Sunday, July 26, 2009

South Gippsland's timed transfers

A major part of last week's timetable revisions has been a new coach network for South Gippsland and the Bass Coast. The changes include extra services, express running and a timed transfer network with hubs at Dandenong, Koo Wee Rup and Anderson. The upgraded coach services substitute for a government promise to investigate the return of passenger trains to Leongatha (which was widely interpreted as a commitment to restore service, as had been done for Bairnsdale and Ararat).

Broadly speaking the network has two key corridors, each receiving a coach every two hours (approximately) on weekdays. The first is City - Koo Wee Rup - Leongatha. It has express running between the city and Koo Wee Rup and some services extending to Yarram. The second corridor is Dandenong - Cranbourne - Koo Wee Rup and Anderson. From Anderson destinations alternate between Cowes and Inverloch, with some Inverloch services operating via Cape Paterson.

The new coach network has some clever features that only become apparent after a close study of times and connections. To assist this work a graphical timetable/map was compiled from the pictured timetables (shown below).

The first feature is an express coach service between Southern Cross Station and Leongatha via Koo Wee Rup. Eight weekday services at approximately two-hourly intervals (hourly in peak direction) operate each way. Four coaches each way run on weekends, with a common Saturday and Sunday timetable. All services run express between Koo Wee Rup and the City, with the Koo Wee Rup times scheduled to connect with other services. This is clearly offered as compensation for not restoring the train service and provides an unusually fast and frequent service for a centre of Leongatha's size.

A two-hourly weekday service also operates between Dandenong, Cranbourne, Koo Wee Rup and Anderson. This connects with trains to/from the city at Dandenong and provides a local service for communities such as Tooradin, Five Ways and Koo Wee Rup. From Koo Wee Rup the service continues to Anderson and then splits, with trips alternating between Cowes and Inverloch. These towns each receive four coaches on weekdays and two on weekends.

(click to enlarge)

Koo Wee Rup is the major hub of the area's timed transfer network, as can be seen by the near simultaneous arrivals and departures. All passengers heading towards Melbourne get a choice as to how they complete their trip.

They can either take an express coach to the city (Leongatha passengers remain on coach, passenger from Cowes or Inverloch must board the coach ex-Leongatha) or, if they want to make a local trip to Cranbourne or Dandenong, they can board either the Cowes or Inverloch coach that has come from Anderson.

A city connection from this second service is provided by changing to a train at Dandenong. However this is 30 to 60 minutes slower than the express coach, so will mostly be used by more local passengers travelling from areas such as Tooradin and Five Ways.

The arrangements at Koo Wee Rup are a good example of a timed transfer network. Coaches arrive simultaneously, exchage passengers in a five minute window, then depart simultaneously. This repeats every two hours in each direction (towards or away from city). Connections for cross-country trips (eg Anderson to Leongatha) average about 1 hour, but are fairly constant between the peaks due to the near-clockface harmonised headways used. Timed transfer networks such as this example provide many passenger benefits, including a flexibility of destinations, the option of boarding an express service and minimal waiting times due to careful scheduling.

The connection chart also reveals some interesting interchange possibilities at Anderson, although in a different manner to Koo Wee Rup. Study of the times indicate that during most of the day coaches from Cowes towards Dandenong arrive simultaneously in Anderson as coaches from Dandenong to Inverloch. While seperate arrival and departure times at Anderson are not given (unlike Koo Wee Rup) it would appear that cross-country trips like Cowes to Inverloch and Inverloch to Cowes are possible during the day with minimal waiting at Anderson.

While the number of passenges wishing to make these trips may not be high, the ability to efficiently make them adds greatly to the utility of the network for local area trips. Unfortunately the 0 minute transfer shown appears risky to the passenger and the few who notice this travel option are unlikely to chance it given the 2-hour waiting time until the next service. Providing seperate arrival and departure times and including a note advising this connection at Anderson would both be desirable improvements.

It has been a pleasure to study these services and note the care taken in their scheduling. The combination of express trips and simultaneous timed transfers operating at all times should meet both fast CBD and local travel needs. On weekdays the existence of what are close to 'memory timetables' at Anderson, Leongatha and Koo Wee Rup further aid usability.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

To answer your question there, locals typically refer to the trams mentioned as the Sydney Road tram and the Chapel Street tram. The W class has got it right with "Chapel St." on the headboard, its a shame the others can't use this.