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Archive for Melbourne

No more waiting at Keon Park

The first week has just finished with Epping line trains no longer having to wait at Keon Park for the other train to come from the other direction.

The two rail tracks from Keon Park to Epping have been added as part of the South Morang rail project.

However, I haven't seen the talked about new timetable for the Epping line unless the changes have been made for the middle of the day.

The trains that I use each morning from Regent station are still coming at the previous time all way from the 7:18 am train to the 8:324 one. Nothing has changed there.

Also I haven't seen the changes on the way back. This first week using the new track has trains running late almost every night and on Friday the 5:30 train from Parliament was cancelled.

Maybe there will be timetable changes when the South Morang line is finally opened but at least for now there is no waiting for a train to come from the other direction before proceeding.

I think that's a welcome development for the people who use the Thomastown, Lalor and Epping stations.


Myki for all

So Myki will now be implemented across the entire Melbourne transport network starting on Sunday 25th of July.

Myki has been running on the trains from around October last year and now its been decided that it can be extended to buses and trams as well.

I am still to use this system as I continue with my Metcard but I don't like the touch on, touch off business.

I can imagine if there are more people using it there would be more people waiting to touch off and I can see some queues forming at train station exists.

Maybe they should have designed a system that just needs "touch on" only.

Storm punishment too harsh

The Melbourne National Rugby League(NRL) team, the Melbourne Storm have been stripped of two championships for breaching the NRL salary cap rules.

The Storm have also been fined $500,000 and ordered to return the prize money they took for winning the 2007 and 2009 titles and above that they will play for no points this season.

I think it was bad for the Storm to breach the salary cap rules because its actually cheating and cheating is not good in any sport but the punishment given seems to be too harsh.

In particular I don't agree with the team playing for no points for the rest of the season. What does that actually mean and what will that achieve?

I think the Storm must be allowed to sort out their finances and make sure they are they operating under the salary cap and once that happens they should play for points like anybody else.

I think its correct for them to lose the eight points that they have gained so far operating outside the salary cap, but I also think once this is corrected and can be proven to the NRL then they should be allowed to earn points.

They may start from zero points and maybe finish last in the competition but at least they will be playing competitive matches. That's why its called competition.

Making them play for no points for the rest of the season does not make sense, I think. Who is going to go and watch a match where the other team is just playing to fulfill a fixture?

With the AAMI Park Stadium opening next month this would have been the year for the Storm to get more fans to come and watch them but if they are not playing for points I don't think many will be bothered.

The NRL could also deduct further points if they want and let the Storm play for something. I wonder who will be bothered to put all the effort if all you are doing is playing for nothing.

Also what about the other teams. I think its unfair to them too to play a Storm team who are just playing and if they lose will they get no points? I think the NRL should think more about the Storm's future and make sure that is secure and whatever punishment they give should not jeopardize that. Stripping minor premierships and championships is good because they were won unfairly but then the team must be allowed to move on.

Its either the team is banned altogether from competing or the punishment is realistic in terms of future matches. I will go for the latter.


Melbourne Heart goes North

I was surprised to read that the new A-League Melbourne team, Melbourne Heart was going to base itself at La Trobe University.

All along I thought that the Heart would be based somewhere in the council of Casey but it seems like they got a good deal from the La Trobe Uni and also Darebin council.

The good thing about having two teams in Melbourne is that we will get at least a match most weekends at the new AAMI Park or Etihad Stadium if they use for a few matches.

I don't know how Heart will try to get its membership and how it will target its supporters given that Melbourne Victory is firmly established in the Victorian capital.

But I think there has to be a distinct supporter base for Heart to differentiate itself from the Victory.

Now that they are based in the Northern suburbs, will they try to target the footballing public in the region?

They could make themselves popular by going into local schools and by helping the local football teams through football clinics etc but I am not so sure what their strategy will be.

From 560 to 902

From the 5th of April the bus route from Greensborough to Broadmeadows, route 560 was replaced by route 902.

Route 902 is a much longer route and the bus starts from Airport West and ends in Chelsea.

For some of us who have once in a while used route 560 in the past, this looks like a good development because the route 902 buses come every 15 minutes during the day.

Route 560 wasn't even available on Sunday which gave a lot of problems to people who relied on it for transport.

Also route 902 is a smart bus which means that on certain bus stops along the route you are able to get information on the approximate time the bus will arrive.

I don't know the advantage of having such a long route though and I don't think it would be a good idea to sit on that bus for the whole time because a train would be a better option.


Sweltering into the New Year

Its been some hot two days in Melbourne as 2009 comes to an end but the first day of they year is forecast to have more comfortable temperatures.

Today the forecast says the temperature will reach 38 degrees and yesterday it was the same level.

I think the problem is when the the minimum temperature is as high as 24 degrees like last night because that means the night will be so warm and you have to endure the air-conditioning noise all night long.

I think there is going to a cool change later today which fortunatelty means we wont exactly swelter into the New Year.

