Alternatives to Eddington Part 1B – Western Suburbs Service Standard

I’ve noticed that in my recent post on alternatives to Eddington’s plan that I failed to have a good look at the service standard for the western lines. The need for a better service standard was the key reason for the works I was proposing, but for some strange reason I neglected to spell them out properly.

My views on service frequency have changed somewhat over the last few months. If you’d asked me 6 months ago what I thought the service level on Northern Group lines should be, I would have said that 6 trains per hour would be an acceptable off-peak frequency, with the exception of Williamstown with 5 tph. However, the more of Riccardo’s blog I read, the more convinced I am that at train every 10 minutes may not be enough for the busy lines. Below is what I’ve been thinking about for the western suburbs.

I’m not entirely happy with the result – I still don’t know what do to about services to Melton and Sunbury. If the northern loop can take 22 tph, and Craigieburn is taking up 10 tph, then there’s 12 tph available to Sunshine, and 6 tph towards Melton and Sunbury. If electrification were to occur to Melton and Sunbury, I’d run 6 tph to Sydenham and Ravenhall, and maybe only 2-3 tph beyond that to Melton and Sunbury. I’m hoping a S-Bahn frequency Ravenhall line would take some pressure off Sydenham-Sunshine. Here’s what I’m thinking of:

I just don’t know whether 6 tph is going to be good enough between Sydenham and Sunshine, or whether simplicity of operation alone justifies electrifying all the way to Melton if it stays a satellite town. I’d be really interested to hear some alternatives. Riccardo’s GO Transit style alternative has a lot of merit, and it’s another 16.5 kilometres from Ravenhall to Melton, so electrification could be costly and the line probably wants duplication as well.

I sense everyone is getting a bit sick of Eddington, so next post I promise I’ll look into something more interesting – I was thinking rail to Chadstone and Monash.

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7 Responses

  1. Oh and I should point out that the Craigieburn line can handle a train every 6 minutes in my plan, because in my fantasy land the north east would be standard gauge and all V/Line trains would run via the Albion-Jacana line. With the prospect of Seymour-Albury going to SG this year, I suppose that’s not such a crazy assumption. Seymour commuter and Shepparton trains will probably stay BG, but if the Albion-Jacana line is converted to DG double track then it could carry them as well.

  2. I have to say, as a Sunshine boy, that even trains every ten minutes would be humongously appreciated.

  3. The next challenge is a reliable method of deriving the service standard from other factors than “apparent” demand (because supplier-induced demand exists, and because of externalities) – these other factors are population based.

    This is the difference between a new metro and a legacy commuter railway like Melbourne has – there is double track at Officer and it can handle a 3 minute headway, but it is hard to see the population out there needing one. But there is a single track railway at Seaholme when it is clear there should be better.

    If I took a stab at deriving a western suburbs service standard based on population, known movements and so on, I would suggest all lines on the double track sections should have 6 minute turn-up-and-go 18/7/365, and the single track sections should be whatever they can reliably handle. It might mean going back to the Gowrie/Upfield split until double track can be put in.

    Shuttle services could also be put in to make that easier, for example, run Willy and Altona as shuttles. Where’s a good double-ended Tait when you need one?

    The one exception I would put is Melton – because there is no significant pedshed except perhaps Ardeer. Melton isn’t really Melton, the township is some distance away. So is Deer Park and Caroline Springs. Rockbank, for the moment, is a whistlestop.

    Any increase in patronage on these lines would be park and ride – this is just reality.

    Much of Caroline Springs would find a bus run direct to the city more straight forward, and the northern part is closer to Sydenham, which would have a better service.

    If a significant weight of urban density was plonked onto the rail corridor, deliberatly, a better service might be a goer. In the mean time I would go for GO-style, focus on getting loads of commuters who have left their cars at the stations into the city. No stops except Sunshine to let a few off.

    The couple of midday sprinters on that section would cater for those who had to go back to their cars in the middle of the day eg kids unexpected sick at school. The sprinter could be a shuttle from Sunshine.

    I’ve never thought running the Vlines via Albion was a problem. Makes perfect sense. Not like there’s much broad gauge freight on the route (or standard for that matter, a goodly proportion having been left in the Somerton area).

    If they could sit on 115kms or more they would probably beat the other route, even though it’s further. And don’t make the interchange Broady, make it Cragieburn, where you’ve presumably got more room to put in cross platform swaps.

  4. Thanks Yosh and Riccardo. While a train every 10 minutes is no doubt a big improvement off peak, I think we should strive to do even better. A train every 6 minutes is probably about as often as Melbourne suburban should run (except for places like beyond Ringwood, Dandenong etc.), but if demand exceeds capacity @6 minutes, run more trains. When we get into metro building, run them every 3 minutes where possible.

    Agree there’s not much point upgrading the Melton line to suburban frequency unless there’s some more substantial development. That’s sort of what I was thinking with my Ravenhall line idea – get some higher density development around all the stations and then it might be justified. Otherwise the money is probably better spent getting the Sydenham line fixed and upgrading feeder bus services.

  5. When is the part 2 (Caufield) of this comming out?

  6. Great ideas, great reading you two. I’ve got nothing to add…

  7. Hi Tom, I just posted part 2 (of sorts) – Riccardo’s Pakenham series is also definitely worth reading.

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