Why can't Vline trains depart at the same platform at Southern Cross each time?

 
  beanzs27 Assistant Commissioner

For example why couldn't all Seymour trains depart platform 1&2, Bendigo 3&4, Ballarat 5&6 and Geelong 7&8. Similar to how Merto trains depart the same platforms at Southern Cross.

Would make it easier when arriving at Southern Cross to know that if I'm going to Bendigo I only have to go to platform 3 or 4 rather than having to find out.

Is this practical?

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  ab123 Chief Train Controller

Not really. For example if a Traralgon arrival forms a Bendigo, to get to from platform 14 to 4, at the moment it would have to go to either Kensington or Essendon to get to platform 4. There are many other factors as well.
  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.
What about when RRL opens? Would it be possible to have all Geelong and Gippsland trains using platforms 15/16?
  kuldalai Chief Commissioner

After RRL is open and complete it should be possible to depart trains largely from a set group of platforms for each line Group .

Arriving trains is not so easy as a Ballarat or Bendigo arrival may well form a Geelong departure.  But for departures YES set platforms of departure should be possible after RRL and far more passenger friendly .
  beanzs27 Assistant Commissioner

Arrival platform is not that important as departure platform from Southern Cross.
  712M Chief Commissioner

Traralgon departures on weekends (especially footy and race days) can be very unpredictable. On weekdays all trains depart from 13, but on a weekend they can depart from 8B or 8 South so V/Line can save on dead running to Kensington to turn around, but they can also be seen departing from 12 as well as the usual 13. V/Line usually play an announcement to advise of platform changes when boarding commences, but if one rocks up on platform 13 a few minutes before departure time only to find that their train isn't on the board, it's a very long run to 8 South which results in pax missing their service.

Hopefully when 15/16 comes on line this will see all Gippsland trains depart from there as well as all DMU Geelong trains. I noticed that the signage has been altered on the platforms to indicate 15A, 15B, 16A and 16B which would suggest that trains will be able to shunt "on top" of each other.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
As always the operations are managed to suit the railway and not the passenger.  It happens almost anywhere in the world.  There are valid operational reasons why trains cannot always use the same platform for the same service group but in most cases it's possible with a little thought to use the same small grouping of platforms.

Clearly all SG trains must use 1 or 2 which means everything to Albury or Sydney and the occasional train to Adelaide.  It may be possible to have all Seymour and Shepparton trains also using 1, 2 (or 3 if necessary) which places them in the same part of the station.  To maintain some flexibility platforms 3 - 7, which are all more or less in the same part of the station served by the same approach routes, could be used for the Bendigo and Ballarat lines with 8 acting as relief capacity.  The new platforms 15 and 16 would cope with most Geelong and Gippsland line departures but perhaps not all.  

Rolling stock utilisation is at a premium and for many years to come VLP will still require the services of loco-hauled sets which also therefore have to be run round in dock platforms or have a second locomotive provided for the outbound service.  Dudley Street will continue to be used for cleaning and servicing with a myriad shunt moves required between its numerous sidings and shed roads and the several country platforms of the station.  It may not be practicable to get sets from Dudley Street over to 15 or 16 meaning some Gippsland trips might need to depart from 8 or Geelong trains from 1-8.  Track capacity, including conflicts with Metro services, may mean there are times when it isn't possible to bring a train into the ideal platform for its next departure.

There should however be no reason why grouping of platforms to service patterns cannot be worked towards even if it means your train might be on 6 at one time and on 4 at another.  But any given departure should always leave from the same platform under normal circumstances.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
For example why couldn't all Seymour trains depart platform 1&2, Bendigo 3&4, Ballarat 5&6 and Geelong 7&8. Similar to how Merto trains depart the same platforms at Southern Cross.

Would make it easier when arriving at Southern Cross to know that if I'm going to Bendigo I only have to go to platform 3 or 4 rather than having to find out.

Is this practical?
beanzs27
This is the reason there are easily read destination monitors at all the main entrances to the station.
  Revenue Chief Commissioner

This is the reason there are easily read destination monitors at all the main entrances to the station.
"The Vinelander"


I'm going to disagree that they are easily read. In fact, I think they are actually pretty bad from a customer perspective. Having consistency for customers is obviously a worthy outcome, and it is certainly worthwhile trying to achieve this if possible.  Yes, there are operational issues, but as rollingstock becomes more consistent (eg. less loco hauled), then it should become easier.
  Revenue Chief Commissioner

A couple of thoughts:

- There are inconsistencies between how V/Line refers to their lines and the screens. For example, a customer might know they are on the Geelong Line or the Ballarat Line, but might not realise that the service to Marshall or Wendoree is for them. Potentially confusing.

