Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Timetable Tuesday #67: Pakenham's 925 - the bus that stops just short of the station

Public transport is slow enough without having to backtrack or unnecessarily change services. Network design should enable people to reach popular destinations via reasonably direct routes. Unfortunately such principles are not applied consistently, as we’ll see today with Pakenham’s Route 925.

To set the scene, Pakenham is a fast-growing fringe suburb about 55km east of Melbourne. It got rail electrification relatively early for a place so far out since it was on the main line to the power-producing Latrobe Valley (which once had electric trains as far east as Traralgon).  Many can remember occasional electrified trains to Warragul but by the late 1990s these had been wound back to Pakenham.

Pakenham itself though has seen a steady rise in the number of trains terminating there. It joined the suburban network in 1975. In later decades off-peak frequencies were increased to 30 and then 20 minutes. And the long gap between Officer and Pakenham was filled by the new Cardinia Road station. Sunday morning timetables though remain a remnant of past lower service levels with only an hourly frequency offered until quite late.  

By early this century Pakenham had grown big enough to get its own bus network. Its original bus route was the very long 826 from Hampton. This was part of a three route group, including 827 and 828, that were shorter. In January 2006 Route 826 and 827 trips were folded into an upgraded 828 operating between Hampton and Berwick only.  The eastern part of the 826 became the 926 from Fountain Gate to Pakenham. 927 and 928 became new local routes giving coverage to parts of Pakenham away from the station. Sunday service and further routes in the area came later. There was also a very short Route 924 for a while. 

Route 925's route map is below. It runs westwards from Pakenham north of the railway.

Route 925 operates in the state seat of Bass. This is very marginal, having been gained by Labor's Jordan Crugnale in 2018. 

Part of 925 overlap other routes as can be seen on the network map below. However it stops short of Cardinia Road station. This means that those using this route as a train feeder need to backtrack to Pakenham, adding unnecessary time to their trip. This is a contrast to Route 928 that efficiently serves both stations south of the line.

To be fair Pakenham Station has existed for decades while Cardinia Rd Station opened only in 2012. Still that's 8 years ago. And governments have generally been pretty good at rerouting local bus routes to other stations when they open. Although it wasn't until 2014 that Cardinia Rd got bus access from the south, with the extended 928 formed after an amalgamation with the very short 924

The gold standards were Geelong, Wyndham Vale and Tarneit which got new bus networks in 2015 when Regional Rail Link opened. Also Mernda. That area got some bus network extensions when its stations opened in 2018 though the main work was done a few years before to create new routes that only needed minor changes when the train came. Caroline Springs got one bus route (460) extended when it opened though they butchered its timetable with highly irregular trips soon after. 

Still, with the paucity of bus network reform for other reasons, the surest way to get improved bus routes in an area is to campaign for a train. However not even that helped the unreformed bus networks around Southland or Cardinia Rd Station as discussed here. 


Route 925 is Pakenham’s least used bus route on a passenger boardings per hour basis. On weekdays it gets 12 boardings per bus service hour. This drops only slightly to 11 boardings per hour on school holidays, meaning that its major passenger base must be people other than schoolchildren.  Weekend use is in the single digits, down to 8 and 7 boardings per service hour for Saturday and Sunday respectively. These numbers place the 925 in about the bottom 15% of Melbourne bus routes. 

Other local Pakenham routes that have the same hourly service frequency perform much better. For example the 927, 928 and 929 have weekday productivity of 15, 20 and 30 boardings per hour respectively. Compared to other buses in Melbourne this makes the 927 average with the 929 above average. 

The overlap with other routes, the backtracking and it serving one instead of two stations would be factors in the 925's poor performance. 


Route 925 runs to minimum service standards. Frequency is roughly hourly.


What would you do with the 925? Should it be extended to Cardinia Rd station? Is there scope for local routes to be simplified, potentially in conjunction with a 926 straightening? Please leave your thoughts below if you have any ideas.

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

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1 comment:

Ricky said...

Personally, when it comes to this route, I'd be looking at the estates around and to the north of the Princes, and onward to Officer connecting 925 in there.
Leaving 926 as the feeder to Cardinia Rd, but giving 925 unique coverage, would probably do it wonders.

Even though it isn't direct, I would also possibly consider adding Timbertop and Cherrington estates to either 925 or an extended 837. That one would definitely be up for debate though.