I remember a few years ago when the last two days of the year had temperatures of above 40 degrees and I remember the New Year's eve was as uncomfortable as it could have been.

I hope the new year will start on a cooler footing and for now I wish you a happy 2010!


Bye Connex, welcome Metro Trains

Today Connex has made way for Metro Trains Melbourne(MTM) who is now the new franchisee for the Melbourne rail network.

Just last week I received a text message asking me whether I wanted to continue with the service updates from MTM and then I could see that Connex was now rounding up its service.

I have just had a look at the MTM website and it looks very impressive and there are live service updates which you can see at a glance for all lines.

I think Connex did a reasonably good job at least for the Epping line which I use for the last six to eight months.

I think the best that happened during that time was to make the morning trains more frequent. Instead of waiting 20 minutes for the next train on average, this has been reduced to ten minutes which has made missing a train not such a big deal.

I don't expect a sudden change in service but I think it would be good to make trains come at least six to seven minutes apart in pick hour especially in the morning.

Welcome Metro Trains, wish you all the best!


Free zone 2 bus travel

Travelling by bus in the Melbourne Metlink's Zone 2 will be free every weekend of September.

In an effort to get more people to use buses over the weekend, all bus travel will be free on Saturday and Sunday for the whole month of September.

I think its a good move but maybe they should have said buses in both zones 1 and 2.

Its good if you are travelling within zone 2 but the problem comes when you want to start or finish your journey in zone 1. In that case you are expected to have a valid zone 1 ticket.

I am keen to see if bus patronage will increase in Zone during September.

Out goes Connex and in comes MTM

The Victorian Premier John Brumby yesterday announced that the Connex contract to run the Melbourne rail network will not be renewed but the contract has instead been given to the Hong Kong company Metro Trains Melbourne(MTM).

Its hardly surprising to see Connex lose the contract to operate the Melbourne rail network but its going to be a tall order for MTM to really do a good job of it.

This is because they will still get the same trains that Connex has been running and with the same inherent infrastructure problems that the network has.

Unless they go out and buy new and more reliable trains I actually don't see much happening and it could be a question of different names on the trains.

I think what the Melbourne rail network needs is further investment in terms of getting newer and more reliable trains and expanding the network somehow so that trains do not waste time waiting for other trains to pass as happens a lot of times at Clifton Hill.

For the trains that I use I can say that I have seen some improvements over the last few months and there has been less cancellations but these seem to have been replaced by more delays.

Its not surprising to hear that a train has been delayed by ten minutes and by the time the train gets to Flinders Street station the delay could have increased to fifteen minutes or so.

On the other hand I hope MTM will be able to do better in terms of making sure that at least the trains are clean and presentable most of the time and that the inside is designed so that its easier for standing passengers.

The new contracts starts in December and so I hope that MTM will now begin to do their homework to get rail network to world class standards.


Werribee to get new services

Connex announced that it will add 290 new and extended services from 20 July in a bid to improve train travel for the commuters.

The July changes are mostly for the Werribee line with 255 changes which will enable 10 minute train frequency during off-peak.

There is nothing changing for the Epping line and many of the other lines. The only other lines to get some small changes will be Craigieburn, Frankston, Pakenham and Williamstwon.

Its good to see additional changes but I also think as a commuter I would like to see more reliability.

The new trick seems to be having delays but no cancellations.

Its not been as bad on the Epping line for me over the last few months but once in a while we get a delay of ten minutes or so but rarely cancellations especially in the morning.

Good news for South Morang extension

At last there has been some good news regarding the South Morang rail extension with the announcement on the Public Transport website that development and design has started on the South Morang Rail Extension.

Also on Friday the Premier John Brumby announced that State Budget will commit $562.3 million to build a rail extension of the Epping line to South Morang.

The project will also involve the duplication of the Epping line from Keon Park station.

Its good to see that this project is finally moving forward after many years of false promises.

The Department of Transport is holding two information sessions next month one at Plenty Ranges Arts and Convention Centre and another one at Reservoir Civic Centre and if I get time I may pass through the reservoir one to learn more about this project.

Wheel out for longer

It seems like the Southern Star Observation Wheel will be out for longer than anticipated after a report in The Age stated that the wheel will be partially replaced.

When the wheel stopped operating in February it was anticipated that it would be out of operation for at six months but the latest development means that the wheel will be out for much longer.

I have been the wheel's site and so far there hasn't been any update but I will checking just in case the guys update the public about what is happening to the troubled wheel.


Wheel out for six

The Southern Star Observation Wheel which was opened in Melbourne in December will now be closed for at least six months according to this update on its website.

The troubled wheel which should have been opened at the end of November last year but after some initial problems it could only open a month later.

The latest problem has been blamed on the recent heat and to require at least half a year's repair sounds to me like the damage was quite extensive.

I haven't been able to go the wheel myself so far but when it comes back maybe it will be time to visit and enjoy whilst its running.