- The ordering of the information (which I think is by departure time) assumes that a customer knows what time their train will depart (eg. it assumes you know the service you want to catch is at 2.24pm - makes it harder if you don't know what train you are going for)

- It gets even more confusing for some intercity trains - a passenger for Bendigo might have no idea that the Swan Hill service is for them, and might instead look for Bendigo (and see a later service). A possible solution to this might have been to call the train Bendigo/Swan Hill for example.

So there are lots of ways that customer information at Southern Cross could be dramatically improved, particuarly for occasional users.
  jjd76au Train Controller

Location: Kilmore East
It's not that hard to just check the scoreboard & see where you have to go.
  Revenue Chief Commissioner

Any V/Line staff want to comment on how often customers ask them questions because they can't work out from the boards which platform to go to?   Smile
My personal view is that I don't regard the information on the boards as being intuitive for an occasional user.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
For my money KISS applies.

Passenger information should be displayed in such a way that it is readily apparent to and easily understood by those who may require it.  Many users are not daily travellers and as REvenue states might not be aware that a train going to Swan Hill (for example) is also the next departure for Bendigo.

The complete stopping pattern should be listed clearly along with the departure platform (as soon as it is known) and any other conditions (such as "Unreserved seats are only available in Coach D") at the main points of entry to the station.  These can then be repeated on smaller displays at the platform entrance for confirmation.

The layout of Southern Cross does not lend itself to a single large departures board across the barrier line as is found at some terminals; there are multiple points of entry and entirely different access routes to the distinct platform groups (1 - 8 and 9 - 16).  It is of value to regular users to have their trains departing from the same platform(s) at all times of day but this makes no difference to the occasional user who will be seeking information as they enter the station rather than using "acquired knowledge" or force of habit to locate their train.

The ultimate destination of the train needs to be identified clearly.  This is how the train is announced.  "The 5.30pm to Swan Hill" (to continue with the example used) "departs from platform 6"  followed by all calling points is unambiguous.  Suggesting it is the "Bendigo and Swan Hill train" could be relevant in cases where portions divide en route  though "Ararat and Echuca" would be a better example here.
  712M Chief Commissioner

Even more confusing is the weekend afternoon Wendouree/Maryborough train that divides at Ballarat.
  Revenue Chief Commissioner

This is actually a really important issue, particuarly with myki about to go live on V/Line services.

There are many metropolitan passengers who don't use V/Line services because it all seems too complex. I talk with a number of customers and there is a wide spread belief  in the metropolitan area that in order to travel on V/Line services you need to have a seat reservation, and go through a relatively complex process to obtain a ticket.

When customers can touch on/touch off anywhere in the interurban area it will remove one of the barriers to increased usage of V/Line services by Metro passengers (and probably more than a few regional passengers).

Customers in Melbourne travelling to regional Victoria can obtain a 'ticket' anywhere (e.g. they can top up at any 7-Eleven, etc..), with the only issue about how to educate customers how much money they need on their card.

The removal of the ticketing barrier (eg. one system) means that it will bring issues like customer information (screens at Southern Cross, availability of timetables, etc..) to the fore.

When a customer walks up from, say, platform 9 at Southern Cross, how will they work out which platform to go to?  Does the signage support this? How user friendly is it? If a customer just knows they want to go to, say Ballarat, how do they know the Wendoree or Ararat or Maryborough services are for them?  Who can they ask? What signs are provided? etc...

This is definitely an area where more work is required to make it as good as possible.
  XAM2175 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Glasgow
The Metropolitan PID system at SSS is no better.

The simplest solution is probably some sort of summary summary board, similar to the Major Destinations boards at the underground stations. They're a great convenience  and I desperately want to see similar at FSS too.

Working from that, I'd probably look to shift the summary PID boards (at major entrances) to a group concept - one or two lines per screen, "NEXT TRAIN TO:
Melton, Pl. 5, 33 mins / Ballarat, Pl. 5, 33 mins / Ararat, Pl. 8S, 67 mins" etc etc.

It's a rough concept, but it's probably the easiest way of helping the majority of passengers with the most simplicity - in place of using codes to describe stopping patterns, and the like. Working then from a concept of progressive disclosure, once the customer has narrowed down what service they probably want and where it's leaving from, you work on getting them to the train and providing information about that train.

As the passenger approaches the platform groups there's potential for another set of summary boards that could show departure order, major stations, and service information, before the actual platform display shows all stations served, the train's position on the platform, and where in the train specific passengers should be.

