2016-11-13: Cranbourne Bus Network Overhaul

A major revision of Cranbourne’s bus network was implemented on Sunday 13 November 2016, with 4 additional routes, changes to a further 13 plus the removal of two confusing circular routes. Associated changes also improved routes in the adjoining suburbs of Dandenong South, Endeavour Hills, Langwarrin and Hampton Park.

Cranbourne Transit #90 (Volvo B10B, Volgren) on Route 890 to Lynbrook departs Dandenong Station, ex Sita #89 (28/11/2016) (Bradley Matthews)

Benefits include:

  • new routes into previously unserved areas
  • more frequent routes
  • introduction of Sunday and early evening services on four existing routes (789, 790, 796 & 799)
  • more direct routes
  • removal of several confusing operating patterns
  • removal of route duplication
  • improved train connectivity
  • revised runtimes improving reliability and reducing missed train connections

Areas receiving additional bus coverage include:

  • Botanic Ridge (792)
  • Clyde (897)
  • Clyde North (798)
  • Cranbourne North (799, 847 & 899)
  • Cranbourne West (792)
  • Cranbourne South (792)
  • Dandenong South (890)
  • Lyndhurst (897)

Endeavour Hills gains a new connection to Hallam Station & Hampton Park Shopping Centre (863) while Pearcedale residents enjoy a reinstatement of a direct Cranbourne connection (792).

The four new routes in the network are:

  • 792 Cranbourne Station – Botanic Ridge – Pearcedale (Cranbourne Transit)
  • 863 Endeavour Hills – Hampton Park (Ventura Dandenong)
  • 890 Dandenong – Lynbrook via Dandenong South (Cranbourne Transit)
  • 899 Berwick – The Avenue Village Shopping Centre (Ventura Pakenham)

The new network discontinues the interpeak 797 Cranbourne Town Service along with the convoluted 896 Trainlink service to Cranbourne East, both Cranbourne Transit services.

A highlight of the new network is upgrading three connector routes to operate at 20 min daytime headways 7 days a week:

  • 798 between Cranbourne and Clyde North
  • 893 between Dandenong, Hampton Park, Lynbrook & Cranbourne
  • 897 between Lynbrook, Cranbourne & Clyde

Frankston, Karingal & Langwarrin
The Cranbourne-Frankston Rd/Sladen St corridor, linking Frankston, Karingal Hub Shopping Centre, Langwarrin and Cranbourne, is being streamlined with more direct services, higher frequencies and consistent operating patterns 7 days a week. There were previously three different service models operating along Cranbourne-Frankston Rd depending on the day of the week.

Under the old arrangement, weekday 789 trips ran between Frankston and Langwarrin North (travelling as a loop through Woodlands estate) with 790 travelling the full corridor between Frankston, Langwarrin South (Southgateway) and Cranbourne before effectively doubling-back to Cranbourne West. 791 provided one direct morning peak trip each way along with evening trips between 2000 & 2200. The last 789 ex Frankston continued to Cranbourne, running the opposite direction through Woodlands Park to all other weekday trips.

Langwarrin North (Woodlands) residents could not easily interchange from 789 to 790 for travel to Cranbourne, as by the time the bus completed the loop, the 790 20 minutes later was already travelling down Southgateway, so the connection would be almost 40 mins, with similar issues in the opposite direction. Instead, they’d be wiser to walk as far as 1.5km to their nearest 790 stop.

On Saturdays however 789 operated through to Cranbourne West (operating bi-directionally through Langwarrin North/Woodlands) along with 790 via Southgateway with each route running an 80 min path through Langwarrin combining to a 40 min headway along the rest of the corridor. Then on Sundays, 791 was the only route of the trio operating, running direct along Frankston-Cranbourne Rd through Langwarrin once an hour.

The new timetable sees 791 become a fulltime direct service between Frankston and Cranbourne Station, running at 20 min intervals on weekdays right up to 9pm (doubling of the previous 790 every 40 mins) and 40 mins on weekends (a 33% increase on Sundays).

The 789 and 790 now solely act as feeder routes to/from Frankston, branching off to serve either Langwarrin North or Langwarrin South before reaching a common terminus on Centre Rd south of Frankston-Cranbourne Rd, where passengers can interchange to 791 to travel onto Cranbourne. Buses return to Frankston via the sister route. The 40 mins weekdays and 80 mins Saturday headways have been maintained, but new Sunday services have been added, also at 80 min intervals. 789 has been streamlined in Langwarrin North, no longer operating up Stevens Rd.