I think the wheel is a good alternative tourist attraction and I think it gives a bit of variety to both the local and international tourist.

But before that happens the wheel must become functional and reliable and I hope that will happen before the end of the year.


Sizzling week in Melbourne

Today was the first day of the days over the 40 degrees and although the forecast was for 41 degrees the mercury actually reached 43 degrees.

Tomorrow the forecast for Melbourne is 43 degrees and the same thing for Friday but I actually expect the temperatures to go beyond that.

The first 'cool' day will be Saturday when the temperature is forecasted to reach 35 degrees and then 31 on Sunday.

The continous hot days are very hard to handle because there is no cool change at night and the temperature basically stays high all that time.

One of the biggest problems that I dread at this time is cancelled train services. Today I had to wait for more than 20 minutes to get the train on my way home and I expect a similar thing for the next two days.

I am not surprised about all the talk about heat at the Australian Open and I actually wonder how people can sit down in 30 plus heat watching tennis when the roof is not closed.

I am hoping that there will no more heat wave until next summer. Its interesting to see that it had not been really 'hot' so far until this week.

Wheel starts turning

The Southern Star wheel started working on the weekend and the website has since been updated since my last post on the wheel.

This is a welcome attraction to Melbourne and I think some people will also find it interesting. Without taking a ride myself I am not so sure how much one really sees from that wheel but I hope to go there soon.

Another thing to consider is whether one can get a better view from Eureka Tower but in terms of experiences maybe the Southern Star will be more interesting.

On the pricing, I was surprised to see that the people at Southern Star did not consider having a family ticket. At the moment adults pay $29 and children pay $17 and for thirty minutes worth of fun the pricing seem steep.

They have got all these other groups including a category called International students but I think they should also add a family ticket in that mix.

Southern Star not turning

The latest Melbourne attraction, the Southern Star Observation wheel seems to be having problems because nearly three weeks after it was scheduled to open it hasn't started operating.

Sometime in October it was announced by the Premier John Brumby that the wheel would be opened on the 28th of November but come 28th of November nothing happened and even now there doesn't seem to be any movement.

I have just been to wheel's website and the site says it will open in late 2008.

The site also says that tickets prices will be announced soon which means that the operators have not yet decided how much they will charge for a ride on the wheel.

I hope that the Southern Star will be open before the school holidays finish and in the meantime I will just keep checking the website and see what they have to say.

Melbourne transport plan looks good

The new proposed Melbourne transport plan unveiled today by the Premier John Brumby looks good to me as it also caters for public transport.

Maybe for me the best bit is the South Morang rail extension because the people in South Morang and surrounding suburbs have been clamouring for this for some time now and its good it has been fitted into the plan.

In future the line could be extended to Mernda but thats for another plan I think.

This will make that whole area in the north of Epping an attractive place to live for people who want to use public transport especially when going to the city.

The other thing that I liked is the proposed link between the Metropolitan Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway. Currently it takes so long to drive from the Greensborough end of the Metropolitan Ring Road to the Eastern Freeway and a link between the roads would of great help.

I think even if the link is made a tollway its better to have that option than the current situation where there is no option at all. That route could also be used as an alternative route to the airport by people in the Eastern suburbs.

All the other plans do not directly affect me and so I am not going to dwell on them but I think the 17 kilometre cross-city tunnel from Caulfield to Footscray via St Kilda Road and inner Melbourne is a very good idea.

It seems however that there will never be a train link to Melbourne Airport something that I wish once in a while it was there.

Less than a dollar a litre

For the first time in a very long time I bought fuel for less than one dollar a litre in Melbourne and it was very good.

I can't remember the last time unleaded fuel cost less than a dollar a litre and it was good to be able to do so this week.

For some time the fuel price on the world market has fallen but it always takes time for the lower price to filter down to the pump.

I have always wondered why it takes so long for the price to come down and yet when it goes up on the whole market its quickly reflected on the pump.

I also think the lower fuel price has come at a good time in December where I do a bit of travelling than normal and I am now hoping that it will stay like for some time.


Homeless World Cup at the Square

Melbourne is set to host the Homeless World Cup at the Federation Square and Birrarung Marr where 56 teams are set to participate.

On the TV front SBS is going to broadcast the men's final live on the 7th of December and plus highlights from the women's final.

Its good to see the Federation Square being used for such a function because its so accessible but I am wondering how they will configure the Fed Square to cater for this World Cup.

The Fed Square is becoming a place where all kind of things happen these days and its easy to go there over the weekend and see something happen that you didn't even expect.

I will see if I will be able to go and watch these free matches which last just fifteen minutes and I hope it will be a week of top street football.


New Connex timetable kicks in

The new Connex timetable will start on Monday the 9th of November and I am looking forward to the extra trains that have been added to my Epping line in the morning.

For me the biggest change will be the fact that the train will go straight to Flinders Station instead of going through the loop first and therefore this time I will have to leave the train at Flinders.

