To combat continuing confusion over operation of the City Loop, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has released a series of maps explaining how it works.
Outgoing PTUA President Daniel Bowen said that both occasional and regular passengers had been baffled by the Loop for more than 30 years since its original opening in 1981.
“The loop is actually four separate rail tunnels, with trains running one way during the morning, most reversing direction during the afternoon, and a yet another pattern on weekends. There are also variations outside peak hours on weekdays. All in all, it’s a confusing mess.”
Mr Bowen said the loop’s lunchtime reversal on weekdays was an anachronism. “It’s all designed to cater for the Jolimont stabling yards – which no longer exist.
“It not only causes confusion, it also means long gaps of up to 28 minutes at underground stations at lunchtime – when more people could be using the Loop to travel around the CBD and avoid packed trams.”
The loop’s current configuration also means it’s impossible to travel from the underground stations to Flinders Street or Southern Cross stations on weekday afternoons, playing havoc with passengers trying to make connections onto V/Line services or Skybus.
Mr Bowen said it was time the operation of the City Loop was reviewed and simplified.
“In the meantime, we hope these maps at least go some way to demystifying the Loop”, he said.
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 The PTUA’s maps are available at www.ptua.org.au/tips/loop
The maps were inspired by “Zen and the Art of the City Loop”, a series of maps first published online in the 1990s, but not updated to take account of recent changes. http://www.railmaps.com.au/cityloop.htm
 Perhaps the most confusing line is the Laverton/Altona Loop line, with three distinct operating patterns. In peak hour they have trains direct to Southern Cross and Flinders Street only, bypassing the underground stations in the loop. On weekdays off-peak they run shuttles from Laverton to Newport, making people change trains to reach the city, and again to get to the underground stations. On weekends they have trains that run all the way to the city, via the underground loop.
The Glen Waverley, Alamein and Frankston lines are also very confusing, with loop and direct trains running at different times of the week, and in different directions around the loop depending on the time of day.