|Flinders Street Station|
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Flinders Street Station—colloquially shortened to simply Flinders Street or sometimes FSS—is a central commuter railway station at the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It serves the entire metropolitan rail network. Backing onto the city reach of the Yarra River in the heart of the city, the complex covers two whole city blocks and extends from Swanston Street to Queen Street.
Each weekday, over 110,000 commuters and 1,500 trains pass through the station. It is the most used metropolitan railway station in Melbourne, in 2009 there was an average of 85,100 passenger boardings per day. Flinders Street is serviced by Metro's suburban services, and V/Line regional services to Gippsland.
It was the first railway station in an Australian city, the terminus for the first use of steam rail in Australia and the world's busiest passenger station in the late 1920s.
The main station building, completed in 1909, is a cultural icon to Melbourne, with its prominent dome, arched entrance, tower and clocks it is one of the city's most recognisable landmarks. As such it is frequently used to symbolise the city and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The Melburnian idiom "I'll meet you under the clocks", refers to the row of clocks above the main entrance, which indicate the time-tabled time of departure for trains on each line; another idiom "I'll meet you on the steps", refers to the wide staircase underneath these clocks. Flinders Street Station is responsible for two of Melbourne's busiest pedestrian crossings, both across Flinders Street, including one of Melbourne's few
The Swanston Street Extension frontage of the pre-1910 stationThe first railway station to occupy the Flinders Street site was called Melbourne Terminus, and was a collection of weatherboard train sheds. It was completed in 1854 and was officially opened on 12 September by the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Charles Hotham. The terminus was the first city railway station in Australia, and the opening day saw the first steam train trip in the country. It travelled to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne), over the now redeveloped Sandridge Bridge, travelling along the now light rail Port Melbourne line.
The first terminus had a single platform 30 metres long, and was located beside the Fish Market building on the south-west corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets. An additional platform was provided in 1877, along with two overhead bridges to provide passenger access, followed by additional timber and corrugated iron buildings and a telegraph station in 1879. The first signal boxes were opened at the station in 1883, one at each end of the platforms. By the 1890s a third island platform had been constructed.
Melbourne's two other early central-city stations, Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Station) and Princes Bridge, opened in 1859. Spencer Street served the lines to the west of the city, and was isolated from the eastern side of the network until a ground level railway was built connecting it to Flinders Street in 1879, this track being replaced by the Flinders Street Viaduct in 1889.
Princes Bridge Station was originally separated from Flinders Street, even though it was only on the opposite side of Swanston Street. Once the railway line was extended under the street in 1865 to join the two, Princes Bridge was closed. It was not reopened until April 1879, and from 1909 slowly became amalgamated into Flinders Street. Federation Square now occupies its site. Up until the 1880s a number of designs for a new station had been prepared, but none ever went any further.
1882, the government decided to build a new central passenger station to replace the existing ad-hoc construction. A design competition was finally held in 1899 with 17 entries received. The competition was essentially for the detailed design of the station building, since the location of the concourse, entrances, the track and platform layout, the type of platform roofing and even the room layout to some extent was already decided.
The 500 first prize went to railway employees James Fawcett and H. P. C. Ashworth of Fawcett and Ashworth in 1899, whose design named Green Light was of French Renaissance style, and included a large dome and tall clock tower. The train shed over the platforms was intended to have many arched roofs running north-south, but only an alternative plans depicting impressively high three arched roof (running east-west) over the concourse survive.
Work began in 1900 on the rearrangement of the station tracks, while the final design of the station building was still being worked on. Work on the central pedestrian subway started in 1901, with the foundations of the main building completed by 1903.
The plans were extensively modified by Railway Commissioners in mid construction in 1904. The changes included replacing the proposed train shed with individual platform roofs and it was decided not to include a concourse roof. To increase office space a fourth storey was added to the main building, which resulted in the arches above each entrance on Flinders Street being lowered, decreasing their dominance.
