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Back in 2019 I went through all Melbourne's marginal seats to identify cost-effective public transport service upgrades. A few have already been done. Most though have not and remain desirable today. The main difference since is there's been a redistribution. Seat boundaries have been redrawn with some districts created, abolished, renamed or merged. The shift reflects relative population changes with high growth in the outer west, north and south-east meaning more seats at the expense of established areas (mostly in the east). This is needed to keep representation close to 'one vote one value' with similar numbers of people in each seat. Redistributions often change seat margins. Some seats have become less marginal while others are more marginal. In some cases a seat's boundaries has changed so much that the incumbent member contesting it might lose it even if voting behaviour is the same as in 2018. Hence there are seats that are on the new boundaries are notionally Coalition that have an incumbent Labor member and vice versa. Thus 2019's item needs a rework. Not only to reflect the new seats and margins but also to update some of the initiatives proposed in light of what's already been done and further thinking. Why would a political candidate or party back better public transport services? In a nutshell it is to make life better, enable people to fulfill their dreams and cut living costs. Which type of service upgrade are easiest and most cost-effective to implement? The answer is that it varies. For more detail see How to win votes with public transport: Guide for 2022 Victorian election candidates from last week.
Which seats are marginal?The first job is to identify which seats are marginal. Ben Raue lists seats and estimated margin here. Antony Green's draft electoral pendulum is here. There's not much difference between them. However I will use Green's pendulum as it's ordered by margin which I prefer. The pendulum coming in to the 2018 election was quite evenly balanced due to the relative close results in 2014. The pendulum coming in to 2022 is much more skewed to Labor due to their generally strong results in 2018. It has seats that would normally be solidly in the Liberal camp (like Hawthorn and Brighton) as marginal. Whereas seats like Melton and Werribee had local issues that weakened (but did not turf out) the Labor candidate. I regard these as 'not safe' and will discuss them in future weeks. In simplified terms the main belt of Melbourne marginal seats shifted from the Frankston line after 2010 and 2014 to the Burnley group (Belgrave/Lilydale/Glen Waverley) after 2018.The Andrews government will be seeking a third term in 2022. Third terms have been difficult or impossible for two of the last three long-lived Victorian state governments. John Cain only just held on in 1988 while Jeff Kennett was narrowly defeated in 1999. Steve Bracks fared better in 2006 with a still comfortable margin despite a 5% swing against, with 2002's strong result providing a large buffer. The latter will also help Labor this year though we've seen instances of both very high and low volatility in recent state and federal elections. Also making a difference is that many seats will not have a recontesting incumbent candidate due to boundary changes, retirements, preselection losses and the odd drunken car crash. This puts many local contests on a more equal footing than would be the case where a recontesting incumbent has some 'personal vote' or at least a local profile. Marginal seats are listed below with the most marginal in each group first. Labor marginals (less than 6% notional margin)Hastings (Liberal held), Hawthorn, Nepean, Ashwood, Ripon, Box Hill, Pakenham, Ringwood, Melton, RichmondGreen-held marginals (less than 6% notional margin)Melbourne, BrunswickCoalition-held marginals (less than 6% notional margin) Caulfield, Eildon, Sandringham, Brighton, Croydon, Glen Waverley, Berwick, Bayswater (Labor held), Evelyn, Bass (Labor held), Warrandyte, Kew, Rowville, Mornington, BulleenMention should be made of less marginal seats, especially if government-held. This is because many of these will need to change hands for there to be a change of government. Another reason to consider them is that swings in elections are rarely uniform. Sometimes a seat considered marginal can stay with the government while one considered less marginal may swing. The 'not safe' list below includes many that determined who governed the state in 2010 and 2014.Labor near-marginal (6 - 10% margin) Monbulk, Cranbourne, Albert ParkLabor not safe (10 - 15% margin)Eltham, Frankston, Narre Warren North, Narre Warren South, Bentleigh, Carrum, Ivanhoe, Point Cook, Niddrie, Prahran (held by Green), Mordialloc, Werribee, Sunbury What did parties promise last time?The 2018 election was slim pickings on the service side - all the debate was about big infrastructure. Part of this was because the Coalition parties hardly challenged Labor's conspicuous faults on the service side with the long-serving David Davis hardly even trying. The Coalition did have a bus policy but it came out on election eve, with no seat-by-seat specifics useful for candidates to campaign on. Hence it disappeared without trace. Labor's Plan for Victoria's Bus Network came out in 2016 but was hardly promoted in 2018, possibly partly due to a testy relationship with some bus operators including protests that year. It had a list of mostly worthy coverage extensions. Lacking though was a bigger agenda to reform a complex and dysfunctional network or upgrade key routes. The Greens had more of the latter with some new and improved SmartBuses proposed. However the 2018 election narrowed their parliamentary make-up and they have since shifted their focus to promoting electric cars (which don't address most of the problems car dependence causes). Something else was notable around the 2018 election. In past times there has been a flurry to implement transport upgrades in the six months or so leading up to it or a bit after it. We saw the Mernda line open and results of level crossing removals but the service side otherwise had far less in 2018 compared to previous election years like 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. This might be because government and ministerial interest in the service side had reached a low ebb around 2018. It remains to be seen whether the recent revived interest translates to pre-election service upgrades. 12 Melbourne marginal seat transport upgrade packages I could go through each seat, list possible upgrades for each one and bundle them together at the end as a summary. I did that last time but it made for a long read.
