A fancy roof (which is what Southern Cross Station is) was often confused with but does not equal remedial investment in tracks, points, signals and overheads. Some government decisions, such as outer suburban fare cuts, increased pressure on the fragile network. There has been no learning from this; parallels exist with the CBD 'Free' Tram Zone that some politicians now wish to extend.
I arrived just in time to see the banners being replaced.
Metro on the right, Connex on the left (click for better view).
Within an hour the job was done.
Meanwhile inside they were setting up their customer information booth.
Trams also changed. KDR was the successful bidder. This is their video.
Politicians promised improvements "from Day One". Not surprisingly they didn't happen. In fact service got worse for a while. Like an Oaks Day train, the Brumby government lost power, with train service delivery a prominent issue. However from 2011-2012 the pace of timetable reform quickened and reliability recovered most of the ground lost in the disastrous 2003 - 2010 period.
Unfortunately train presentation standards slipped in Metro's early years as graffiti returned to carriages. Metro also had issues with their cleaning contractors who were later accused of underpaying staff. Later Metro realised that they had to 'clean their room' since the parents were returning soon and there was a risk of them being booted out of the house in the looming refranchising. Then train presentation dramatically improved. It's been fairly good since although there remains a need for 'walk through' rubbish removals at terminus stations, especially early weekend mornings after Night Network operates.
My theory is that unless contract management is consistently tight operators start with good intentions but let things go in the middle of their franchise period. Then in the year or two before retendering they panic and rush to make things good so they can demonstrate improvement (people have short memories) and get a chance of winning the next franchising round (preferably with 'value-adding' high-margin extras).
At the time of writing the rail network is again under pressure with a gradual decline in punctuality for the last six years, and the government delaying big timetable reforms (next big one planned for 2020). It remains to be seen whether smaller adjustments in the form of (mostly) slower times from next month will arrest the decline in reported punctuality.
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