From June 6th, metropolitan trains will run to new timetables. While most lines will get tweaked, the Frankston and Dandenong/Cranbourne/Pakenham lines are getting a shake-up, with numerous changes, particularly in peak hours. These and some other lines will get extra services.
The changes allow more trains to run, and Metro and the government say it will improve reliability and cut crowding.
How will it affect Frankston line passengers?
Most peak-hour Frankston line trains will run to one of two patterns:
- all stations (some trains originating at Carrum) to/from the City Loop
- express Cheltenham to Caulfield, Malvern to South Yarra, Richmond, then direct to Flinders Street
If you currently use Cheltenham to Caulfield express trains you will need to consider your options, depending on your destination.
If you use Flinders Street, the changes will save you about nine minutes each way.
If your destination is within 2-3 blocks of Flinders Street, you may wish to walk from there instead of using a loop station. Some trains will also serve Southern Cross, but check the timetable. You may also be able to use a tram from Flinders Street.
If you’re headed to Melbourne University, the hospital precinct or St Kilda Road, you may wish to stay on the train and change at Flinders Street, rather than travel via Melbourne Central. For St Kilda Road, you’ll find you save a few minutes. For the University/Hospital precincts, because it is quicker to exit Flinders Street than Melbourne Central, you may find the overall time difference is minimal.
If you need to use one of the underground stations, you can catch a stopping train, or if you catch an express you may need to change trains. For Parliament and Melbourne Central it will be quickest to change at Richmond — there are loop trains operating every minute or two from Dandenong (platform 5), Ringwood and Glen Waverley (platform 8), though Metro has warned that these trains may be crowded.
For Flagstaff, it may be easiest to change to platform 1 at Flinders Street, for a train running clockwise around the loop. You can also use this option for Melbourne Central and Parliament, if crowding on trains at Richmond is too bad. (Note that a connection from Flagstaff back to Flinders Street is not available in the evening peak; you will need to travel via Richmond.)
For Southern Cross, some trains will continue from Flinders Street to Southern Cross. If yours does not, you can change to platform 1 or platform 5 at Flinders Street. (Some evening trains will start at Southern Cross and run through to Frankston, but check the timetable and the displays at Southern Cross and at Flinders Street.)
Other Frankston line changes
Outside peak hours, all Frankston trains will stop between Malvern and South Yarra. They will also stop at these stations on weekends, providing a 10 minute service for Armadale, Toorak and Hawksburn.
How will it affect Dandenong line passengers?
Peak-hour stopping patterns between Dandenong and Caulfield are changing.
- Most trains originating at Cranbourne, Berwick or Dandenong will stop all stations to Caulfield, then run express to South Yarra and then via the loop
- Most trains originating at Pakenham will run express from Dandenong, stopping at Noble Park, Sandown Park, Springvale, Oakleigh, Caulfield and South Yarra, and then via the loop
On weekdays between the peaks, most trains will run express between Malvern and South Yarra.
What’s changing on other lines?
Coolaroo Station is opening on the Craigieburn line, and that line will get a couple of extra services, and some service times modified.
The Hurstbridge line will get some extra services on weekday evenings.
Most other lines (including V/Line) have minor changes, so it’s worth checking the new timetables.
Why are they doing this?
Metro and the government say that these changes will help run more trains on the Frankston and Dandenong/Cranbourne/Pakenham lines; that it will reduce overcrowding; and that it will improve punctuality.
They are also cutting the number of stopping patterns, to make the timetables easier to understand, and more reliable. And at most stations the frequencies between trains will be more even, to help with overcrowding.
The new timetable adds seven extra services per day in peak hours to the Frankston line (three in the morning, four in the evening), and seven on the Dandenong/Cranbourne/Pakenham lines (two in the morning, five in the evening). Bear in mind not all extra trains will serve all stations.
Why are Frankston line passengers being singled out?
Loop capacity is limited, with one tunnel currently being shared by almost all trains on the Caulfield lines. The Loop was originally designed with the intent of running only about half of all trains through it, with the rest running direct to Flinders Street.
The government and Metro say that twice as many passengers use the Dandenong line compared to the Frankston line, which is why they have chosen some Frankston line trains to bypass the loop.
Express and stopping trains on the Frankston line have to be carefully timed, so that the expresses can overtake on the extra track between Moorabbin and Caulfield. At present, Metro considers this timing is best achieved by running the express trains direct to/from Flinders Street.
Other lines that run direct to Flinders Street in peak hours include the Sandringham line, Werribee line, Alamein line and Blackburn trains.
The change to more consistent stopping patterns also means that stations between Highett and Glenhuntly will lose most of their morning peak express trains. This means some morning trips will be about three minutes longer. In the case of Bentleigh passengers who currently catch the 8:06 and 8:17 expresses, the trip may be up to seven minutes longer.
Will it fix punctuality and overcrowding?
It is true that the Frankston and Dandenong/Cranbourne/Pakenham lines are some of the worst for punctuality on the network. Department of Transport figures for the twelve months to April 2010 show the Pakenham line is the worst (only 74.9% of trains arrive within 5 minutes of schedule), followed by Frankston (75.3%), Werribee (80.4%), and Cranbourne (82.7%).
Those lines also have some of the worst overcrowding on the network, in part because the old timetable makes poor use of CBD track capacity.
Given the inconvenience for some passengers caused by these changes, the PTUA will be watching closely to see if the promised improvements eventuate.
Who can I complain to about these changes?
If the operator’s response is not to your satisfaction, you can also complain to the Public Transport Ombudsman.