Flinders St Station fronts History

Of course the memories are in photo form to fit the blog and actually of the more interesting St Kilda Road which is the focus of the station and public transport in Melbourne. With recent mutterings of possible changes to the area it pays to look back at what has been and the slow evolution of the space.

The photos lack authoritative dates but are presented in approximate chronological order, and predominantly come from the wonderful digital archive of the State Library of Victoria (slv.vic.gov.au/). This series begins in 1935 with an already entirely recognisable view for residents of Melbourne.

Princes1935.jpg

To the far left are the train lines flowing away from the station, having passed beneath the road surface with these trams and pedestrians. The extensive forecourt in front of the station links passengers to the trams stopped in the middle of the road while vehicles wait behind the stop line.

Princes39-40.jpg

Here by 1940 awnings are being installed above the pedestrian areas and a message board with a Victorian Railways crest sits above the main entrance (and famous clocks). Again in same period from a slightly different angle with more detail of the street we can see people casually crossing the road without limiting themselves to the designed crossings.

Princes1940.jpg

Despite the cars and trams, multiple horses are still visible on the roads transporting goods with carts. Stepping forward to the late 40’s little has changed other than larger advertising signs.

Princes44-48.jpg

The road sees a slight redesign of the tram stops with a clearer diversion for cars, and while the stop line has disappeared the cars still stop in an orderly fashion well back from the intersection to leave space for pedestrians. This wider view shows the tram stops on the crossing Flinders St, similarly arranged to hard against the intersection so pedestrians can cross with traffic flows.

Princes46-50b.jpg

Princes50-54.jpg

Princes1954.jpg

Then very little changes up through the 50’s until the introduction of traffic lights (policemen are visible in earlier images) and a redesign of the tram stops to a very contemporary looking protected tram stop with metal fencing and concrete barriers.

Princes59.jpg

They retain the pedestrian access in the intersection and we can also see floating kerbs to separate the undercover street frontage of the station from the through road. This basic design of tram stop and pedestrian crossing remained up to the 90’s as this picture from the “Trolley Wire, No 278”

PrinceTrolleyWireNo278_1999.jpg

Taking the closer view of then Batman Ave shows a covered tram stop central to the road that necessitates the trams having doors and stairs on both sides. Also notable is while the pedestrian traffic crossing the road here always took the shortest route, now formal sets of lines require pedestrians to deviate back from the kerb and lengthen their route.

Then came the major redevelopment of the area in the early 2000’s creating Federation Square above the train lines opposite the station.

PrincesApple2011.jpg

Here the image has been digitally recreated (thanks to Apple maps) from approximately 2011 showing the new layout of the road and tram stops. Moving the tram stops and pedestrian crossings further back from the intersection (and prohibiting pedestrians from crossing there anymore) but more bizarrely the small building which is Melbourne Visitor Centre jutting out into the intersection has squeezed the traffic lanes to overlap the tram lines. The bicycle lanes were marked along the road up to the bridge where they stole half the footpaths on each side, which was partially fixed later by controversially removing a traffic lane visible in later imagery (from google maps):

PrincesGoogle2014.jpg

This was possible as the traffic lights limited throughput so much that a single lane could carry all the cars across the bridge ahead of them queuing at the bottleneck of the lights. Out of sight below the buildings in the foreground there is a tram stop on the cross street to the right, hard against the intersection for pedestrian access.

FlindersApple2011.jpg

Reversing the view with Apple maps the erratic shapes of the intersection become clear. If the dominant traffic flow was intended to be bottom-left and left-bottom in this orientation then the siting of the Visitors Centre out into the intersection is a ridiculous oversight limiting the future options for the space. Suggestions that this could be improved with a scramble crossing seem to be grasping at straws for a possible low cost and minor improvement to a bad design.

Since the railway station is already below street level when such major works are going on the simple solution would have been (and still is) more pedestrian subways to reduce demand on the surface crossings. They’re expensive but a one off cost that untangles modes and adds space rather than trying to “share” it.

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