Friday, July 02, 2021

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 97: South-east SmartBuses and other upgrades

One of Melbourne's outer growth areas is around Clyde North. Fast development has occurred between the Pakenham and Cranbourne railway lines at increasing distances from stations. Thus buses are needed to provide public transport. The map below shows the general area. 

I have covered the area a few times in the past. For example: 

In Part 18 of the Useful Network series I identified Berwick to Cranbourne as a 'missing link' in the network. Bus route 899 exists but goes only two-thirds the way there from Berwick. 

There is not even a bus that people can change to for Berwick. Useful Network 26 (written November 2019) contained a possible network revamp including direct buses from Berwick to Cranbourne and a revised Cranbourne to Fountain Gate (and beyond) Route 841. 

Then, almost exactly a year ago, we got news of two new routes (888 and 889) from Berwick that will provide much needed coverage to the Clyde North area. These are the standard every 40 to 60 minute local routes with the hourly 888 having a dead-end terminus stopping short of Cranbourne. Services started in March 2021. More in Timetable Tuesday #82.

The eastern portion of Thompsons Rd is the new growth frontier but is still distant from the above mentioned routes. 888 and 889 don't help them very much. But a new route 881 was announced in February 2021 with service commencing early 2022. This will also run every 40 minutes across to Merinda Park station. A rough map is here.   

A need for more frequent main routes to more places

With much of the area filled in with local coverage routes attention should be given to main routes operating at higher frequencies and reforming loose ends on the current network (some of which are quite recent). 

No 'long hours' SmartBuses currently operate in the huge catchment east of Dandenong with the easternmost being the 901 orbital between Frankston, Dandenong and Ringwood. And apart from some routes in the Cranbourne area and the 893 to Dandenong, there is nothing that runs better than every 30 or 40 minutes interpeak. 

The only prospect of rail upgrades is a Cranbourne line extension to Clyde and that's some time away. And this will still be a fair way from the large amount of development in between the rail lines that fan out the further east you go. 

Hence there is a need for higher order bus routes on the main roads to provide effective cross-regional travel similar to SmartBuses as exist in more established areas. 

Some guidance on where they might go is provided by the Principal Public Transport Network. My post on this is here. PPTN maps by local areas are here. That for the City of Casey (which includes Clyde North etc) is below. 

The only PPTN bus in the whole City of Casey is what could loosely be described as the 791/841 corridor. Frankston - Cranbourne is the 791 which currently runs every 20 min weekdays and 40 min weekends, with operating hours similar to local bus routes. The 841 portion shown is from Cranbourne to Narre Warren/Fountain Gate though the actual route continues some way north with a dead end terminus. The 841 has less service than the 791, with 40 min intervals and 40 - 80 minute gaps on weekends. 

The development front is now 6 to 8 kilometres east of this corridor with significant population now there. Hence there is a need to think about some frequent / long hours bus corridors in the outer south-east. Part of the resources could come from a revision of local routes but there will still need to be some bus purchases and many extra service hours added since peak frequencies on most existing routes are currently low. The map gives some network concepts that I'll go through one by one below.

Three 'Direct Connector' routes

These routes would provide the key on road public transport connections in the area. They would operate long hours similar to trains. Service would typically be every 20 minutes or better, seven days per week. They would be Category 2a in the route hierarchy presented here though as development increases they are candidates for bus rapid transit with service every 10 minutes (ie Category 1a or 1b). 

791 Frankston - Fountain Gate The PPTN corridor mentioned above. It could be a through-routed service comprising the existing 791 and 841 routes to avoid the change at Cranbourne. The creation of this continuous route would require an arrangement between two bus operators since the constituent routes are currently separately run. Scope may exist to extend further north and then west to Endeavour Hills merging with 861 to Dandenong.  

893 Dandenong - Clyde This is an eastward extension of the existing 893 to take in the Cranbourne - Clyde portion of the 897. Both it and the 897 already run every 20 minutes seven days so the upgrades largely involve adding more hours for later finishes rather than new buses. That makes it the cheapest of the three to implement. Conveniently they are run by the same bus operator. The existing 897 between Lynbrook and Cranbourne could remain as a local route, possibly merging with 898 east of Cranbourne. 

860 Seaford - Berwick This could be a new route that provides direct connections between many employment, educational and health hubs in areas including Carrum Downs and Clyde North. It would also meet community demand for a direct bus between Cranbourne and Berwick. As I wrote elsewhere, some can only afford a Clyde or Cranbourne housing budget but wish to use the health and education facilities at Berwick. 