By 1907, the station had eleven platforms, with the decision made to construct platforms 12 and 13 east of Swanston Street in 1909. The same year platform 1 was extended eastwards for country traffic. One of the original platform verandas from the Melbourne Terminus building was dismantled and re-erected at Hawthorn station, in the inner-eastern suburbs.
In 1905, work began on the station building itself, starting at the west end and progressing towards the main dome. Ballarat builder Peter Rodger was awarded the £93 478 contract. The station was originally to have been faced in stone, but this was considered too costly, and red brick with cement render details was used for the main building instead. Grey granite from Harcourt was used for many details on the Flinders street side at ground level "in view of the importance of this great public work". The southern facade of the main building above ground level was constructed of lightweight timber frame clad with zinc sheets scored into large blocks, and painted red, giving the appearance of large bricks. This was done in order to turn what would have been open access balconies inside the train shed into corridors.
Work on the dome started in 1906. The structure required heavy foundations as it extended over railway tracks. In May 1908 work was progressing slower than expected, with the expected completion date of April 1909 slipping. Rodger's contract was terminated in August 1908.A Royal Commission was appointed in May 1910, finding that Rodger could be held accountable for the slow progress in 1908, but he should be compensated for the difficulties before then. The Way and Works Branch of the Victorian Railways took over the project, the station being essentially finished by mid 1909. The verandah along Flinders Street and the concourse roof and verandah along Swanston Street were not completed until after the official opening in 1910.
The building is three levels at the concourse / Swanston Street end, and four at the lower Elizabeth Street / platform end. Numerous shops and lettable spaces were provided, some on the concourse, but especially along the Flinders Street frontage, many at lower than street level, accessed by stairs, creating a fifth / basement level. The top three levels of the main building contain a large number of rooms, particularly along the Flinders Street frontage, mostly intended for railway use, but also many as lettable spaces. Numerous ticket windows were located at each entry, with services such as a restaurant, country booking office, lost luggage and visitors help booth at concourse or platform level. Much of the top floor was purpose built for the then new Victorian Railway Institute, including a library, gym and a lecture hall, later used as a ballroom; these rooms have been abandoned and decaying for many years. In the 1930s and 40s the building once featured a creche next to the main dome on the top floor for a number of years, with an open-air playground on an adjoining roof. The basement store beside the main entrance has been occupied by a hat store since 1910. Known as 'City Hatters' since 1933.
The first electric train operated from Flinders Street to Essendon in 1919, and by 1926 it was the world's busiest passenger station. To cater for the increasing numbers of passengers, the Degraves Street subway from the station was extended to the north side of Flinders Street in 1954. In March 1966 platform one was extended to 2,322 feet (708 m) long.
Redevelopment plansPlans arose at various times from the 1960s to the 1970s for the demolition or redevelopment of the station, as well as the adjacent Jolimont Yard area. The station had fallen into disrepair, having not been cleaned in decades, and covered with advertising hoardings and light up signs.
In 1962 the Minister for Transport and HKJ Pty Ltd signed an agreement for a £30 million redevelopment of the station that would have resulted in the demolition of the clock tower and replacement with an office building up to 60 storeys high. Work was to begin in 1964, but instead the Gas and Fuel Building was constructed over the Princes Bridge station. In 1967 a company purchased the option to lease the space above Flinders Street Station, planning to build a shopping plaza and two office towers, the dome and clock tower being kept as part of the design, but strong opposition saw this project lapse.
In 1972 Victorian Premier Sir Henry Bolte unveiled another redevelopment plan, to cover 27 acres of space above the Flinders Street Station and Jolimont Yard for a complex of shops, offices, theatres and other community facilities. A newspaper report of 1974 said that planning was still underway for the $250 million proposal, but by 1975 public perceptions had begun to turn towards retention of the station.
In 1989 under the John Cain Labour Government an agreement to construct the "Festival Marketplace" was signed. Designed by Daryl Jackson architects, it was to be built over the existing platforms in a style sympathetic to the existing station, and be completed by 1992. Planned to feature shops, restaurants and cafes, the project was abandoned in 1991 after the inability of the financiers to come up with the $205 million required due to the early 1990s recession.
