Melbourne’s Sunday trains arrive late – timetable needs shake-up

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has found in a comparison study that — measured by first train time — Melbourne has some of the worst Sunday morning train services in Australia.

“Our trains start too late, and are too infrequent on Sundays”, said PTUA President Daniel Bowen.

The PTUA compared train timetables from across the country and found that Melbourne’s earliest trains into the CBD arrive later than anywhere else in Australia except Adelaide.

Median first arrival times are Sydney 5:11am, Brisbane 6:48am, Perth 7:39am, Adelaide 8:38am and Melbourne 7:56am.[1]

“First trains arriving around 8am into Melbourne’s CBD causes a lot of problems for those working on Sunday, particularly shift workers and those in the hospitality industry, many of whom need to start work earlier.

“The train system waking up at 8am might have made sense in the 1950s, but it doesn’t in 2011.”

Mr Bowen said the trains’ late start played havoc with Melbourne’s special events calendar. “Big city events such as the Melbourne Marathon have been forced to advise thousands of participants that ‘public transport is not an option’ because they start at 7am. This causes untold traffic chaos.”[2]

Mr Bowen said another example was the City 2 Bay event, which started later in the morning at 8:30am, but flagged on its web site that due to train timetables, ‘time will be tight for dropping off your bags, making a toilet stop then getting to the start line’, and suggested people instead drive and park at Etihad Stadium.[3]

“Is this really the best we can do for sports-mad Melburnians?”, said Mr Bowen. “Tell them that for getting to CBD events, public transport can’t do it, and they’ll have to battle the traffic instead? This is what trains should excel at.”[4]

Mr Bowen said that poor frequencies on Sundays also led to overcrowding and long waits for trains across the day.[5]

“Trains only run every 30 to 40 minutes for most of Sunday morning, and also on Sunday nights – and the result is long waits and overcrowding.[6] Why should someone wait 40 minutes for a train and then find they can’t even get a seat? Even the 20 minute Sunday afternoon services are now overloaded on many lines.”

Mr Bowen called for an immediate shake-up of Sunday timetables, and said that the new Public Transport Development Authority, once operating, should review weekend and holiday timetables, and ensure that services met Melbourne’s needs, with earlier services on Sundays and more frequent trains, trams and buses to cope with weekend shopping and sporting crowds and to help people get around the city and suburbs.

“It’s time we had public transport that met Melbourne’s needs in the 21st century”, concluded Mr Bowen.

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[1] We compared train timetables for all capital cities in Australia with suburban train services. Services that do not run on Sundays were excluded, as were Melbourne’s Stony Point line and V/Line suburban services. First arrivals may not serve all stations. We have been generous to Melbourne and used the first CBD/loop station. For other cities we have counted the main CBD station/terminus, even if the first train called at other CBD stations first. We did not compare train frequencies, but see point 6.

[2] Melbourne Marathon web site, 2010

[3] City 2 Bay, January 2011: http://www.city2bay.com.au/Event/Transport.aspx

“Tight Train Times: Our research tells us that most trains arrive at Southern Cross Station between 7.50am and 8.10am, so time will be tight for dropping off your bags, making a toilet stop then getting to the start line.”

[4] http://weightloss.com.au/events/melbourne-events.html This list of fun runs includes eleven this year that start in inner-Melbourne on Sunday at or before 9am

[5] Sunday train overcrowding

[6] The Sandringham, Hurstbridge, Epping, Upfield, Craigieburn, Sydenham, Werribee and Williamstown lines run every 40 minutes on Sundays until about 10:30am. Other lines run every 30 minutes. All lines run every 20 minutes until about 7pm.

After 7pm, the Epping, Hurstbridge, Lilydale, Belgrave, Glen Waverley and Alamein lines run every 40 minutes, with last trains around 11:30pm. Other lines run every 20-30 minutes until about midnight.