Instead I'll take a different tack. Today I'll present a series of metropolitan transport service upgrades. They are chosen for their large and cost-effective benefits across multiple marginal seats (and others). Add walking, cycling, roundabout removal and other local road improvements and you have the ingredients of an affordable and broadly popular transport policy agenda for 2022.
Belgrave/Lilydale line more trains more often / 20 minute maximum waits.
Currently Belgrave and Lilydale get the least frequent weekday interpeak trains in suburban Melbourne with 30 minute waits if you just miss a train. Unusually weekend waits are less due to upgrades in 2013. Weekday timetables remain unfinished business as they were not reformed then.
This upgrade fixes that by cutting maximum waits to 10 minutes (Ringwood) and 20 minutes (Belgrave and Lilydale) all week with the weekday interpeak timetable being top priority. Boosting evening and Sunday morning trains from every 30 to every 20 min would be the next priority. That would shorten maximum waits at over 30 stations to match other popular lines like Frankston and Werribee.
An enhanced variation of this would deliver 10 minute service to Ringwood at night to eliminate changing at all times for Belgrave and Lilydale passengers. Simpler weekday peak timetables are also desirable. No extra trains are needed and, especially for the weekday component, it should be low cost due to low additional driver requirements.
Benefits Labor marginals Hawthorn, Box Hill and Ringwood as well as near marginal Monbulk. Plus Labor held but notionally Liberal Bayswater. Would also benefit marginal Liberal-held seats of Croydon, Evelyn, Kew and Warrandyte. Extending the evening upgrade to the Alamein line would add Labor marginal Ashwood to the seats to benefit.
Summary: A high profile service upgrade benefiting a lot of marginal seats for very low cost. Neither major party would be silly not to promise it. We know it's feasible as the proposed service pattern runs midday weekends. Discussion on the weekday part of this upgrade here and here. As the incumbent government Labor has the advantage of asking the Department of Transport to start planning now for early implementation, ideally before the election.
Sandringham line more trains more often / halved maximum waits.
Currently enjoys maximum 20 minute waits day and night all week except for Sunday mornings where it's 40 minutes, making trains less practical for leisure and airport travel. This is a low level of service for a densifying catchment.
Upgrade cuts maximum waits to 20 minutes at all times (except Night Network) by adding a few extra trips. Evening service already complies so this change involves adding just five trips each way each week (mostly Sunday morning), making implementation cheap by working the existing train fleet harder. After the change people will never need to wait more than 20 minutes for a train on any day, providing a dependency of service that does not currently exist.
For a relatively short line it benefits quite a few seats. Brighton, Caulfield and Sandringham (all Liberal marginal) have stations that would gain. As would notionally Labor but Green-held Prahran, a seat Labor will want to win in 2022, especially given the favourable redistribution for them.
Summary: So cheap it's a no-brainer. More here.
Pakenham/Cranbourne line more trains more often / maximum waits slashed.
Melbourne's busiest line currently has waits of up to 30 minutes (Dandenong) and 60 minutes (Pakenham) at certain times. This compares to Sydney with more uniform 15 minute maximum waits. This upgrade would cut maximum waits to 10 minutes (Dandenong) and 20 minutes (Pakenham and Cranbourne) all week with more one-seat rides. Main upgrades are weekend mornings and evenings as service at other times already conform. This makes it relatively cheap to implement with existing fleet. Scope to implement before Metro Tunnel services commence exists if we start planning now, even if only for a cut-down version that reduces maximum waits at Dandenong from 30 to 20 minutes.
Benefits the Labor marginal seat of Pakenham plus near marginal Cranbourne and the not completely safe Narre Warren North and Narre Warren South. Also the very marginal Liberal seats of Caulfield, Berwick and the notionally Liberal but Labor-held Bass.