It will result in a fair amount of walking compared to my usual Flagstaff station. But I am hoping that it will mean that I get to work earlier using the same train because of avoiding the loop.

Connex has added two new trains between 7:30 am and 8:30 am and this will mean roughly a train every ten minutes and if they don't get cancelled it could be very good.

I am especially happy that the twenty minute gap between the Regent 8:04 and 8:24 trains has been halved and now missing the 8:04 train will not be a disaster as it has been in the past.

However, I am still suspicious that the change will end up with even more cancellations but for now let me hope for the best.


From Telstra to Etihad

The Testra Dome will be renamed Etihad Stadium from March next year after Etihad Airways became the new naming rights sponsor for the Stadium.

Its interesting to see that it won't be Etihad Dome but Etihad Stadium and I think I will take some time for me to get used to the new name.

I go to the Telstra Dome mostly for A-League matches and once in a while for AFL matches and personally I don't like this idea of naming rights for stadiums.

I think stadiums should just be given a name that stays forever just like the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and Wembley for example.

This name will be for the next five years with an option for another two after that which means it will then change again to something else. Why didn't they sign that name for at least ten years and not just five?

I think the reality is that these stadiums want to make money from whatever they can market and it looks like we will see more stadiums named after the corporate sponsors.

Melbourne teams on top

Three years ago there was hardly any September AFL football in Melbourne as the inter-state teams dominated but all that has changed now with only Sydney left in the AFL finals.

In the rugby league Melbourne Storm won a third consecutive minor premiership on Sunday when it walloped South Sydney 42-4 and got the 26 points required to win the minor premiership.

Storm is doing so well but because rugby league is a minor sport in Melbourne sometimes its achievements tend to go unnoticed in Melbourne.

I only watch rugby league when Storm happen to be playing but I remember I got dissapointed when they played the Gold Coast Titans away with a depleted squad because of a coming State of Origin match. Its not surprising they lost that match.

Hopefully the Storm will reach the Grand final for the third year in a row and possibly win it.

In the AFL I think Geelong are going to win the flag again but I also think that they will play a Melbourne team most probably Hawthorn and it will be good just to have two Victorian teams fighting it out for the flag.

There is still some three weeks to go but there is already the buzz about the Grand Final.

More links needed

Last week I had the chance to drive on the latest Melbourne tollway, the Eastlink and I was impressed with how much time I saved going to Kilysth South.

Now the free phase has finished and tolling has started on the Eastlink but I think in terms of time saved its a step in the right direction.

I also think that more links are needed and the one I would like to see is the link between the Metropolitan Ring road at Greensborough linking with Eastlink and the Eastern Freeway.

Even if its a tollway its far much better because at the moment it takes a lot of time to get from Greenborough to reach the Eastern Freeway.

A freeway or tollway between Greensborough and Ringwood would cut the time to less than ten minutes. It will also be quicker for people living in that part of Melbourne to reach Melbourne Airport.

A broken Melbourne cycle

I have been watching the Melbourne fuel cycle over the last three weeks and I have observed that the cycle seems to be no more.

What normally happens is that sometime on Wednesday morning the price goes up by at least 10 to 15 cents and then gradually come down to the lowest price on Wednesday morning the following week before shooting up again but over the last few weeks this hasn't happened.

What has happened instead is that the price has just stayed around the $1.40 mark all the time and I am now wondering what has happened to the fuel cycle.

I think this is now the FuelWatch in action as recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission(ACCC). What I fear though is that when the price shoots up it will shoot up so high and stay there. Now that wont be good.

Daylight savings knocks clock

Normally daylight savings in Melbourne ends on the last Sunday of March but from this year daylight savings will end on the first Sunday of April and so some clocks turned back one hour on Sunday.

One of the clocks to do so was the iconic Nylex clock but interestingly it appears it couldn't be turned back forward and so has been switched off until Monday next week.

I think it was thought to be better to switch it off instead of trying to fix for less than six days and I read that a satellite link could not be overridden.

I actually like the idea of extending daylight savings into April and this year has been even better with school holidays and that extra one hour has been handy.

Later this year daylight savings in Melbourne will start on the 5th of October which is some three weeks earlier compared to last year when daylight savings kicked on the 28th of October.

Free Early bird travel extended

The free train travel before 7 am which was being trialled on the Frankston and Sydenham lines will now be extended to the rest of the Melbourne metrolitan network from the 31st of March, 2008.

As I wrote last year when the trials started, I still think this is good news to people who start work before 7 am and even those who start work up to 7.30 am for they can take advantage of the one way free travel on offer with the early bird tickets.

Having seen the problems of overcrowding on trains increase over the last few weeks on my line, I think long term what is needed are more trains and for the trains to come more frequent during peak hour.

Using overcrowded trains now seems to be the order of the day and this latest move will benefit the earlier trains which at the moment seem to be best anyway but for the rest of the passengers I think there could very little difference in terms of overcrowding.