This is the sort of route that could acommodate a lot of short trips. A few are some examples: 

Seaford Station - Carrum Downs industrial area jobs
Seaford Station -  Carrum Downs residential area (including shopping centre) 
Cranbourne West - Cranbourne Station
Cranbourne - Berwick (health and education facilities)
Clyde North - Cranbourne or Berwick 

It would deliver good quality bus services to a large area currently only with buses every 30 to 60 minutes. Its times would be optimised to connect with trains at Berwick and Cranbourne (both every 20 minutes). Timing is less critical at Seaford as trains there are mostly every 10 minutes. 

A major retail change, affecting mainly low income people, has been the closure of op-shops in rail-based centre and their movement into industrial areas with less public transport. For example Chelsea and Frankston have fewer op-shops while larger op-shops (including Vinnies and Savers) now operate in Carrum Downs. The 860 bus, which would operate near both, would provide connections to these from a wide area. Care would also be taken to improve bus-bus connections with the 901 SmartBus to further improve access to jobs on Frankston-Dandenong Rd. 

Some local area bus reform would be desirable to commence this more frequent and simpler route. But the more it is done the cheaper it is to operate. Examples include replacing the 778 from Kananook, shortening/reconfiguring the 760 at the Carrum Downs end (with the 860 effectively becoming the new 760 but at better frequency), removing the backtracking on Carrum Downs' 833, and merging both 798 and 899 into the new route. A minor benefit of the 798 merger is it would free up that number for use on the Mornington Peninsula, for example for the mooted freeway express bus to replace the 887 and complement the popular 788. 

Local route loose ends

Some loose ends remain with local routes as a result of the creation of more frequent top tier routes. And some areas may still need coverage. Some possibilities (which are likely less solid and more open to variation than the above main routes) include: 

847 Berwick - The Avenue SC An existing route but with a somewhat weak southern terminus. It is almost begging to go to somewhere stronger, such as Cranbourne Station. One benefit of this is efficiency - during peak hours routes that end in one station are likely to have strong loading in one direction, but if there is a station at both ends of the route then loading is likely to be strong in both directions. One possibility could be a somewhat indirect extension to Cranbourne via what is now the 898. 

851 Dandenong - Fountain Gate I've suggested this as an alternative to the 890 through the Dandenong South industrial area. Compared to the 890 it connects more homes to jobs and may allow reform of indirect routes in the Hampton Park area including 894 and 895. The direct bus to Dandenong may also be attractive to some even if they are not getting off in the industrial area. That plus Fountain Gate access should help its weekend usage which is currently very low. A more ambitions idea is to operate it to Noble Park as I discuss here

852 Lynbrook - Berwick An east-west route feeding train stations, education and health facilities. It would remove the issue where Lynbrook has no feeder buses directly to the east and enable reform of routes like 894 and 895. More on that here

853 Lynbrook - Berwick Another east-west route, mostly serving Glasscocks Rd but also operating via Casey Central Shopping Centre. Would also provide coverage of Grices Rd, potentially replacing 889. The latter would reduce access to Eden Rise but there is potential for a dedicated Soldiers Rd bus to Berwick. Would need to be considered in conjunction with a review of Route 831, 836, 846 and the new 889. 
855 Clyde North - Merinda Park (potentially also Carrum) The Clyde North - Merinda Park section is the proposed 881. However while it serves a major gap it has relatively few large trip generators, particularly at the eastern end (though this will grow). Hence an effort was made to think about whether it could be extended to stronger anchors. 

The map shows a continuation across to Carrum. That would provide a very fast connection across to the Frankston line. However there is a lot of open area (including a sewage farm) and the productivity of this route would not necessarily be good unless there was a high demand for people travelling between lines. If this route was extended to Carrum it may be desirable to make other reforms to routes including the 833 whose usage is quite poor in the area. And the 860 suggested before would lessen the need for a bus to Carrum due to excellent connections to the Frankston line provided by both it and the reformed 760. A possible compromise could be to terminate all trips at Marriot Waters and extend only every second trip (ie 40 min frequency) to Carrum. 

Other anchors were considered (since Carrum is not particularly strong apart from it being a rail connection) with other possibilities being Dandenong (via Dandenong South industrial area) or Cranbourne (which would be indirect). Again only every second trip might extend to them. 

859 Berwick - Clyde North Basically a straight replacement for the existing 889 but with the potential for an extension as development grows. See comments for 853 above. 

896 Cranbourne - Ballarto Rd A potential added local route for additional coverage as the area develops. This route would also feed any Clyde station. 


Described is a revised main route network for the fast growing Clyde North area. Recent initiatives have improved coverage but with typical 40 to 60 minute frequencies and dead end termini, their usefulness is less than what might be desired for many trips. With a lack of trains in the area the task falls on buses to provide more than merely local coverage. Three more frequent trunk bus routes, operating over long hours of the day, have been described to fill this gap and improve access for a wide variety of work, education, health and recreational trips. Thoughts on this network are invited and can be left below. 

See other Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here

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