A more frequent combined corridor now operates between Frankston, Karingal Hub and Gateway Plaza in Langwarrin, with services every 10 mins all day on weekdays. Weekend departures ex Frankston are every 20 mins but services into Frankston operate a lumpier 10-30-10-30 min headway (still meeting the 10 min trains at Frankston), This is a significant boost on the previous 20 min weekday, 40 min Saturday & hourly Sunday service levels.

The Frankston terminus for these routes has been relocated to Fletcher Rd, which appears connected to interchange upgrade works (see separate news item below). As it is, a majority of arriving passengers into Frankston alight the bus here anyway.

Further to the frequency improvements, services should become more reliable – for several years the 789/790/791 timetable has suffered late running due to unrealistic travel times, which failed to reflect the downgrade of the 100km/h speed limits on Cranbourne-Frankston Rd to 80km/h ten years ago.

Cranbourne West, Botanic Ridge, Pearcedale & Devon Meadows
The former Cranbourne Station – Cranbourne West section of the 789/790/791 now forms part of the new 792 service. The former arrangement dates back to March 2003 when trips were through-routed with the then 798 feeder route, bringing the Frankston routes to Cranbourne Station (buses had continued to terminate 1km away at Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre after the electrification was completed in 1995).

Route 792 follows a more direct route path in Cranbourne West than the former 789/790/791 but continues to pass the Sandhurst Shopping Centre. The eastern end of Duff St now receives a much more regular service than the old 797 town service. Passengers along Camms Rd can catch the enhanced 897 service. The existing 40 min Monday to Saturday headway is retained, with Sunday services boosted to every 40 mins.

From Evans Rd 792 continues via Hall Rd, Atlas Dr and Everlasting Bvd incorporating newer parts of Cranbourne West before continuing onto the Settlers Run estate in Botanic Ridge, an area overdue for a bus service for more than 5 years.

Following community requests, selected trips (generally every 2 hours) continue a further 6km through Cranbourne South to the Pearcedale Township, providing residents with an alternative option to the 776 to Frankston. Either option takes roughly 90 mins to reach Melbourne. Casey Council previously funded a trial of a shopper 794 service between Cranbourne & Pearcedale during 2005 & early 2006.

Early residents moving into the Summerhill and Acacia Estates off Craig Rd benefit from a basic upgrade to the 796 timetable, buses on the loop via Botanic Ridge, Devon Meadows, Five Ways and Clyde will now running every 90 mins during peak times and 2 hourly interpeak as well as weekends for the first time. Devon Meadows briefly enjoyed a trial of limited weekend 795 services in 2005 and early 2006 funded by Casey Council.

All 796 trips now travel via Clyde village, there are no trips returning to Cranbourne direct along South Gippsland Hwy from Five Ways. It is unknown if school buses are being added to serve Clyde village, as the new timetable no longer appears to cater for school students attending school locally in Cranbourne.

One criticism is the weekend 796 timetable has been designed too closely around train connections, resulting in trips dwelling at the older Clyde village for 15 minutes meaning the route fails to operate as a true circular route. Preference should have been made to meet trains in the main direction depending on the time day, at the expense of a clockface timetable.

The timetable for the complex 795 to the costal villages of Warrnett, Tooradin, Blind Bight and Cannons Creek is unchanged but it is unclear if school day only restrictions have been removed from the 0710 & 1620 trips (there may be an error on the PTV website).

Cranbourne East, Clyde & Clyde North
The booming suburbs of Cranbourne East, Clyde and Clyde North continue to be a focus of service upgrades in light of the lack of the proposed extension of the Cranbourne line.

The complicated 896 Cranbourne East Trainlink service has been discontinued after 13 years of operation. Like the former 571 to South Morang, the route was designed as a pseudo way to deliver the 1999 election promise of an extension (which has become expensive to deliver due to the preference to grade separate the major arterials of both South Gippsland Hwy and Cameron St).

The route however was somewhat illegible, running a large circular path incorporating Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre and Casey Complex (a site of numerous community facilities, such as a library, aquatic centre, indoor sports centres/skate parks) along with the local TAFE & Casey Grammar.

Early morning and late evening trips often bypassed Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre or Casey Complex, although the July 2014 timetable introduced early morning trips from Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre to provide a frequent station connection for those in the Livingstone estate south of Berwick-Cranbourne Rd.

