moved in to dig out the new train trench.

Removing dirt from the rail cutting at the up end of the new St Albans station

By August 2016 the new low level platform was visible beneath the temporary one.

Looking down to the platform face taking shape at the new low level St Albans station

The final stage came in October 2016, when the Sunbury line was shut down, and the ground level tracks were removed.

Remnants of the Main Road level crossing still in place

With the new low level St Albans station opening to trains in November 2016.

Down Sunbury service arrives at the new low level St Albans station

And now at Glenroy

The level crossing at Glenroy Road is about to get the chop – and to make room for the construction work, a temporary platform and footbridge have been provided.

A cheaper example

Back in 2007 the station building at Lara was extended.

Extensions to the station building

Requiring part of the platform to be closed to passengers.

Extensions to the station building

A temporary platform extension was provided to compensate for the closed section.

Temporary platform extension at the up end of Lara

But it was a much cheaper affair than St Albans – scaffolding, plywood, and shade cloth.

Temporary platform extension at the up end of Lara

And the ‘temporary’ solution that never went away

Back in 2009 temporary platforms extensions were provided by Queensland Rail at seven railway stations on the Sunshine Coast so that passengers could board six-car long trains.

'Temporary' platform extensions at Palmwoods station on the North Coast line

Six years later the temporary structures were still in use at an annual cost of $288,000.

Photos from ten years ago: February 2011

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is February 2011.

Porno bookshop on Flinders Street, closed down for good?

Rails out west

We start outside Footscray, where I captured a V/Line train sharing the suburban tracks on the way to the city.

N451 leads an up train ex-Geelong out of Footscray

In 2010 it was announced that Regional Rail Link would expand the cutting from four to six tracks, with V/Line trains from Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat moving onto their own tracks in stages between 2014 and 2015.

And a few kilometres away I found route 82 trams passing Highpoint Shopping Centre, where platform stops had recently been built.

Route 82 terminating at the end of the reserved track in Maribyrnong, due to platform stop construction work at the Footscray terminus

A decade on the elderly Z3 class trams still ply the route, forcing intending passengers to climb a flight of stairs to board.

At Southern Cross Station I found The Southern Spirit – a luxury rail cruise train operated by Great Southern Rail around the east coast of Australia, using carriages normally seen on The Ghan.

A shorter train this time: NR51 manages to fit into the platform without fouling the signal

The service ran in January 2010, January 2011 and February 2012 before being discontinued, however it was revived in 2019 as the Great Southern.

Late one night I found this pair of diesel locomotives making their way to Flemington Racecourse, Craigieburn and Williamstown – a driver training run to ensure that the train crew remained qualified on the routes.

Headlights on, T376 ready to depart Williamstown

Works trains continue to run over the Melbourne network, but now operated by Southern Shorthaul Railroad.

And at the Alstom Ballarat factory I found dozens of carriages wrapped in plastic – brand new X’Trapolis suburban trains waiting to be fitted out for use on the Melbourne network.

At least five 3-car X'Trapolis sets waiting fitout at UGR Ballarat

The final X’Trapolis train was delivered in 2020, leaving the Alstom Ballarat plant mothballed.

Building stuff

2011 saw work on the South Morang Rail Extension well underway, featuring the construction of 3.5km double track railway from Epping to South Morang, three new stations, and duplication of 5km of existing single track between Keon Park and Epping,

One night at Keon Park I captured a works train headed out to the works site.

T376 and T369 arrive into Keon Park on the rail train

Loaded with long lengths of freshly welded rail to form the new tracks.

Headed into the occupation towards Epping

Work on the project commenced in June 2010, with the extension to South Morang opening on April 2012.

On the road front, the $48.5 million Kororoit Creek Road duplication project was underway, including the removal of the level crossing at Altona North.

Earthern approach ramp underway at the west end

Work on the project was completed in December 2011.

And $200 million was being spent on the Anthony’s Cutting upgrade to the Western Freeway.