Summary: A needed upgrade on Melbourne's busiest line. Again affordable since service levels most of the week are already there. Potential benefits to seven seats.
Geelong and Melton weekend trains more often / waits halved (or better).
These lines have a relatively frequent weekday service but half or less service on weekends despite still high usage, mostly generated by western suburban stations.
Upgrade addresses this by cutting maximum waits on weekends from 40 - 60 minutes to 20 minutes (to match weekday interpeak frequencies). A few added evening trips could also extend 20 minute service to later at night. That would deliver an improved 7 day Metro Trains type frequency to suburban growth area stations (eg Tarneit, Wyndham Vale, Caroline Springs) that happen to be served by V/Line. Restrictive rules that prevent V/Line trains picking up at suburban stations they stop at should also be dropped, at least during off-peak times, to bring more frequent service to transport hubs like Sunshine.
Benefits South Barwon and Melton which are both Labor marginals. Also benefits for Werribee (which was weak for Labor in 2018).
Summary: A needed boost in western growth areas possible with the existing train fleet and relatively few extra trips per week. A consistent 7 day service would strengthen the role of rail and assist connectivity with buses.
The above four train upgrades are summarised below.
Suburban Rail Loop East SmartBus Stage 1 / Linking the South-east
Stage 1 of Melbourne's underground Suburban Rail Loop is expected to open in 2035. It will provide north-south orbital connections between Southland and Box Hill to complement the current entirely radial rail network. Existing bus routes that most closely approximate the SRL alignment typically operate only every 30 to 60 minutes despite them being amongst the most productive on the network.
SRL East SmartBus would deliver new SmartBus routes to bring forward SRL's benefits by 10 years. Costs are modest as it is achieved by upgrading parts of existing bus routes rather than layering new over existing routes. This means that for the price of one completely new route you could have maybe three or four upgraded routes covering a much larger area.
SRL East SmartBus could include: (i) Boosting Route 733 frequency to every 15 min weekday, 20 min weekends between Box Hill, Mt Waverley, Monash and Clayton station with SmartBus operating hours. Extend route to Southland and optionally Sandringham, (ii) Upgrade Route 737 bus between Monash Uni, Glen Waverley and at least Knox City to every 15 min weekday, 20 min weekends with SmartBus operating hours, (iii) Reroute existing 903 SmartBus via Deakin University Burwood with supportive reforms to other routes, and(iv) Upgrade Box Hill to Deakin University access with a fast bus involving either an upgraded 201 express shuttle (incorporating 768) or a reformed Route 732 (incorporating 201 and 768) as per the 'Box to Knox' concept.
This is essentially a Monash and Deakin precinct bus revamp to already popular routes that would improve access to jobs and relieve parking pressures at key suburban stations by providing efficient feeders. Benefits the Labor marginal seats of Box Hill and Ashwood. Plus the Labor held but notionally Liberal Bayswater. Liberal marginals of Glen Waverley, Rowville and potentially Sandringham would also gain.
Summary: Some highly desirable bus upgrades with benefits for at least five marginal seats in Melbourne's east. The Coalition needs all these seats (and more) to regain government. For Labor this package would leverage off and bring forward benefits of its electorally popular Suburban Rail Loop (and make it look more real).
SmartBus 2.0 / SmartBus more often to more places
SmartBus is Melbourne's premium bus service but intervals on most routes are still only every 30 minutes on weekends, making for an uneven service level through the week. Upgrades would deliver maximum 15 minute waits all week until at least 9pm on busier portions, mostly by slotting short trips in between existing trips, pending more comprehensive review to be done later. Sunday evening service could extend to midnight on popular sections (where not already provided). Potential upgraded portions include:
(i) 900 - entire route (also upgraded to every 10 minutes interpeak)(ii) 901 - Frankston - Ringwood section only(iii) 902 - Springvale South - Nunawading section only(iv) 903 - Mentone - Doncaster section only (west to Coburg following network reform) (v) 907 - entire route (also upgraded to every 10 minutes interpeak)
Following routes to be deemed as SmartBus and upgraded where needed accordingly:
(i) 216, 220, 234, 246 (246 upgraded to every 10 minutes weekends)(ii) 200/207, 302/304, 250/251 (combined portions only) (iii) 402 and 508 (mostly extended hours and weekend frequency)(iv) 703 - entire route (mostly extended operating hours)
Additional major destinations to get SmartBuses as part of cost-effective local bus network reforms:
(i) VU Footscray (ii) Highpoint Shopping Centre(iii) La Trobe University Bundoora(iv) Deakin University Burwood
A large upgrade mostly favouring the marginal seat belt in Melbourne's east. Benefits the Labor marginal seats of Hawthorn, Ashwood, Box Hill, Ringwood and Richmond. Liberal marginals of Caulfield, Glen Waverley, Kew, Rowville and Bulleen would also stand to gain. Also Green-held marginals of Melbourne and Brunswick. Wins for safer seats in the north and west are also provided.