I noticed the Swiss approach to this is last year - at Geneva Airport, which only has three platforms, the summary boards near the platforms show the next five trains, one on each line in the format:
TIME / SERVICE TYPE (InterCity/InterRegio/etc) / Three to five major stations / DESTINATION STATION / Platform / Service notes (generally timekeeping)
11:34 InterCity     Geneve     Lausanne    Bern    Zurich         ST. GALLEN          2
11:47 InterRegio    Geneve    Lausanne    Bern                      LUZERN               3

Which has the effect of demonstrating the branching of services.

There needs to be some safeguard, too, against people arriving into the information system too late. The concept of Major Destinations boards really helps people coming into the station, but there also needs to be consideration of the station's interchange role. For example - a passenger waiting on Pl. 12 for eleven minutes on a weekend because that's the screen that says "FLINDERS ST" while Caulfield Group trains sail through Pl. 11 as "SANDRINGHAM" / "FRANKSTON" / etc.

Information aside, the other huge impediment to travel from Southern Cross is the fact that, after the recent "renovations", the previously-tolerable interchange between Metropolitan and Regional trains at the south end now requires navigating through a hopeless maze of inconveniently-placed shops in what were previously thoroughfares. On top of that, the "one big bank" approaching to gating the Regional platforms is downright inconvenient for the passenger. Leaving the waiting room and heading straight for 8S? Nope. Boarding at 2A straight off the south end of the tram at Bourke St? Nope.
  HcoteJunct Junior Train Controller

Funny thing is when I wrote to V/Line about the situation and suggested they adopt BALLARAT/WENDOREE or GEELONG/MARSHALL instead of the long established practice, they said thanks for the suggestion but no thanks...
Obviously they can't  see a problem
Customer service...
But then again, If I was in charge I'd simply buy the Cityrail software from Sydney. So much better than the combined software/screens that we have to use.
Cheers

Scott
  xxxxlbear Token Booking Clerk

Location: Geelong
Funny thing is when I wrote to V/Line about the situation and suggested they adopt BALLARAT/WENDOREE or GEELONG/MARSHALL instead of the long established practice, they said thanks for the suggestion but no thanks...
Obviously they can't  see a problem
Customer service...
But then again, If I was in charge I'd simply buy the Cityrail software from Sydney. So much better than the combined software/screens that we have to use.
Cheers

Scott
HcoteJunct

I'd like to know how many people travelling for the first time (such as tourists) end up standing and staring at the large destination boards at Southern Cross untterly cofused because they want to catch a train to, say, Geelong, and can't find it listed when infact the train they need is labelled as a Marshall train.
And the same with the Ballarat (Wendouree), and the occasional Bendigo (Eaglehawk), train.

All it would take is a few minutes over a cup of coffee for someone to tweek the system Smile
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Interesting points, but as 99% of the population has a smart phone these days, perhaps we can bypass the need for a decent departures board?

I use Tram Hunter and Train Trapper regularly and they are infinitely more reliable than any printed timetable as they (mostly) incorporate delays in their information. I can't fault Tram Hunter at all and my only problem with Train Trapper is that it doesn't have platform information for suburban trains.

A decent similar app that gave info on rural trains and V/Line franchised buses with platform and bus bay details would mean all passengers (except tourists who didn't have it loaded) would know when the next service was running and it's point of departure. Smile
  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.
Interesting points, but as 99% of the population has a smart phone these days, perhaps we can bypass the need for a decent departures board?

I use Tram Hunter and Train Trapper regularly and they are infinitely more reliable than any printed timetable as they (mostly) incorporate delays in their information. I can't fault Tram Hunter at all and my only problem with Train Trapper is that it doesn't have platform information for suburban trains.

A decent similar app that gave info on rural trains and V/Line franchised buses with platform and bus bay details would mean all passengers (except tourists who didn't have it loaded) would know when the next service was running and it's point of departure. Smile
Bogong
Great idea - but what if the platform changes at the last minute?
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line

When customers can touch on/touch off anywhere in the interurban area it will remove one of the barriers to increased usage of V/Line services by Metro passengers (and probably more than a few regional passengers).
Revenue
Ye Gods...that's all we need....more passengers Exclamation

Already reduced to carrying my folding stool with me every day, today being Tuesday and having to use it for three journeys so far this week, I'm facing the prospect of this being a permanent arrangement until the next VLocity car delivery in around two years time.
  Revenue Chief Commissioner

Ye Gods...that's all we need....more passengers Exclamation

Already reduced to carrying my folding stool with me every day, today being Tuesday and having to use it for three journeys so far this week, I'm facing the prospect of this being a permanent arrangement until the next VLocity car delivery in around two years time.
"The Vinelander"