Auditing the cyclists

This morning it was Super Tuesday in Melbourne as an audit of Melbourne cyclists was done at various points around the city.

This date was announced sometime ago in January and its a good exercise that will try and and establish roughly how many people cycle to work and what can be done to improve the available infrastructure. I am keen to see the results of the audit when they are released sometime later this year.

I don't cycle to work myself but maybe I could consider cycling to the train station and then jump on the train. There has been a big debate lately in Melbourne about bicycles not being allowed on the trains during peak time but another talk for another day.

I think the results of this audit are going to help plan for more bicycle lanes where there is a greater number of cyclists. I don't know whether they will also remove those bicycle lanes where they are hardly used or maybe they will be left to encourage more people to cycle to work.


Melbourne sizzles

Today we got another 40 plus degrees day which is the third one in less than two weeks and tomorrow the forecast says the temperature will also go beyond 40 degrees before a cool change moves in.

Its been hot in Melbourne over the last fortnight and I am hoping that the Friday's hot day will be the last for this summer. 40 plus degree days are not exactly a rarity but when its continuous hot days it becomes unbearable.

With no rain forecast until next week its very hard to see how the plants can survive with minimal watering afforded by the stage 3a restrictions.

Also I have observed that the water storage levels have been going down since hitting 40% after the mid-December rains but this it to be expected with the amount of evaporation taking place at the moment.

If the current heat is a taste of global warming then it doesn't look good at all.

Not so good for Thornbury

I found the report that said that that according to the insurer AAMI Thornbury gets top spot for home break-ins in Melbourne a bit interesting.

At one time I lived not so far from Thornbury in Preston and I am a bit surprised that there are so many break-ins in that suburb but this is data from just one insurer and I think the one from the Victorian police would give a clearer picture I guess.

In second place was Elwood with Ascot Vale, Kew, Richmond taking the positions three to five. To complete the top ten were Clifton Hill, Coburg, East Malvern, Port Melbourne and Brighton.

It is interesting to see that the top ten suburbs are spread all over Melbourne which in a way shows that it is a widespread problem across Melbourne.

I will looking forward to seeing the Victorian police one which gets published in the newspapers from time to time.

Fare rise too soon

Last week the Victorian state government announced the new fares for Melbourneís metropolitan public transport system starting from the first of January 2008 and unlike this year there will be no delay in implementing the new price regime.

This year the new prices became effective in March because the service was so poor this time last year that a price rise wouldn't have been appropriate at the time but I think it seems that they think the service is better this time around. This has made next year's price appear to come so soon.

To be fair on my line the service has been quite good with very few cancellations but delays seem to be the norm especially on the way home which is sometimes good if I would have missed the train had there been no delay but not so good if I have to be at my destination at a certain time.

Its good to see anyway that a new weekend metcard will be introduced in April 2008 and even though I don't travel that much over the weekend it will be a worthwhile card to have because the fare is nearly half price the weekday one.

Free Connection at the Square

Its now five years since Federation Square was opened in Melbourne and to help celebrate the fifth birthday Optus installed a free WI-FI hot spot for everyone to use when at the Square.

This will be handy when I am at the Square especially on the way home from work. There is also another free hot spot down the road at the State Library along Swanston street.

For those interested in watching live events at the Fed Square, its good to know that the 38 sq metre screen will be replaced with an even bigger one with a size of 65 sq metres.

The Federation Square has increasingly become a focal point watching major sporting events and last year's World Cup easily springs to mind.

Apart from that I also go there for Christmas Carols and this will be happening in a few weeks time from now.

Geelong hope for Victoria

Around this time last year, I wrote about the lack of Victorian teams in AFL Grand Final but this year we have a Victorian team Geelong competing in the grand final against Port Adelaide and with a real chance of winning.

Once again we don't have a Melbourne team but at least we have a Victorian team and if the Melbourne teams can maintain the momentum they had this season then it will not be surprising to see a Melbourne team in the grand final next year.

Geelong have had a wonderful season which started with winning the pre-season cup and now need to lift the big one. The problem though is that last time around when Port Adelaide were in the final in 2004, not many people gave them a chance but they went on to beat the Brisbane Lions. I hope that this doesn't happen this time around.

But there is a Melbourne team in a grand final and this is the Melbourne Storm who are playing Manly in the National Rugby League final on Sunday. The Storm are in a grand final for the second year running. After a disappointing final loss last year, I am also hoping that the Storm will this time win to cap their excellent season.

Grand final week is always a special week in Melbourne with all grand final related activities taking place and I hope to catch up with at least one of them during this week.

Free early bird plan good

The proposed plan to have a free train travel for commuters who reach their destination by 7 am sounds like a very good idea.

This will be trialed on the Frankston and Sydenham lines from late October and if successful will be implemented on the rest of the network. I don't use any of these two lines but I hope that the people on these two lines will make it successful so that it can be extended to other lines.

