McGill's & Alexander Dennis
South East Transport Changes from 2 December
Featured Bus Route – October 2018
DATE FOR THE DIARY - 25th November - Finchley Bus Running Day
Alexander Dennis & Lothian
Buses on Parade
The non-Inner West bus routes to be privatised
Leeds Considering Hydrogen Powered Buses
New CEO for First Group & Results for Six Months to September 2018
Alexander Dennis at Euro Bus Expo 2018
Self preservation makes it wise to have several lines in the water, strings to your bow or pies on your fingers. Then if something goes sour then you've still got other things to hang your hat on. Investment fund managers call that a diversified portfolio.
The Department of Transport has latterly caught on to this approach. It has lately shown as much public interest in nets as in networks, bream as in buses and flatheads as in frequencies. That was until bushfires and COVID-19. Fishing participation is one of the few things that's likely collapsed even faster than public transport ridership. The achievement of Target One Million is looking very flaky indeed.
Does this threaten the Department's existence? Probably not. The overheads of running it can be attributed to 'stimulus' or 'job creation' even if its output is not publicly apparent. The Department of Transport is like a volcano. For years it can appear almost dormant with little significant coming out, not even smoke signals. Then, to everyone's surprise, a lot emerges in a blaze of publicity. So don't underestimate what activity may be simmering beneath its surface.
Especially in this era where managing political risk is everything and department heads appear discouraged from publicly raising ideas that the minister may scotch. The old railway commissioners or even past department leaders were more fearless, as this '90s example shows.
Something like Newton's first law of motion says that it's easier to keep an organisation ticking along at a uniform slow speed than to shut it down and restart after everyone's skedaddled. Getting lost expertise back can take years. And there's been past times when it's been let go, only for it to be urgently needed a few years later.
The big game here is confidence. You only get that if people keep their jobs and have money in their hands. What tat they spend it on is less important than the act of spending.
The imperative to keep money flowing is like pass the parcel with a bomb that only explodes if the parcel is not passed. The belief is that the future economic growth will make the GDP bigger and the debt incurred manageable. Provided interest rates stay low. Which they usually do unless there's a credit squeeze or it's desired to tighten things due to runaway demand or inflation.
Anyway since the tide's out on fishing it's time to get back to public transport. Even if only to maintain internal morale. Their volcano's been plugged for too long. It would be even better if such work could, if only in name, combine both portfolio interests. And kick-start an unloved brownfields area on the CBD's doorstep into the bargain.
Which brings us to Fishermans Bend.
Existing Fishermans Bend Useful Network
The area has jobs but transport to it has always been limited. You can only easily get there from one direction with buses (Route 235 and 237) running from Southern Cross Station. For a while you could take Route 232 buses from Altona North but traffic congestion forced all trips to bypass Fishermans Bend (and run as freeway expresses) several years back.
The 606 arrives from the south (on weekdays only) but it's an infrequent part of a complex local network. With the 109 tram and 234 bus a hike away from most parts, this means the only public transport running every 20 minutes or better interpeak in the area is the 235 bus from the CBD.
All this means that Fishermans Bend is isolated, especially for somewhere so near the CBD. Public transport even from surrounding suburbs (eg the inner-west, south and south-east) is inefficient and slower than driving.
Southern Cross Station is a convenient connection point for regional passengers. However current rail operating patterns can make it unreliable for metropolitan passengers due to City Loop bypasses, train terminations, viaduct delays, transposals at Flinders Street and poor or conflicting passenger information. If you want anything more than one or two storey densities then public transport access has got to be better than this and from more directions too.
Both Liberal and Labor state governments have had ideas for a taller and denser Fishermans Bend. Labor promised a metro tunnel in 2010 through the heart of the CBD. It didn't directly serve Fishermans Bend but provided the impetus for later schemes that could (if built).
The Liberals (which won in 2010 under Ted Baillieu) put Labor's plan on hold. Cleverly exploiting the rail service meltdowns of the Brumby era, they convinced fed-up-to-the-gills voters that they could manage services and money better. Projects were de-scoped or deferred. Instead the game was to get what was there working better. Which the numbers show did happen for rail with a turnaround in reliability and new greenfields frequent service timetables on a few lines.
However that wasn't enough. Only some lines got schedule upgrades. And political sentiment had been shifting to favour big multi-billion projects since the Eddington Transport Report came out in 2008. Frankston's Liberal-turned-independent MP Geoff Shaw went mad with the burley. The party sharks were circling. Internal discord saw Baillieu, who was seen as leading a floundering 'do nothing' government, resign. Denis Napthine was the sole serious contender for the subsequent leadership ballot.
Premier Napthine's signature projects included the East-west road link and, later, a Melbourne Rail Link that routed trains via a new station at Fishermans Bend. The station supported land-use rezoning controversially approved by then planning minister Matthew Guy. However the rail link was announced too late for a start to be made. And voters didn't let them off the hook for their previous stupor.
Labor regained office in 2014. They revived the CBD Metro Tunnel scheme that's now well under construction. That took a more direct route into the city, missing Fishermans Bend. This has led some in planning circles to advocate a Metro 2 which would serve Fishermans Bend on a new line between Newport and Clifton Hill.
Metro 2 has not interested the current government, which instead favours its own longer and bigger Suburban Rail Loop. This is nearer their marginal seats in the outer eastern and south-eastern suburbs. Whatever its transport merits (which are widely contested) the SRL is more likely to appeal to 'middle Melbourne' suburban (as opposed to 'elite' inner urban) political constituencies.
