From November, Werribee trains will not run via the loop in peak hours, and Epping/Hurstbridge line trains will run permanently clockwise through the loop. These changes will allow more trains to run. And daytime trains on almost all lines will run as 6 carriages from late-April. (See links to details, below.)
Why is the PTUA supporting these changes?
We all know train overcrowding is now rife on many lines. More train services are needed to relieve this. But the way the City Loop currently runs doesn’t allow a big boost to services. The loop was designed so that only about half of all trains would run through it, and present-day capacity constraints stem from the loop being run in a way its original planners did not intend.
By changing loop operations, and running some trains direct to Flinders Street, more services can be run, relieving overcrowding and cutting waiting times. While only a few extra services are being added in November, this change means more can be added as the extra trains come into service from 2009.
The extra services mean that, while some passengers might face a slightly longer trip, others will save time, and overcrowding and waiting times will be reduced. And these changes can be made quickly, without big spending on infrastructure.
I travel on the Clifton Hill lines. How will my journey be affected?
From November, Epping and Hurstbridge line trains will run clockwise via the loop, all day.
We understand that Connex is working to minimise any delays at Flinders Street, and we expect morning trips around the loop to Parliament to be about 8 minutes longer than at present. Passengers for Melbourne Central should see only about an extra 5 minutes added, and to Flagstaff will be an extra minute or two. Southern Cross should be about the same.
The change will be fairer to passengers going to Flinders Street (the most popular CBD station), who are currently forced to travel the long way around both in the AM and PM peak.
Current passengers for Parliament may find it easier to change at Jolimont onto a tram up Wellington Parade. And some passengers who currently use the underground stations may find it quicker and easier to use Flinders Street or Southern Cross instead.
Importantly, the change will result in an extra train on each of the Epping and Hurstbridge lines in the morning peak, and scope for more to be added later, as well as reducing delays at Jolimont.
I travel on the Werribee line. How will my journey be affected?
From November, Werribee trains will not run via the loop during peak periods, instead running directly to/from Southern Cross and Flinders Street.
Werribee line passengers headed for Southern Cross Station will save about 10 minutes off their trips. Those heading for Flinders Street will save 1-2 minutes off their trips.
Some passengers who currently use the underground stations may find it quicker and easier to use Flinders Street or Southern Cross instead. Passengers heading for the University/Hospital precinct will save time by changing at North Melbourne to the 401 express shuttle bus, which runs from 7am to 7pm, and every 3 minutes in peak hours.
Those who still need to get to the underground stations will be able to change trains at North Melbourne (which is being upgraded to make this easier) or at Southern Cross (in the morning, where trains from Clifton Hill going around the loop should have plenty of space), or onto an eastbound 48 or 75 tram at Flinders Street (which will take you along Flinders Street to Spring Street, close to Parliament Station).
And because there will be more trains direct from North Melbourne to Southern Cross, some passengers from other lines may find it quicker to change from loop trains onto direct trains at North Melbourne.
The alteration will allow two extra services on the Werribee and Sydenham lines in the morning peak, and scope for more to be added later, which will reduce crowding and waiting times, and the change in operation will cut delays at North Melbourne.
The government has also announced an extra platform at Laverton. Once constructed, Altona trains will start at Laverton, with all peak hour Werribee trains running direct between Laverton and Newport, which should make up for any extra travel time passengers might spend changing for city loop stations.
What else is changing?
From late-April, 6-car trains will run on most lines throughout the day, until at least 7pm. This will relieve current crowding on some lines between the peak periods, and is something the PTUA has been campaigning on. Stony Point trains will be run with Sprinters, and will have a new timetable, with more services. And a number of extra services will be provided on various lines, and some minor modifications to times.
From November, apart from the changes in loop operation, some more extra services will be provided.
And next year the government is saying there will be boosts to off-peak services, though we are yet to see the details of this.
Where can I read full details of the changes?
In conclusion, the PTUA was consulted on, and supports these changes. While some passengers will have a slightly longer train journey, others will save time, and overall the extra services provided in November and into the future will ease overcrowding and cut waiting times.
Updated 20/5/2008: Laverton turn-back (extra platform).