We need a lot more passengers!  Smile  We need the revenue! We would just strongly prefer that all new trips were made in the off-peak! Ideally all the new customers would be on off-peak services, or trips on the outer part of the network. One of the benefits of myki being on V/Line interurban services is that it will encourage more outbound travel by metropolitan passengers - who are more likely to be on counter peak or off-peak services. If we can effectively target outbound passengers (eg. day trips to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine) then that could generate more revenue on existing services.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
On the other hand it needs to be remembered that fares were slashed a few years ago in a blatantly political gesture which pump-primed the surge in demand.  While that might in the long term have been aimed at turning around the viability of loss-making country services it has also massively increased peak and leisure demand for which rolling stock is simply not available.

Even before the Z-car situation trains were overloaded and duplicated by road coaches (and / or left hopeful and fare-paid passengers behind) with nothing like adequate accommodation for the traffic being offered.  By way of example I have seen the regular services at Tallarook double in capacity from a single Sprinter to a VL twin-car unit yet many times there is still nowhere to sit on the train.  More services are being offered as well compared with the timetable of 10 years ago.

When you ask for more revenue at the farebox this will not be forthcoming when there is nowhere for passengers to be accommodated and when word is about that trains are often already full.  I appreciate there is some capacity on some off-peak services but this is far from always the case.  Try finding a seat on a morning Melbourne - Albury trip without pre-booking, for example, and remember that while they are reservable services not all potential users are able to plan and book ahead.

Political pressure to redress the imbalance between farebox and funding, together with more investment in additional rolling stock, is needed.
  Revenue Chief Commissioner

I think its important to distinguish between intercity (which aren't going to be part of myki for the moment) and interurban (which are). There are capacity issues on some long haul trains, but often these can be addressed by providing more short haul services. For example, when I caught the train to Swan Hill it was packed, but there was plenty of room to spare after Bendigo. It is similar on other corridors.

The 20% reduction in V/Line fares was designed to encourage more people to use trains - and it worked. It certainly encouraged a shift in demand. However, since then, there have been fare increases over CPI that have totalled around 10%, so we are looking at a scenario where fares are around 10% cheaper than they were in real terms. That's a reasonable amount, but not overwhelming - and I think that you might be dramatically overstating the impact of a 10% reduction in fares - where other factors such as frequency, a new CBD terminus station, span of operating hours, etc. have also influenced behaviour.

However, I don't think that much of the growth can necessarily be linked to actions by public transport. There are massive demographic changes occuring.  Public transport does not exist in isolation - and to attribute all the growth solely to public transport changes isn't credible. More young people don't have drivers licenses, there is a growing elderly market, etc.  

Putting V/Line interurban services on myki will certainly introduce a clearer divide between interurban and intercity services - and part of that will be to put more emphasis on the need to have a reserved ticket for intercity services.

There are a lot of services that have significant spare capacity - and the challenge is to encourage people to fill those seats.  Potential markets might include:
- People from Melbourne taking day trips to regional Victoria
- People from Regional Victoria coming into the city for entertainment in the evenings (eg. catching a train in from Ballarat to Melbourne to go to the theatre and catching the last train home)
- Travel between regional areas

The introduction of myki should hopefully encourage more of this kind of travel - more discretionary, choice users.

Put simply, if someone knows they can go and touch on at their local station, and head out to Bendigo for the day, then they might be more willing to do that, rather than going through the process of trying to work out where to buy a V/Line ticket, potentially having to purchase another ticket to travel to a place where you can purchase your V/Line ticket, etc.
  Revenue Chief Commissioner

Anyway, back to topic. I think that the objective of having trains depart from consistent patterns is a worthy one - but that the real issue is making sure where customers know where to go.

Someone mentioned ticket barriers before - one of the advantages of having a single ticket barrier line is that customers going through will be able to seek information from the ticket barrier attendant (eg. you're going to have to walk within a few meters of a staff member when you enter / exit the barriers).  The barriers will of course be staffed in due course.

The electronic signs at Southern Cross could be improved signficantly.

The implementation of 15/16 will be a new opportunity for customer education.

Maps would assist customers to work out what line their station is on (eg. yes, Lara is on the Wendoree Line).

I really like the approach used at many mainline stations in London where they have giant boards and have departure times for services to every individual station (eg. you find the station you are going to, and a total list of departures is provided, ordered by time). It is really useful as it gives you an idea of the frequency and when the next train is - and then you just need to work out which service it is.

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