Northern Star Weekly
9 April 2019
Star Weekly joined Whittlesea council as it attempted to drive a bus from Wollert to Melbourne’s CBD last week for National Nightmare Commute Day. Here’s what happened.
The 24-kilometre journey from Wollert to Melbourne’s CBD, via High Street and St Georges Road, should take 55 minutes.
But the daily reality for Whittlesea residents driving into the city for work is that the trip takes significantly longer.
Whittlesea council organised a mini bus to drive from Epping Road, Wollert, to the corner of Exhibition and Lonsdale streets last Thursday to mark National Nightmare Commute Day.
Organised by the National Growth Areas Alliance, the day aims to highlight the travel woes of people living in outer suburbs.
On board the bus was mayor Lawrie Cox, residents Priyam Shah and Chirayu Shah, Wollert train advocate Tony Francis, Thomastown MP Bronwyn Halfpenny, Northern Metropolitan MP Fiona Patten, and Keith and Lee from television show Gogglebox.
Our mission was to leave Wollert at 7am and to get Priyam and Chirayu to work in the CBD by 9am – and we failed.
We arrived in the city shortly before 9.25am.
We first hit traffic on High Street as we approached Lalor station – where the carpark was only half full because buses were replacing trains on the Mernda line between Epping and Thornbury because of level crossing removal works at Reservoir.
It was a crawl from Lalor station, taking 20 minutes to travel one kilometre.
One rail replacement bus we passed at Thomastown station was standing room only, at just its third stop. By 9am we were only half-way through our journey and Lee noticed school children were walking along High Street faster than we were moving.
We found ourselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic again from Ruthven to Reservoir stations as motorists navigated the level crossing removal works.
Priyam and Chirayu usually drive from their homes to Lalor station, where they catch the train to work.
Chirayu said the journey takes about 90 minutes on a good day. Train cancellations and delays can cause the journey to blow out to two hours.
Whittlesea council wants upgrades to arterial road across the city fast tracked, and for the E6 Freeway to be built sooner rather than later to alleviate traffic on surrounding roads. It is also advocating for a rail extension to Wollert.
The extension of Edgars Road and the second stage of the O’Herns Road upgrade and Hume Freeway interchange work is also a priority but is being held up by federal government delays in approving an environmental assessment.