Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Voices of the Railways: suburban train and station annoucements

Harold Clapp famously said that railways are "95 percent men and 5 percent iron".

One duty of those 95% is informing passengers of arriving trains, delays, changed platforms or altered running. Unlike some overseas subways where different lines operate independently and rarely share track, trains can and are swapped between different lines on Melbourne's more complex network. Platforms can change at short notice and late arrivals may form trains other than those specified in the working timetable. In addition point and signal failures commonly cause delays and City Loop bypasses.

It is often platform and control staff (at stations) or the driver (on trains) who first inform passengers of delays and alterations. At other times they make safety annoucements and inform passengers of connecting services.

The multiple skills required are not always obvious. They must understand the network, think on their feet and quickly process and translate what may be incomplete information from train control into advice useful for passengers. Their enunciation must be understood by passengers of all backgrounds through varying station acoustics and public address system quality. And announcing may be only one part of the job - other roles include signalling, selling tickets or driving trains.

The video presented is a compilation of train and station announcements, recorded on the 19th and 20th May, 2011. A few are automated but most are manual. As you'll hear automated annoucements are fine if all is running to plan, but when it is not manual annoucenements rise to the fore. And it is precisely these times that they are needed most.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Melbourne evening train service levels - the last 36 years

Another look at Melbourne suburban train frequencies - this time for weekday evenings around 9:30pm.

Most notable are that the service cuts of the late 1970s (from 20 to 30 minutes) have started to be reversed on some lines in the last year or two. There have also been frequency improvements on outer or minor lines such as Altona, Alamein, Cranbourne and Pakenham.

What does this presentation tell us? Firstly frequency does eventually respond to patronage growth, although you need passenger numbers to double first. There is also a lag time to allow for driver training, new trains, scheduling, political commitment etc. In the meantime, and not captured here, capacity has been added by operating six car rather than three car trains to the existing timetable to relieve crowding. Both Connex and Metro added capacity and 3-car trains are much less often seen nowdays.

Will I produce presentations for weekends? Probably not since changes have been less frequent and are better described in writing.

Saturdays have seen the least change, with 20 minutes remaining as a daytime network standard for all but outer areas. The main loss compared to 1975 is the reduced Saturday evening frequency (30 to 20 minutes). The main gains compared to 1975 is that there is service over a more extensive electrified network and there are later Saturday evening trains.

Sundays are quite different, thanks to large service increases in 1999. 1975's 40 minute Sunday frequency has now been banished to Sunday mornings (some lines), Sunday evenings (some lines) and some outer areas. Elsewhere Sunday frequency has doubled to 20 minutes, making it the same as Saturday.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Melbourne interpeak train service levels - the last 36 years

A graphical or aural representation of what is traditionally written can sometimes be the quickest way to present data or offer fresh insights, such as with aural timetables.

Here's another example, this time for trends in weekday interpeak train frequency on the Melbourne electrified rail network. The thicker the line the more frequent the service. Frequencies are approximate, especially where several lines cross and I've erred on a thinner rather than a thicker line to reflect likely maximum waiting times. You can stop the video at any time. When in pause mode slide the bar to more closely compare timetable changes.

As you watch you'll see electrification extensions in outer suburbs (Werribee, Cranbourne, Sydenham and Craigieburn) and the addition of the City Loop. The Port Melbourne and St Kilda lines vanish when these are replaced with trams. Frequency upgrades to Epping, the Caulfield group, Frankston, Newport and (for a while) Werribee are also shown. The joining of Frankston and Werribee or Williamstown trains starts off as a thin line that thickens as frequency increases.

The dates are effective dates on the printed timetables surveyed. There are some gaps as not all timetables were available for this exercise. However off-peak services are generally fairly slow in changing so few if any amendments would be missed.

The people above the dates indicate patronage - one per 50 million annual passengers. Noticeable is the fall after 1975 (actual patronage bottomed out at less than 100 million in about 1980) and the slow subsequent growth. The 2000s surge is particularly clear.

The slides were made in Powerpoint and are much clearer than you see here. However Windows Movie Maker requires other formats and much clarity was lost in the conversion.

Credits: Craig Halsall for some of the timetables & (hard techno) for the sounds.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First weekday of new train timetable

Some of the sights from around the network, filmed yesterday.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

All change please: New Melbourne on Transit YouTube channel

Subscribers to my YouTube channel will have noticed videos on topics not generally shared by most Melbourne on Transit readers. To reduce unwanted alerts I'm splitting my YouTube content into two channels.

The upshot is that Melbourne on Transit now has its own dedicated YouTube channel. All new videos on transport will be placed here. Some of the more significant older videos will be copied over. However to preserve links and comments I'll keep duplicates of most on the original channel, at least for now.

If you only wish to be alerted of new transport videos, please unsubscribe from VK3YE and subscribe to the new Melbourne on Transit YouTube channel.

More transport videos will be added soon.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

2010-2011 State Budget

Key documents from today's State budget, the first for the Baillieu government.

The whole thing

Department of Transport (basically costs and performance indicators)

Media releases (from Department of Transport website)

Capital program (what they're building)