The circular format meant passengers alighting trains had a timetabled connection to Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre 1km away but there was often no equivalent bus back to the station. This also skewed patronage figures, when many passengers alighted before the bus proceeded to Cranbourne East.
Furthermore, 896 trips often terminated mid-loop in Brindalee Pl before resuming again at Hunt Club Bvd and running through the various back streets in Cranbourne East a second time, to ensure ideal train connections at either end of the trip. Other than a poor use of resources, it meant anyone boarding the bus at Casey Complex at these times (including most weekend trips) would have to endure a lengthy trip back to the station. Similarly, until the introduction of 898 in December 2010, Camms Rd effectively only had a useable service in one direction, towards the station.

Two late night Friday and Saturday evening buses ran a larger ‘Nightlife Shuttle’ loop incoporating Cranbourne West, but it is doubtful if they regularly carried passengers away from the standard route. This variation dates back to October 2006 when 0030 & 0100 trains were added on most lines, at a time when local youth were campaigning for a NightRider link (delivered in November 2008). Cranbourne West residents can continue to access the 982 Night Bus overnight.

Resources saved from abolishing 896 have been reinvested into strengthening the existing 798 & 898 routes and extending 897, providing three direct options accessing both the station and Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre.

798 continues to operate between Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre and Clyde North via Cranbourne Station, Camms Rd and Linsell Bvd. The route has finally been extended into Selandra Rise, travelling along Selandra Bvd and Heather Gr.

Four extra trips have been added on Saturdays, while Sunday service has been doubled to 20 minutes, matching other days of the week. Services continue to run until 2415 on Saturdays but on other nights buses finish around two hours earlier, a reduction in span to the old 896 which ran to last train. The average peak headway has been lengthened from 15 mins to 20 mins, resulting in some 30 min gaps as the timetable is still customised to meet 15 min trains.

Hunt Club Estate residents continue to be served by local feeder Route 898, which now travels via Cameron St (past the TAFE) and Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre enroute to the station, avoiding duplication with 798 on Camms Rd. Weekday peak services now operate every 20 mins (formerly 25 – 30 mins), matching the interpeak upgrade in July 2014. Saturday services have been increased from hourly to 40 mins.

Route 897 has been extended east to Clyde via Berwick-Cranbourne Rd and Pattersons Rd. The route serves new estates beyond the reach of the former 896, passing Casey Complex (896) and Blue Hills Retirement Village (797) enroute, along with Casey Fields sporting precinct, the sister Blue Hills Rise Retirement Village and ‘Shopping on Clyde’, facilities only served by 796 trips before. The Ramleigh Springs estate provided indented bus stops and a turning circle on Pattersons Rd encouraging the early extension of the route when few homes have been built to date.

As per 798, buses on 897 operate 20 mins 7 days however there is no late evening Saturday service.

Although Cranbourne East and Clyde is largely well served for now, a further route along Lyneham Dr for residents moving into the Parks Edge estate will surely be needed within the next couple of years to cater for the current rate of growth.

Lyndhurst & Central Park
At the other end, 897 has been extended north from Central Parkway to Lynbrook via the Marriot Waters estate and Shopping Centre in Lyndhurst, another area crying out for a bus route for several years. The current loop north of Central Parkway is removed but most residents remain within walking distance to alternative stops.

The 20 min 7 day headway is a significant increase for passengers along the existing parts of 897, which previously ran every 25 to 30 mins in peak periods and just once an hour on weekends.

Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre
Passengers on the restructured 897 & 898 should notice buses now operate to/from Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre in both directions.

Stretched resources in the December 2010 network had created a bizarre operating pattern, with offpeak trips on Route 898 departing Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre for Archers Field Dr but on return terminating at the station, with passengers required to seek a connecting bus. The vehicle would then continue west to Central Park as 897. Upon return to the station, the bus would continue back to the shopping centre – thus 897 buses failed to provide a direct bus home from the shops. On weekdays, a footnote advised 897 customers at Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre to catch an 898 bus 7 minutes earlier to connect with their bus.

This model continued in July 2014 with the upgrade of interpeak services from 30 mins to 20 mins, although a connection from 898 to 897 was no longer timetabled.

With the introduction of 798 at the same time, the timetable was thoughtfully designed to provide a consistent rail connection from Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre, meeting trains in both directions, which also assisted passengers trying to navigate Routes 897 and 898.

While this is no longer the case with the new 798 timetable, buses on 791, 897 & 898 have been relocated to a common stop on High Street outside the centre, with all three routes generally timed to meet trains towards Melbourne.

The only Cranbourne route not to serve Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre is 792 however there are ample connecting options under the new network.