Summary: Requires significant additional weekend service hours but maximises use of existing bus fleet. Could be sold on the basis of new bus driver jobs created. Delivers upgrades to a huge number of seats. Would mark the biggest boost to SmartBus since the last new SmartBus route was added in 2010.
Strategic bus connections / filling the missing gaps
Intended to fill gaps along main roads or between key destinations where there should be a service but isn't. Includes: (i) Direct Box Hill - Ringwood bus via Canterbury Rd (ii) Route 734 extended from Glen Iris to Caulfield Station (iii) Revived Burnley St, Abbottsford route formed by extended 603 or 604 (iv) New Knox City - Scoresby Rd - Bayswater route formed by rerouted 664 (v) Elsternwick - Nepean Hwy - Southland route formed by rerouted and upgraded 823 (vi) Chadstone - Murrumbeena - East Boundary - Chesterville - Southland - Cheltenham route through Bentleigh East (reformed/straightened 822)(vii) direct Sandringham - Bay Rd - Southland bus (viii) Caulfield - La Trobe University Bundoora north-south route to replace part of 624 and 548, and (ix) Sunshine - Melbourne Airport limited stops bus as a precursor for airport rail.
Benefits Labor marginals including Box Hill, Ringwood, Ashwood, Richmond, Hawthorn. Also notionally Liberal but Labor held Bayswater. Liberal-held marginals to gain include Caulfield, Brighton, Sandringham, Glen Waverley, Kew. The airport route directly serves mainly safe Labor seats but have wider access benefits including for now marginal Melton.
Summary: Highly desirable gap filling upgrades mostly in Melbourne's south and east. Would require wider bus reform to maximise economy and minimise duplication. However their introduction would have benefits in at least 11 marginal seats.
Growth area logical extensions
Routes that currently stop at a dead end or weak terminus but could be extended to a more useful destination or catchment. A few could include: (i) Berwick - Clyde - Cranbourne bus formed by joining routes that almost meet in the area, (ii) Pakenham's 925 extended to Cardinia Rd station, (iii) Tarneit's proposed 154 extended to Sunshine via Laverton North industrial area, (iv) 463 extended south to Fraser Rise, (v) 400 terminated at Williams Landing instead of Laverton
In addition there could be a growth area bus fund with routine funding for bus network extensions in developing areas to deliver service earlier. Arrangements should permit wider application (including extension of routes to attractions in established areas and consolidation to reduce network duplication) than the restrictive GAIC mechanism. A locked-in escalating allocation in the order of $5-10m extra per year (about 10 - 20 buses) plus a $15 - 20m catch-up (for 1970s - 2000s suburbs that never got a full service at the time) would make a big difference with more areas getting service as people move in.
Benefits Labor marginal seats of Pakenham, Labor near marginal of Cranbourne and Liberal marginal of Berwick. The western extensions serve largely safe seats but there are substantial local needs for improved transport.
Weekend bus boosts
Bus timetables have often lagged changing working, shopping and recreational travel patterns. Many routes operate one-half or even one-third frequency on weekends than they do off-peak on weekdays. Many residential area bus routes also don't run at all on Sundays and sometimes even Saturday afternoons. Operating hours can also be short as the 2006 'minimum standards' upgrade program that rolled out 7 day 9pm finishes on Melbourne buses remains incomplete. This is unlike Metro Trains and trams whose operating hours and frequencies are more uniform seven days.
Service upgrades involve working the existing bus fleet harder to run nearer to a full service all week. Examples involving routes that are popular or have significant unique coverage include:
(i) Add Saturday afternoon service to the following 5 1/2 day bus routes: 538, 558, 559, 814, 844 and 857.
(ii) Add Saturday and preferably Sunday service to the following 5 day bus routes: 531, 546, 675, 680, 774, 802, 821 and 823.
(iii) Add Sunday service to the following 6 day bus routes: 271, 284, 285, 414, 415, 503, 506, 526, 536, 548, 558, 612, 766, 800, 804, 814, 844, 857, and 885. Also extend Saturday operating hours on routes with finishes before 9pm.
(iv) Add extra trips to give 7 day service at least hourly until 9pm on the following bus routes: 251, 270, 304, 370, 380, 423, 424 and 685.