To sum up, not much is likely to happen regarding heavy rail in Fishermans Bend any time soon. Practically no one lives there, and seats to the west are safe so there's nothing in it for the opposition to advocate. Development will be slowed by the likely recession. The only people really interested are cashed-up land bankers and developers playing the long game and cash-poor urban planning types who might get some consultancy gigs. You might spend on local transport but it won't be a high capital option for quite a while. Bear than in mind when you read what follows.
Land use visions for Fishermans Bend
As the largest parcel of waterfront land near the CBD there has been no shortage of ideas for the precinct. These videos give a taste of various concepts floating around.
Liberal (2010 - 2014)
Labor (2014 - )
The Planning Institute of Australia must have been playing a joke (or trying to make a point) when it scheduled last year's symposium in Fishermans Bend, pretty much the least transit served place in all of inner Melbourne. Is supporting venues who locate in transit deserts (profiting from cheap rent that shifts costs onto customers in the form of inferior access) really the legacy planners wish to leave?
Fish Bend is not just for planning love-ins. Melbourne University reckons its campus there will be up and running in 2024. A trip to Parkville takes the best part of an hour by existing public transport. An academic consigned there would think they've done something wrong. And students will shun the place unless they can be housed next door with other amenities nearby.
COVID-19 has put enormous pressure on the university sector with the slump in overseas student enrolments and an accelerated shift to online learning. Despite being a large export industry it's hard to feel for its overpaid administrators who didn't manage risks during the boom.
However I will assume that MU proceeds with Fishermans Bend, or, if it doesn't, there will be some other intensive use made of the land. Which brings us back to transport.
New useful network for Fishermans Bend (the F/Line tram)
Given the lack of current government interest in Metro 2 a less capital intensive option involving trams is a live possibility if they want anything to happen at Fishermans Bend. If the decision is made now it could be rolled out by the time Melbourne Uni's new campus opens.
The F/Line proposal, with two light rail lines, is set out below:
F/Line 1: Fishermans Bend - Lorimer St - Anzac Station. Allows Metro Tunnel connections including from Melbourne University and Caulfield area.
F/Line 2: Fishermans Bend - Williamstown Rd - CBD. Allows direct and simple access from Melbourne CBD.
Extensions are possible. F/Line 1 could run to South Yarra Station and via Toorak Rd to a new intermodal interchange on the Alamein line called Hartwood (or Burwell). This would replace part of Tram 58 which would terminate at Anzac Station. F/Line 2 could extend to Doncaster Park & Ride, Doncaster Rd and Mitcham Station. This would replace the 907 SmartBus with a high frequency medium capacity increased catchment alternative to Doncaster Rail.
Then there's a potential F/Line 3, so speculative it's not on the map. That could run over a Collins St tram bridge to Docklands, then Southern Cross then up Spencer St to North Melbourne Station. That would serve the large number of apartments going up. From there it could operate to Footscray via Dynon Rd. Rich Docklands boat owners carp on about opposing the bridge but it's a no-brainer that will deliver massive benefits as it transforms Docklands from being an edge to being a centre.
A wider network with wider benefits
F/Line is more than a tram network. That's because introducing trams would free up buses. These could be moved to connect other areas to Fishermans Bend via new or improved routes for a true integrated network. Possibilities include:
* Potential alternative direct Footscray area connection and
* High capacity / high frequency cross-Yarra bicycle punt from Spotswood
The result is a much more accessible Fishermans Bend as shown below.
Of these the front-runner is the 232/West Gate Bridge route. This is because it connects Newport Station (served by trains from Werribee, Laverton/Altona and Williamstown) with jobs in Fishermans Bend. That connection is currently difficult, requiring substantial backtracking from the CBD.
Plus, because the existing Route 232 bus both duplicates other bus routes and is poorly used, it could be implemented right now, for zero additional cost, even before F/Line starts. Then the buses that F/Line saves could be reserved for high frequency/high capacity connections from other directions.
A further benefit is that 232's rerouting via Mason St would allow Route 471 to run via more of Blackshaws Rd, providing a new direct connection from South Kingsville to Newport Station. Gentrifying South Kingsville has many CBD workers and there are local calls for a bus to Spotswood Station. The 471 Newport connection would meet these needs for zero additional operating cost with Newport having the advantage of more frequent trains including expresses. The area is within Transport Minister Melissa Horne's seat of Williamstown.
The other Fishermans Bend connection desirable is from the inner west. That includes close-in areas like Yarraville, Spotswood and Williamstown. The need for such a connection was known as far back as 1912, 1926 and 1936 where bus or tram solutions were proposed.
The 232 Newport bus connection mentioned before is good for some but it is still indirect for some shorter trips. A suggested alternative is an integrated cycling/ferry solution drawing on the successful West Gate Punt to deliver a high-quality ten minute service feeding upgraded cycling routes at Spotswood. The two vessels required could be named after previous members for Williamstown who became premiers.
The above is just the bones of a transport scheme for Fishermans Bend. Catch the much more detailed Fishermans Bend Transport Plan from three years back here. And you might find other discussion over on the Fishermans Bend Network Facebook page. The Altona North portion is discussed here.
What do you think of this network? Are there other connections that Fishermans Bend needs? Drop me a line; I look forward to herring from you in the comments below.
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This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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