Dandenong South
The original 2014 state election promise to operate 897 to Dandenong via Dandenong South has been delivered by introducing a separate 890 route between Dandenong & Lynbrook, providing bus services to light and heavy industry businesses along Greens Rd, Kitchen Rd and Abbotts Rd. Buses operate every 40 mins during the day and hourly in the early evening – a 30 min weekday peak & peak-shoulder service would have been more attractive for workers, with hourly clockface services acceptable at other times. A 0425 departure from Lynbrook on weekdays will struggle to find passengers.

Cranbourne North
Cranbourne North has also grown in recent years, now expanding on the eastern side of Narre Warren-Cranbourne Rd. The Avenue Village Shopping Centre will become a focal point for three initial routes for local residents.

A new 899 service operates directly from Berwick and Eden Rise Shopping Centre via Clyde Rd, Arbourlea Bvd, Wheelers Park Dr, Alisma Bvd & Mountainview Bvd. This was a late addition, not mentioned during the consultation phase, which could explain the lesser 40 min frequency that operates, even at peak times.

A southward extension of 847 from Casey Central to The Avenue Village is more direct than planned as a result of the 899, now travelling the length of William Thwaites Bvd. Duplication with 834/835 on Heritage Dr has been removed. Existing headways are maintained – 30 min peak, 40 min interpeak and hourly weekends.

Initial plans for 799 have also been revised, with the service extended to The Avenue Village Shopping Centre rather than Casey Central Shopping Centre, providing an east-west connection to Merinda Park Station on the Cranbourne line.

799 has finally received a minimum standards boost, with later services Monday to Saturday along with new Sunday services. Weekend services operate every 40 mins (versus the former hourly Saturday timetable) however peak services have been cutback to 40 mins, reflecting poor patronage. Buses no longer run express in the counter-peak direction, assisting those wanting to transfer to 847 or 899 to reach Berwick.

799’s interpeak and Saturday extension from Merinda Park to Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre has been deleted, passengers must now interchange to 841 or 893 (arguably many residents will find it acceptable just to walk to either route instead). Buses continue to travel along Waverley Park Dr, maintaining coverage in the Lawless Dr area and allowing same-stop transfers to/from 893 – it was proposed buses continue along Huon Park Dr into Wentworth Ave.

Ventura’s 841 Cranbourne – Fountain Gate – Narre Warren North route retains its existing timetable, which considering other upgrades in the region, is now deserving of a more frequent timetable.

Hampton Park
Services in Hampton Park, which have developed haphazardly over several decades with limited budgets, have also been revamped to provide a more logical and direct offering, with reduced route duplication.

A number of the existing kinks in the 893 Dandenong – Eumemmering – Hallam – Hampton Park – Lynbrook – Cranbourne service have been removed, strengthening its role as the main north-south link along Hallam Rd and avoiding existing duplication with Routes 891 and 894 which were added in later years. Following feedback during the public consultation, services continue to travel via Lynbrook Shopping Centre however no longer enter Lynbrook estate. The opening of the nearby station in April 2012 has reduced the need for 893 to travel through here, as did the introduction of 891 in December 2010.

Weekend services on 893 have been tripled from hourly to 20 mins, matching a previous upgrade of interpeak services in July 2014. This is quite a contrast to the service levels just over 10 years ago, when buses only ran every 40 to 45 mins interpeak and every 90 mins on Saturdays!

Route 891 (Lynbrook – Hallam – Fountain Gate) is now the only option for passengers along McDowall Rd and Cairns Rd, with passengers travelling to/from Cranbourne now required to change to 893 at Lynbrook Shopping Centre.

891 has been amended to operate via Oaktree Dr and Willow Dr to cover off a removed section of 893. A planned change for buses to travel along Jeffery St, Regans Rd and Somerville Rd did not proceed, nor did a possible extension onto Narre Warren Station.

Weekend services on 891 have been boosted from 60 to 40 mins but peak services have decreased from 30 to 40 mins. All morning peak services now travel to/from Fountain Gate, removing the Tinks Rd shortworkings.

892 services between Dandenong & Casey Central now travel along Pound Rd rather than Somerville Rd in Hampton Park. The existing 30 min weekday frequency and hourly weekend frequency is maintained, when arguably this route is more deserving of a 40 min weekend headway than 890 given it serves a mix of industrial and residential areas. Morning peak runtimes have been reduced by around 5 minutes, but trips from the outer end of Narre Warren South will still take about 40 to 45 mins to reach Dandenong.

894 (Hallam – Amberly Park) and 895 (Fountain Gate – Narre Warren South) uphold their existing timetables, which include peak services operating express in the counterpeak direction to minimise bus requirements. 895 also continues to ignore Fountain Gate Shopping Centre during peak times. Both issues require attention in a future revision.