(v) Weekend frequency upgrades for routes: 357, 406, 408, 410, 419, 425, 465, 472, 506, 508, 623, 630, 670, 703, 708, 733, 767, 800 and 828. More popular routes would increase to every 20 minutes, other routes every 30 or 40 minutes (in place of current widespread 40 - 120 minute frequencies). Some listed only need a Sunday frequency boost as Saturday services already run every 20 minutes.
Benefits are widely spread involving both non-marginal and marginal seats around Melbourne. Examples of the latter include: Hawthorn, Ashwood, Box Hill, Ringwood (Labor marginals), Kew (Liberal marginal) and Brunswick (Green marginal).
Cheap & cheerful bus upgrades / Many upgrades in many places
Low cost service upgrades that make buses simpler, remove confusing timetable anomailies, improve access to popular destinations, and work the existing bus fleet harder. Benefit both non-marginal and marginal seats. Includes:
(i) Operating routes 681 and 682 on public holidays to simplify service (only 7 day routes that do not run public holidays).
(ii) Deleting reduced summer timetables on routes 503 and 506 to simplify service
(iii) Operating all routes with Saturday service on public holidays (at the moment some do and some don't giving rise to PTV data errors and passenger confusion).
(iv) Longer operating hours on the following key routes: 150, 170, 180, 402, 420, 423, 424, 494, 495, 506, 508, 529, 533, 630, 703, 733, 775, 791, 800, 813, 828, 841, 893 and 926.
(v) Weekday interpeak and (desirably) weekend frequency upgrades on popular routes 150, 192, 494, 495, 529, 533, 733, 813 and 926.
(vi) New stops on existing bus routes where there are currently long gaps between them.
Many routes are listed but benefits are spread widely, including to many non-marginal seats too numerous to list. Few if any require peak buses. Scope exists to roll upgrades out gradually (eg several per month) similar to the 2006 - 2010 period where many similar upgrades were done.
Peninsula & Westernport Transport Action
This area is served by many transport modes including electric and diesel trains, ferries, V/Line coaches and regular buses. However services are often infrequent and connections can be a gamble.
Presented is a package of bus and train service upgrades including: (i) extra Mon-Thurs evening Stony Point train from Frankston, (ii) Mornington Peninsula coverage expansion including 781 extension, revised routes and more 7 day service, (iii) 782 and 783 upgrade including improved West Park services and 7 day connections to Flinders, (iv) bicycle accommodation on long distance bus routes including 782 and buses used for rail replacements, (v) improved town bus for Cowes and coaches for Wonthaggi and Cowes, (vi) simplified Route 795 with 7 day service, (vii) upgrades to Stony Point stations and (viii) improved transport and promotion of hiking and bicycle tourism involving train, ferry and bus connections to boost local jobs and development.
Grouped as a package due to cluster of three marginal seats in area, two of which are amongst the most marginal in the state. Includes Hastings (notionally marginal Labor but Liberal incumbent MP), Nepean (marginal Labor) and Bass (notionally marginal Liberal but with Labor MP). Some benefits would also accrue to Mornington (marginal Liberal).
Summary: A large number of quite small improvements that are nevertheless significant given current limited services. Some improvements tie in with local interests with regards to tourism and economic development. None of the seats listed can be taken for granted by either party.
Tram service refresh.
Shoulder peak, evening and weekend service upgrades on selected tram routes. Aim to shorten maximum waits from 12-15 min to 10 min during the day and 30 to 20 minutes Sunday mornings and evenings. Improve tram priority at slow spots and roll out more accessible stops.
Benefits Richmond, Box Hill, Hawthorn and Ashwood (Labor marginals) and Kew, Caulfield, Brighton and Glen Waverley (Liberal marginals) and Brunswick and Melbourne (Green marginal).
I've described 12 packages of (mostly) marginal seat upgrades for public transport services in greater Melbourne. The emphasis has been on economy and ease of implementation without drastic network reform or fleet expansion. However benefits delivered would be wide-ranging, representing what a 'swing to service' could achieve.
Comments are appreciated. Use the space below if there are some upgrades I've missed or if you don't think all listed are worthwhile.
In future weeks I'll present seat-by-seat lists, with these and other upgrades of more local importance. This could be useful for candidates who wish to win votes with public transport. Parties might also find individual seat listings useful if they wish to form policies that concentrate on a particular area or group of seats. These are below:
Election 2022 special: Public transport service upgrades by seat - Part 2 The marginalsElection 2022 special: Public transport service upgrades by seat - Part 3 Less marginal seatsElection 2022 special: Public transport service upgrades by seat - Part 4 Safer seats
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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