Published at The Age on January 12 2017.
Tennis fans returning from night sessions of the Australian Open face lengthy delays on some days as trains on four lines are suspended for maintenance and roadworks.
On the Craigieburn line, buses will replace trains between Essendon and Craigieburn stations after 8pm each night from Sunday night until Thursday night, due to works being carried out as part of the CityLink Tulla widening project. Public Transport Victoria says this will increase journey times by up to 30 minutes
On the Upfield line, buses will replace trains between North Melbourne and Upfield stations after 7.45pm each night from Sunday until Wednesday. PTV says the disruption is due to “maintenance work on structures and facilities, electrical networks and signalling”, and could increase journey times by up to 35 minutes.
Due to separate maintenance works in the City Loop, trains on the Craigieburn, Sunbury, Upfield, Werribee and Williamstown lines will not run via the City Loop after 8.30pm each night from Monday until Wednesday. Instead these trains will run direct between Flinders Street and North Melbourne stations via Southern Cross, while buses will replace Loop trains, stopping at Flinders Street, Southern Cross, Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament stations. PTV says this may increase journey times by up to 30 minutes.
In the second week of the tournament, passengers on the Werribee and Williamstown lines will be affected after 8.30pm each night from Sunday, January 22 until the last service on Wednesday, January 25. During these times, buses will replace trains between North Melbourne and Newport stations on the Werribee line, and between North Melbourne and Williamstown on the Williamstown line. PTV says the disruptions, which are due to maintenance work, may increase journey times by up to 30 minutes.
Daniel Bowen of the Public Transport Users Association said the shutdowns were “frustrating” for travellers, but conceded many of the works were necessary.
“A lot of these projects need to happen, but it’s how they handle it that counts. Whether they provide enough notice, enough staff, whether there are enough buses: these are the major issues,” he said.
Public Transport Victoria spokesperson John Lindsay defended the decision to conduct the “vital works” during the “quieter period.
“The number of people using public transport drops over the school holiday period in summer, which makes it the best time to undertake critical maintenance and upgrades to our public transport network,” he said.
“Over late December and early January, public transport patronage is at its lowest, and doesn’t return to normal levels until the end of February.”
The crunch will hit particularly hard on January 17, when the tennis coincides with a Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and Brisbane Heat at the MCG. When the two sides clashed in Melbourne last year, attendance exceeded 30,000.
The 2016 Australian Open drew an average evening crowd of over 21,500.
The news comes in the middle of a Melbourne Park revamp designed to better cater for public transport users. The primary entrance of the Australian Open has been relocated from Olympic Boulevard to Birrarung Marr, pushing it closer to train stations and tram stops.
“For our fans, it’s a much quicker trip straight from Flinders Street Station and Federation Square, through Birrarung Marr and into the new front door of the Australian Open,” Tennis Australia’s director of events and facilities Tom Larner told 3AW on Wednesday morning.