Residents in south-west Hampton Park lose out with cuts of around 70% to peak hour headways due to the routing changes for 892 and 893 – McDowall Rd and Cairns Rd receive 1.5 buses an hour in peak periods on 891, compared to 5 buses previously. Services per hour on Somerville Rd drop from 7 to 2, now only served by 894, with no services operating in the counter-peak direction.

Endeavour Hills
A new 863 links Hampton Park and Endeavour Hills via Heatherton Rd and Hallam Rd. This provides residents in eastern Endeavour Hills with a Hallam rail connection for the first time, saving up to 15 mins versus travelling into Dandenong. Extending 894 north to Endeavour Hills Shopping Centre or 861 south would have been a more efficient way to deliver this link, as the route has an unacceptably high 44% layover ratio in its current form (or 35 mins layover for every 45 min round trip). 863 operates every 40 mins 7 days a week, with trips until 9pm.

Three decades after Endeavour Hills & Mossigel Park were developed neighbourhoods adjoining Kennington Park Dr and Shetland St finally now have a direct option to reach Endeavour Hills Shopping Centre, with 843 now travelling a spur along Mossigel Park Dr. This adds 5 minutes to a trip to the terminus though.

The combined 843/861 trip late on Sunday afternoons continues to operate, bypassing Endeavour Hills Shopping Centre.

Bus services in Endeavour Hills unfortunately continue to operate below minimum standards level, particularly on Sundays when buses operate every 2 hours, starting as late as 1100 (861) and finishing between 1630 & 1800. This was despite information during consultation that the 843 would be upgraded to operate every 40 mins on Saturdays and every 60 mins on Sundays.

An upgrade to 842 between Endeavour Hills and Fountain Gate Shopping Centre is also solely needed – this was promised by the Liberals prior to the 2014 state election.

Cranbourne’s hand-me-downs
Cranbourne Transit (Pulitano Group) has reportedly ordered eighteen new Scania K310UB Volgrens to cater for the upgrade, but only seven had arrived in time for the introduction of the new timetable. As a result, seven second hand Volvo B10Bs ex Sita Bus Lines are being used to deliver the Monday to Friday timetable.

These buses, which retain the orange & white Sita livery, were purchased via auction to replace the former State Transit Mercedes Benz O405s at the sister Mansfield Mt Buller Bus Lines operation for their ski fields shuttles – two had already spent time up there this winter, and are operating signwritten for MMBL!

All four remaining Volvo B10Ms in Cranbourne Transit fleet with traditional black & white Phillips colours are also being used, with sightings of up to ten high floors out on route duties across a single peak. They have also been heavily used during the day on weekdays. Although unusual, it is reminiscent of previous upgrades at Cardinia Transit and Peninusla Bus Lines in the 2000s, where older buses in the Grenda fleet were called back to route duty until newbies arrived.

The former Sita units retain roller blind destinations, which posed challenges for both drivers and passengers trying to adjust to the new network, with paper route number signs displayed in the windscreens. The vehicles are fitted with bus tracking equipment but passengers initially enjoyed a free ride, as myki devices were removed prior to being sold.

After becoming accustomed to low floor buses on almost all services in the outer south-east for several years now, this mass return of high floor vehicles has caused issues for some passengers. People in wheelchairs have been left on the side of the road for the next bus, while those with prams and shopping jeeps have struggled to board and alight. Online and printed timetables incorrectly advise a fully accessible service, when about a fifth of trips aren’t – cases of consecutive high floor trips on the same route have been observed.

Ventura’s Dandenong and Pakenham depots received eight new Volvo B7RLEs in the weeks leading up to the new timetable, and have been able to maintain a fully accessible service.

Information Issues
A number of significant signage issues have further challenged passengers and your author has been in regular contact with PTV to get these rectified.

PTV’s new interactive “Melbourne by Bus” map was not promptly updated with the changes, with the new routes only appearing towards the end of the second week of operation of the upgraded network.

A new local area PDF for Casey has been uploaded to the PTV website along with incomplete versions for Frankston and Greater Dandenong that fail to show all the changes. As at mid-January revised maps were yet to be provided for Cardinia or Knox.

Overall, despite a few remaining quirks, the new network is a significant boost for residents in Melbourne’s outer south-east. Although some areas were well overdue to receive bus services, in other cases buses are being delivered as residents move in, which coupled with semi-frequent and direct 7-day routes should tame the car culture often synonymous with outer suburban living. Captive passengers who’ve tolerated the existing network will now enjoy fewer long waits and will no longer have to understand complex service patterns.