The plan is of direct benefit to those people who currently reach their destination before 7 am but can also be used by commuters who currently start work as late as 7.30 am if they prepared to arrive a bit early.

I think its also good for all those who have flexible working hours and that will also mean an early finish and thats not bad in the summer months. However, if you live a bit further from your destination it can mean leaving home just after 6 am which may prove to be a bit difficult especially at the start and moreso in the winter months.

I hope we will get updates on how the trial is going just to know what's happening.

Flue outbreak and the Cup

There was concern over the weekend that the Melbourne Cup could be delayed until December due to the equine flu outbreak but according to the Racing Victoria chairman Graeme Duff the race will go ahead.

Duff says the Spring Racing Carnival could go ahead without the interstate horses but I feel if it means waiting a month and then have all the horses from the other states then that would be good.

But I think the problem is breaking with a long-established tradition of having the Cup on the first Tuesday of November. To have it any other time may not appeal to some people but I just hope that this outbreak is contained in time and we can have the Melbourne Cup in November.

Say the Cup is delayed, I wonder whether that will mean that Melbourne Cup holiday will also be postponed. Possibly.

Packed to the limit

Early this week I had to board my train from Thornbury, the 7.59am service and there was hardly any space left on the train and some who couldn't withstand the packed conditions just let the train go.

For the next few stations people could only board the train if somebody was dropping off and that was the case when some students got off at Northcote and two or three people jumped on. This service is express from Clifton Hill but it could easily be express from Bell or Preston because there is hardly any space left after these two stations.

I am not surprised to read reports about overcrowding on Melbourne trains because over the last few weeks I have seen trains packed to absolute limit. I don't know why there has been such a surge in numbers but I think the time intervals need to revised to let the trains come every ten minutes or so on the Epping line instead of the current fifteen minutes.

Without reducing the time intervals between trains, the overcrowding will continue unabated but it means that more and more people further down the line will find no space on the train as they come full with no more space for more passengers.

Limiting the numbers

This year's Melbourne Cup will not be that kind of event where you turn up on the day and buy your entry tickets and off you get in but all tickets are going to be pre-purchased according to a report in The Age newspaper.

This will apply to all events taking place during the Spring Carnival later this year. This development has been caused by the need by the Victoria Racing Club (VRC)'s to control the number of people who are going to attend each event.

In the past anybody who turned up on the day would buy a ticket and enter but that has meant that the numbers have been unpredictable but by pre-purchasing tickets the numbers are going to be controlled.

Its interesting whilst other events would try everything to get as many people as possible, the VRC finds in the unusual position of trying to keep the number to a set limit determined by the number of tickets sold.

In a way the Melbourne Spring Carnival has become a victim of its own success but I think that anything that can be done to improve the safety of the patrons is good.

Slight rise welcome

The recent rains in Victoria have been welcome and the result is that there has been an increase in the storage water levels for the first time in many weeks.

After many weeks of downward spiral, the water storage levels started rising last week and it was a relief to see them go past 30%. I hope the rains will continue for the forceable future to make sure the storage levels goes at least to 50% but maybe thats a big ask.

I wonder how many people in Victoria have wished the rain washing out matches at Wimbledon had come here to Victoria. I suppose that would put us out of stage 3a to maybe stage 2 within days.

I also hope that the current rains mean that the drought is coming to an end or is actaully finished.

Desalination plant to the rescue

Some solutions to the water crisis caused by the current drought are beginning to come through and this week the Victorian Premier Steve Bracks announced the new desalination plant to be built near Wonthaggi.

This sounds like a good idea because the desalination plant when fully operational will supply 30 percent of Melbourne's water needs. I think that itís quite a lot of water from one source and also it will continue providing water irrespective of the prevailing weather conditions.

The biggest price to be paid I think will be the environmental impact of such a big plant in an rural area like the Wonthaggi region. Early this year I went to Inverloch which is a few kilometres from Wonthaggi and I assume that the area will not be the same again with the building of the desalination plant.

The desalination plant will be the biggest in Australia but the only other desalination plant in Australia is in Western Australia and one that became operational a few years ago and so the comparison is just between two plants here.

Once the plant is finished, the other thing to consider will be the cost of water to Melbournians. This $3.1 billion desalination is definitely going to water make water more expensive but the question is by how much. Nobody is talking about it yet but I think soon we will start to have slight increases in the price of water and before long I will become quite expensive.

A less than normal increase

I have been following the pattern of the Melbourne fuel cycle for some time now and what normally happens is that sometime on Wednesday the price goes up by between 9 to 12 cents but for some reason this week the price just went up by an average four cents.

So for example at my local service station the price went from 128.9 cents to 132.9 cents instead of something like 138.9 cents like last week.

I think the main reason for the slight increase this week is because of claims of oil companies ripping off motorists by not passing on international price reductions at the local bowser.

Just last week the Prime Minister John Howard indicated that he was willing to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) greater powers if petrol prices don't come down.

