Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Timetable Tuesday #63: 706 the little shopper route that survived

One of Melbourne’s shortest bus routes is the 706 between Chelsea and Mordialloc. It is also one of the simplest, with about 90% of it running along Station St, parallel to the train line. The map is below.

The area map shows the 706 in relation to other routes and stations. It serves no major destinations the train doesn’t. It overlaps the much more frequent 902 SmartBus between Chelsea and Edithvale. Edithvale and Aspendale stations are already fairly close (about 1km) with the distance set to shrink when it is rebuilt and moved north as part of the level crossing removal.

However the 706 provides unique coverage in the residential pocket between the widely separated Aspendale and Mordialloc stations. If this did not exist then the 706 would have no rationale.

Official attitudes towards this have varied. At one time 706 was a much more comprehensive service. Service cuts in the ‘90s put an end to that. Then just a couple of years ago the (then) Transport for Victoria decided that the area between Mordialloc and Aspendale wasn’t worth serving at all. They proposed that the 706 be deleted with no other route to take its place.  

This was part of a wider Mordialloc area review that included an ill-advised splitting of a route popular with school children (708) and a dubious rerouting of another service (705) away from industrial area jobs. One of the stated benefits of this rerouting was to serve the Don Tatnell Leisure Centre (indoor pool) but it wouldn't have helped much as the peak-only 705 doesn't run when the pool would be busiest. Probably for the overall good the Mordialloc review sunk almost without trace. Except for some extra school time trips added to the 708's timetable. Not proceeding also meant a reprieve for the 706.

Could something else have been done? Unfortunately the area’s road network is a major constraint. Aspendale is the nearest station (as the crow flies) to the residential area of Aspendale Gardens and parts of Waterways. Unfortunately there is no direct road between them. If there was then it would have been possible to run a bus from Mordialloc to Waterways via Aspendale Station and Aspendale Gardens, providing good coverage with only minor duplication.


Route 706 is a very quiet route. It attracts six passengers per service hour. This is below what would be considered viable. On the other hand it runs during the off-peak weekday period only, meaning it would not increase the operator’s peak bus requirement. This greatly reduces its operating costs, especially if the bus used can form a service on another route. As you’ll see from the timetable discussed later it’s not much of a service but deleting it is unlikely to save much money. This is why I’m more tolerant of it remaining than in numerous other cases of duplicating and overlapping routes.


Route 706 is strictly a weekday shopper service with three trips per direction operating between the am and pm commuter peaks. There is a late morning, midday and early afternoon service. The timetable (in one direction) is below.

Mention should be made of the 706’s history. The route can trace its origins back to 1936. In its heyday through to the 1980s it operated many more trips, including during commuting times and Saturday mornings. Up to the 1990s its route was a little different, using Nepean Hwy instead of Station St at the Chelsea end. Cuts early that decade deleted Saturday service and lessened weekday operating hours. Then it disappeared, with two or three trips operating as occasional extensions of the Route 700. Hence at one time you could catch a bus from Chelsea to Box Hill and back again. Much later, when the 903 orbital replaced the 700 the Chelsea to Mordialloc portion got its old route number back but retained its reduced number of trips.


What would you do with the 706? Was Transport For Victoria right to propose its deletion given its low usage? Or would you have retained it given its likely small running cost? Is the Chelsea – Edithvale portion needed or would an amalgamation with the weakly terminated 858 be worthwhile? Please leave your thoughts below if you have any ideas.

PS: An index to all Timetable Tuesday items is here.

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Anonymous said...

Whilst I understand the intent to remove services like this, they can also provide a valuable service, connecting local residents to their local train station. This is especially important for people who live mid-station and may not be able to walk the distance to the station themselves. Not everybody is as mobile as we'd like to believe

Peter Parker said...

Agree. Mordialloc to Aspendale are widely spaced (2.6km). As the crow flies the 708 looks an option on Wells Rd but it's somewhat pedestrian hostile if trying to cross where there aren't signals (which is quite a lot of it). This is where the 706 is most justified even though usage is low. Especially given it's likely cheap to run given it's off-peak only.

Anonymous said...

This bus route sits along x7 schools - an expanded timetable for school hours would see an increase of usage and therefore a justified service catering the full local community.

Tom said...

As a new intermediate station is unlikely to be justified, a full time 706 coverage service is needed.

One measure to increase patronage would be install pedestrian lights on the Nepean Highway to facilitate greater access to the pedestrian level crossings that do not have them.