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July 2005 Newsletter

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Is a $1b third track to Dandenong really needed?

The state budget included some $25 million in spending in preparatory work for a third track from Caulfield to Dandenong. This is often cited by the government as the number one priority in rail infrastructure in Melbourne.

But the provision of the third track will come at an astronomical price, with some predictions putting it as high as a billion dollars. For that amount of money, rail extensions could be built to reach suburbs that currently have no rail service at all, such as South Morang, Doncaster and Rowville, and fixing lines that still have only one track.

While the PTUA agrees the Dandenong line is seeing daily overcrowding and action needs to be taken, we believe that lowercost alternatives to the third track must be considered. Some solutions might include:

Spreading the passenger load

Overcrowding occurs mostly during peak hour. One of the reasons for this is that commuters to the CBD from distant suburbs beyond Dandenong want to get home as quickly as possible by using peak express trains. But most expresses stop running at 6pm. By running expresses over longer hours, more 9-5 commuters would be encouraged to vary their hours.

Commuters in some areas are also limited by operating hours or poor frequencies of feeder buses. These should be enhanced to allow those using buses to reach the trains to travel over wider hours.

People are also encouraged to travel in peak hour because of the high frequencies. Enhancing evening frequencies, say running trains at least every 15 minutes until 9pm weeknights, would further spread the load.

A number of Frankston line passengers use Dandenong line services to reach Caulfield, often overtaking their Mordialloc trains. Running more Frankston services may reduce this.

Reducing dwell times

One of the causes of capacity limitations is the time spent waiting at stations, particularly in the city loop, which sees large numbers of both trains and passengers. Measures to reduce dwell times would help:

  • Providing platform staff at CBD and busy stations such as Caulfield during peak hour would help by speeding up wheelchair loading and unloading, and assisting drivers by signalling that they are clear to depart.

  • More or improved platform CCTV would also help drivers depart quickly.

  • Exit of crowds from platforms (thus moving clear of the train) could be aided by re-instating ?Stand on left? signs on underground station escalators, and removing remaining (unused) barriers in suburban station doorways.

  • An education campaign encouraging people to walk behind the yellow line (particularly at stations like Parliament where large numbers of people leave via one of two end-of-platform exits) would also help speed departure.

  • Passenger bottlenecks such as the Richmond centre subway should be reviewed and improvements made.

Signalling and passing loops

Signalling between the city and Dandenong should be enhanced to allow for at least a train every two minutes.

Stopping patterns should be reviewed to ensure maximum train throughput.

It is not uncommon to see freight trains at peak hours. Priority must be given to passenger trains.

Locations where passing loops (preferably in both directions) can be provided at low cost should be identified.

Providing alternatives

All V/Line trains should stop at Richmond to ensure those passengers to not unnecessarily use Dandenong metropolitan trains.

Operator on-time penalties on lines at capacity should be relaxed at peak times, to ensure all capacity is used. For instance if scheduled services are every 5 minutes or better, delivery of frequent services is more important than timekeeping, so late-running penalties could be reduced if they arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.

The new Dandenong Road/Wellington Road SmartBus should have full traffic priority and peak frequencies better than every 10 minutes, to provide a viable alternative to some train passengers between Caulfield and Huntingdale.

Trams feeding from Dandenong line stations should have traffic priority, so St Kilda Road passengers have an alternative to travelling via the city.

Conclusion

These measures (and we are sure there are others) would go a long way to fixing the present chronic overcrowding on the Dandenong line. Some of these also apply to other lines.

All such alternatives must be considered before we commit to spending hundreds of millions of dollars and unleashing untold disruption building a third track to Dandenong.

Last Modified: 6 October 2005