New road overpass at Hopetoun Park Road

Requiring a massive cutting was excavated west of Bacchus Marsh.

New stretch of the Western Freeway, westbound at Hopetoun Park Road

The upgraded freeway opened to traffic in June 2011.

And screw ups

Down at Caroline Springs, work had started on the access road to the future railway station.

Access road under construction to the site of the new station

But that is as far as the project went for years – work on the station was paused until 2015, with the access road needing to be rebuilt to suit the updated plans.

One morning at Ascot Vale I was unable to reach the railway station – the pedestrian subway had flooded!

Flooded subway at Ascot Vale: is it really that hard to maintain drains?

Thankfully newer stations in Melbourne don’t have the same problem – they keep the water off the tracks by pushing it back onto neighbouring streets.

Another day I was down at Yarraville station, where only a level crossing links the platforms. With trains running every 10 minutes the boom gates spend more time down than up, leaving passengers waiting and waiting, as the train they intend to catch prevents them from accessing the platform.

The level crossing finally opens at Yarraville, letting the passengers past

In the years since nothing has changed – there have been campaigns to reopen the pedestrian underpass, but the Level Crossing Removal Authority has no plans to touch the crossing.

And finally – the Siemens train braking saga. A spate of incidents in 2009 saw an investigation launched.

Since its introduction, the Siemens train has been involved in a relatively high number of reported overrun events when compared to other types of train operating on the network. The six platform overruns between 8 February and 3 March 2009 suggested that systemic issues remained unresolved and triggered this investigation.

The chosen fix – equipment to drop sand on the tracks.

Sandbox, control equipment and discharge hose beneath a Siemens train

The equipment was first trialled in March 2010, with installation across the fleet commencing in September 2010. By June 2011 the roll-out was complete, and speed restrictions removed.

A few buses

A decade ago bus routes still ran down Flinders Street in the Melbourne CBD.

Route 605 was one of them.

Eastrans #126 rego 8016AO at the route 605 terminus at Flinders Street Station

rerouted in 2017 to travel via Queen Street and Flagstaff station, as part of a package of changes made due to Metro Tunnel works at Domain Interchange.

And the other was route 238.

National Bus #545 rego 5841AO on a route 238 service along Flinders Street beside the Viaduct

The route was discontinued in 2014, replaced by route 235, 237, 234 and 236 services between Fishermans Bend and the CBD.

And finally… ding ding!

In 2011 retired W class tram SW6.969 was converted into a bar and parked outside the Arts Centre.

SW6.969 converted in a bar, located outside the Arts Centre

It reappeared every summer as ‘Tram Bar’ until it was closed permanently in January 2015.


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

Level crossings replacing level crossings

It might seem strange, but as the Level Crossing Removal Project separates road and rail across Melbourne’s railway network, a new kind of level crossing is appearing in their place for a specific purpose – road rail access pads for maintenance vehicles.

Siemens 780M on the up at Corrigan Road, Noble Park

Road–rail vehicles

Many different kinds of road–rail vehicle exist, ready to assist with every kind of construction or maintenance task.

RFW all-wheel-drive overhead line maintenance truck, outside Altona station during an occupation

Trucks to transport materials to work sites.

Hi-rail work platforms working on the overhead wires on the Glen Waverley line at Burnley

Some able to drag a ‘train’ of wagons.

John Holland hi rail Unimog tows a 'train' of wagons loaded with overhead gantries at Sunshine

Excavators for digging.

Excavator digging out the old road surface at the Station Street level crossing at North Shore


Hi-rail excavator transports a pile cap to a freshly bored overhead stanchion hole

Tamping ballast.

Hi-rail excavator mounted tamping attachment

Unloading sleepers.

Unloading an 8-pack of concrete sleepers

And laying them.

Relaying the track at North Melbourne platform 1

Big tip trucks to deliver ballast.

Backhoe loading ballast into the hi-rail truck at North Shore

And small.

Hi-rail excavator loads a hi-rail dump truck with fresh ballast from a works train

Piling rigs to bore foundations.