What will be interesting to see is whether the price will go down to something like 122 cents next week because that is where I would expect the price to go before the petrol cycle starts again next Wednesday.


A long weekend

This weekend it will be a long weekend in Victoria and other states of Australia apart from Western Australia where they have the Queen's Birthday holiday sometime later in the year.

What makes this public holiday interesting to me is the fact that the next public holiday in Melbourne will be in November for Melbourne Cup - a gap of five months.

The situation reminds me of the August Bank holiday in England when it was the last public holiday and long weekend until Christmas. The gap wasn't that big though.

I will try to use the long weekend to catch up with friends I haven't seen for a while, apart from through email or a blog comment and so the weather will not have much of a bearing although the forecast at the moment doesn't look that bad.

Water levels on record low

The Melbourne water storage levels went below the 30% mark for the first time in thirty nine years this week and that is a cause for concern I think.

As of today the water storage level is at 29.9% and I just hope the current rains will make sure that the level will go back to above 30 %. In a previous post I mentioned the new water restriction stage 3a for Melbourne that came into effect at the start of last month but I am now beginning to wonder whether this is the time to implement stage 4.

The Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said that the state government has options to counter water shortages and these include harvesting storm water from the Yarra river, a desalination plant, piping water over the Great Divide from the Goulburn Murray irrigation district and also piping recycled water from the Eastern Treatment Plant at Carrum to Gippsland for use at Latrobe Valley power stations.

These look like four good options but me and maybe a few other people would like to know when they will start seriously taking some measures to implement them. Its one thing having the options but its quite another implementing them and in time.

Adjusting to watering in the morning

The new Melbourne water restriction stage 3a now mean that all watering of gardens has to take place in the morning and apart from that the rest of th e restrictions do not change.

Although the restrictions came into effect at the beginning of April it was only this Saturday the 14th that I managed to remember to water in the morning and before that although I forgot the latest rains have meant that it wasn't all that necessary and grey water was also covering the gap quite well.

I am finding that it will take some time to fully adjust to the morning only regime and especially on the weekdays. Under stage 3, I used to mainly water in the evening and rarely in the morning but now I have to adjust to the morning time. While for me Saturday could be a bit easier, Tuesday morning will always remain to be a challenge given the limited time available.

I think the good thing is that overally more water is saved which is the whole point of the restrictions and the recent rains have also meant that constant watering is not required at least for now and in the meantime I will just keep on monitoring the water storage levels and hoping that they will be on the way up soon.

Swimming and the tickets

Melbourne hosts the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships starting on Saturday 17th of March, 2007 and the talk right now is about unsold tickets.

According to The Age organisers have sold about 11 percent of the tickets available for synchronised swimming whilst the overral figure is said to be just over fifty percent.

It was interesting last week to come out of the train station at Flagstaff Gardens to be greeted by men and women in swimming gear dishing out pamphlets for the swimming championships. This was also done to raise the Melbourne's public awareness of the event and I think it managed to do that but whether that converted to actually buying the tickets I don't know.

I am looking forward to watching the events on television especially the swimming to be held at the Susie O'Neill Swimming Pool, a temporary pool constructed at the Rod Laver Arena.

The issue of cancelled services

It has not been an easy two weeks for train commuters in Melbourne especially those who had their services cancelled by Connex, the Melbourne train operator and therefore had to get an earlier or later service. In most cases it would be earlier especially if you are going to work and later when coming back home. The trains were withdrawn from service for safety reasons.

The good thing if anything to come out of this is that the annual fare increase that was due to be implemented in March has now been deferred to July. But I think some commuters would rather have a fare decrease for now given the time that they have lost due to cancelled services or delays or both.

Another good thing on my line at least, is that for the last two weeks the remaining scheduled services have actually come on time and all the time. This is quite good especially when you think that hardly a week goes without a service either being delayed or cancelled.

On Monday, the cancelled services will be back and that's good news and that will mean less crowding on the trains and hopefully more comfortable journeys.

Water Restrictions get tighter

With the drought continuing unabated and with water storage levels around 38% and continuing to drop, the turn of the year saw the introduction of the stage 3 water restrictions for Melbourne.

While we could wash our cars with a bucket and could water gardens with a trigger nozzle at nominated times among other things under stage 2, now car washing has to be done at the automated car wash and watering gardens is now restricted to just two days of the week and the days depend on whether your house number is odd or even. Mine being even it means Tuesday and Saturday.

While maybe most people don't want water restrictions, they are good because they help conserve the remaining water. While travelling through country Victoria last week, I passed through some towns like San Remo that are now on stage 4 and I hope that Melbourne doesn't get that far soon. Speaking to locals at San Remo, stage 4 has actually been in place since sometime in November last year. I was fortunate that the town where I was based, Inverloch, was still on stage 2 water restrictions.

The effects of water restrictions has meant that you rarely hear lawn mowers rattling over the weekends these days. Watering lawns stopped more than two months ago and without water the grass is hardly growing and hence a lot of lawnmowers just lie idle in garden sheds around the city.

I hope and pray that there will be rains soon and plenty of it to improve the water storage levels and bring back the green landscape in and around Melbourne.

Getting rid of Zone 3

From March 4 2007, the Melbourne Metropolitan transport Zone 3 will cease to exist and therefore there will only be two zones, 1 and 2. This was a promise from the state election now being carried through and will greatly benefit those people currently living in zone 3.

For somebody like me living on the boundary of zone 1 and zone 2, but on the zone 2 side I thought that there would also be consideration to extend zone 1 a little bit. Train station wise it would be something like moving up one or two stations up.

Having said that, I am looking forward to seeing the new price listings that will also kick off in March 2007. Specifically I am hoping that new fares will reflect the level of service offered especially by the trains because on my line barely a week goes without a service or two being cancelled.

Cup goes to Japan

Yesterday it was Melbourne Cup Day and a well deserved holiday in Melbourne as we focused on the race that stops the nation.

As usual around the big race time we gathered around the television to watch the race and yes, what a race. The Japanese horses Delta Blue and Pop Rock took the first two places and the interesting piece for me was soon after the race when the Channel 7 reporter went to conduct the post race interview with the winning jockey, Yasunari Iwata.

For a moment I think the Channel 7 reporter did not realise that Yasunari did not speak a word of English and was probably mystified as to why there were no responses to his questios from the winning jockey but later he went instead to interview the jockey who came second, Damien Oliver.

The Grand finals weekend

Most of the focus for the coming weekend in Melbourne will be around the AFL Grand final between Sydney Swans and the West Coast Eagles and there is another grand final, the National Rugby League one and this one features a Melbourne team. For the second year running we are hosting inter-state teams in the final and also these are the same teams that battled it out last time around.

Although there is no Melbourne AFL team involved this year, the Melbourne rugby league team Melbourne Storm will be playing in NRL grand final on Sunday in Sydney against Brisbane Broncos at the Sydney Olympic Stadium. Like Melbourne, Sydney is hosting a final that doesn't involve the host city team.

With the AFL and NRL becoming more and more national I think its good to see teams from other states playing in the finals and at the end of the day its a question of the best team winning.

In that vein I am hoping that West Coast will beat Sydney and that the Storm will bring the NRL trophy back to Melbourne.

Melbourne Missing September football

Last weekend there was no AFL football at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and there is also no football again this weekend at the MCG. This is because we didn't have a Melbourne team finish in the top four in the AFL because that way you would gain home advantage.

Until two years ago there was some football at the MCG but it was a bit unfair on the interstate teams having to come and play in Melbourne when they should have had home advantage because they finished in the top four positions of the ladder.

The football we should be having though is the rugby league match between Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra. The Storm won the minor premiership and also beat Parramatta in week one of the finals and yet because of the rugby league rules they have to go and play in Sydney. This was going to be the only football in Melbourne this coming weekend but for now all we can do is wait for the AFL Grand Final on the last Saturday of September.

Lifestyle changing fuel prices

The fuel price seems to have stabilised now at an unusually high average price of about $1.35 but at that price it looks like it has forced a bit of lifestyle changes as people now walk where they used to drive and plan their trips more carefully.

With our local shops around a kilometre away I am also finding it more worthwhile to just walk to the shops especially if all I need is just to go to the ATM or just pick one thing. Along the way you also meet a number of people and whether this is the effect of fuel price or just exercise is anybody's guess.

The fuel cycle changes sometime on Wednesday and as a result Wednesday mornings now features some uncharacteristic long queues and I see this because this is also the time I now buy my fuel unless I somehow manage to do it on Tuesday night.

On the other hand I read about some people now trading in their six and eight cylinder cars for four cylinder ones in a bid to cut the fuel bill and this must be some sort of change for people used to move around in big and more comfortable automobiles.

Its good to see that the Government early this week announced that it would offer a $1,000 subsidy on LPG new vehicles and a $2,000 subsidy on retrofitted vehicles as part of its new $1.6 billion energy program. The LPG rebates were originally due to be introduced in five year's time but the recent petrol price hikes have forced the government to fast-track the scheme.

Bananas gone bananas

Yesterday I went to my local market at Preston Market here in Melbourne and I was surprised to see that bananas have continued to surge towards $10 a kilo. The story is Cyclone Larry destroyed most of the banana plants in north Queensland and that area reportedly produces 90% of the bananas consumed here in Australia. This has created a banana shortage and this shortage has seen prices sky rocket to the current prices.
People talk so often about fuel prices but the banana price has increased five fold in the last few months alone.
I read elsewhere that there is an oversupply of bananas on the world market but this doesn't help us at all because all bananas we consume are locally produced and no imports are allowed. So I will have to contend with the high prices but in the meantime I will probably have to reduce my banana consumption and that's not going to be a walk in the park.