Boring a hole for a new overhead stanchion at Albion

Cranes to put in the overhead stanchions.

Erecting additional overhead stanchions at the up end of Sunshine station

Cherrypickers to reach the overhead wires.

Hi-rail truck at work readying the overhead for trains south of Ginifer station

Along with boom lifts.

Hi-rail boom lift working on the overhead wiring on the up line at West Footscray

4WDs refitted for weed spraying.

Nissan Patrol hi-rail spraying weeds along the ARTC tracks at Sunshine

Testing level crossings.

Hi Rail on the up at Lardners Track, Warragul

Using ultrasonic sensors to look for rail flaws.

Speno ultrasonic rail tester truck FL17 and accompanying hi-rail 4WD on the goods line at Brooklyn

Trucks to chip trees.

Chopping down trees from the railway cutting near Malvern

And suck up gunk.

Suction excavator removing ballast at Darling station

Even tunnels aren’t enough to keep them away.

Hi-rail truck with cherry picker parked in the Burnley Loop tunnel at Parliament station

So how do they get onto the tracks?

Traditionally road rail vehicles would just head to the nearest level crossing, turn 90 degrees to line up with the tracks, and lower their rail wheels.

Putting down the rail wheels

But level crossing removals mean access points are few and far between.

Tracks still in place beneath the new elevated tracks at Moreland Road

Sometimes gravel will be dumped across the tracks to provide access to a worksite.

Ballast provides as access point to the work site at West Footscray

Allowing heavy equipment to access the rail corridor.

Dump truck removes another load of old ballast from the Middle Footscray work site

But the long term solution is “Road Rail Vehicle Access Pads” – level crossings to nowhere.

Hi-rail access pad on the Clifton Hill Group tracks at Richmond Junction

Essendon received one after the level crossing removal at Buckley Street.

Hi-rail access pad at the down end of Essendon

As did the Sunbury line between Ginifer and St Albans station following the upgrades there.

Hi-rail track machine access pad between Ginifer and St Albans station

And the brand new Mernda line extension doesn’t have any level crossings, so needed them too.

Hi-rail access pad outside the Mernda stabling yard

With the list of locations growing each time a level crossing is removed.

But there’s one problem

Ballast piled up between the rails can cause another problem – derailments.

Prohibition of Ballast Pad Hi-Rail Access Points

On the 9th January, 2019 an incident occurred where a tamper derailed as it passed through a ballast pad. Due to this incident and combined with the inability to inspect the Track Asset beneath the ballast (which is a requirement of the Track Technical Maintenance Plan), a number of measures require implementation.

Effective immediately:
– The construction of new ballast pads is prohibited across the MTM network;
– A plan for the removal of ALL existing ballast pads across the MTM network will be compiled by Infrastructure;
– All new hi-rail access points must have their construction type and methodology agreed by the Track & Structures Delivery Manager for all locations.

And asphalt between the rails makes inspecting the trackbed impossible.

Due to track conditions below the Curtin Street road-rail vehicle access pad at Ch.16.818km between Ginifer and St. Albans, a restriction on the speed of trains has been applied through the affected location.

In order to return train traffic to line speed, Infrastructure are required to remove the asphalt in situ at the RRV pad in order to perform rectification work.

In accordance with L1-CHE-INS-079, MTM Design Practice Note Road-Rail Vehicle Access Pads, section 6. vii. – Infrastructure will not return this RRV pad to an asphalt construction but instead utilise type-approved removable panels.

As the type-approved removable panels require procurement, there will be a period of time between when the geometry rectification works are completed and the access pad is returned to use for RRV access.

The geometry rectification works are planned for 25/08/2019 and the removable panels will be available for installation in late November.

So existing access pads have had to be upgraded.

New hi-rail access pad replaces gravel at North Melbourne Junction

Using the same rubber panels used at level crossings.

Hi-rail access pad covers three of six tracks at North Melbourne Junction

Network upgrades never end!