The Swanston Street concourse has undergone the most change of any part of the station, and is now three times the depth of the original structure, and only the canopy and roofed area on Swanston Street remains of the original. After the first round of works in 1985 City of Melbourne councillor Trevor Huggard described the renovation as "vandalism of historically important sections of the station", and in 1997 the National Trust of Australia described the additions to the concourse as unsympathetic and detrimental to the station, having "the character of a modern shopping centre".
In 1982 a $7 million refurbishment was announced by the Ministry of Transport, divided into four phases. Completed by 1984, the first escalators at the station provided to platform 2 and 3 replacing the former ramps, and the current public toilets were provided, replacing those over the platforms. New ramps were also provided to platforms which were less steep than those previous, and overhead skylights added to provide better lighting. The television displays used to display next train information had been added to each platform in July 1980.The main station concourse was tiled and extended westward over the tracks, 16 new shops opened on the concourse, and a restaurant was opened on the southern side along the river. The restaurant opened in October 1985 but closed soon after, the site becoming the "Clocks on Flinders" poker machine venue in 1994. The main steps were embedded with electrical circuits to keep them dry in June 1985.
1993 saw the Elizabeth Street pedestrian subway opened out at the Southbank end. Conservation work was also carried out to the main building, with the external facade painted in the original colours, exterior feature lighting installed, and the stained glass feature windows above each entry restored.
Further changes were made though the late 1990s with the opening of access from the main Swanston Street concourse to platform 1, platform resurfacing with tactile tiles, and the replacement of the remainder of the main platform access ramps with escalators
The tracks to the east of the station were rebuilt in 1997-1998 to clear the way for the Federation Square project. Jolimont Yard was eliminated, with $40 million spent to reduce 53 operating lines between Flinders Street and Richmond Station to just 12. The number of points was also reduced, from 164 to 48. These changes also saw a reallocation of platform usage at the station, country trains being shifted from platform 1 to platform 10, and Clifton Hill group trains being shifted from Princes Bridge Station to platform 1. The platforms at the station had been renumbered in conjunction with the formal merger of Princes Bridge with Flinders Street on 29 June 1980.
The final round of changes were completed by 2007. It included refurbishment of the building roof and concourse foundations, an upgrade of platform 10 with escalators and a lift replacing the ramp, the relocation of all ticket booking offices to the main entrance under the main dome and new LCD Passenger Information Displays (PIDS) installed on the platforms, subways and concourse. In March 2009 an escalator replaced the lift to platform 12 and 13, with platform 13 also extended westwards into daylight along the alignment of the former platform 11.
In 2008 the retail pavilions on the concourse were rebuilt, increasing their area. An investigation of the potential of the abandoned spaces in the station, overseen by a taskforce comprising representatives from Connex, the Committee for Melbourne, Melbourne City Council, Heritage Victoria, was completed the same year, but the conclusions have not been made public.In January 2010, one of the first announcements by the new Minister for Public Transport was that the government was investigating the refurbishment of the abandoned spaces for 'cultural uses'.
The distinctive clocks under the main dome that show the departure times of the next trains date back to the 1860s. Sixty Bathgate indicators were purchased from England for use at the Flinders Street, Spencer Street, Richmond and South Yarra railway stations. Those at Flinders Street were placed into storage when the old station was demolished in 1904, with 28 placed into the new station in 1910. They were located at the main entry under the dome, the southern side archway, and the Degraves and Elizabeth Street entrances.
Manually operated by a railway officer using a long pole, during an 8 hour period the clocks at the main entrance were changed an average of 900 times. The original indicator clocks were removed from service in 1983 as part of a redevelopment of the station, with their replacement by digital displays planned. An outpouring of public outrage and sentimentality saw the decision reversed within one day. The clocks at the main entrance were altered to automatic operation by computer, but those at the Degraves and Elizabeth Street entrances were replaced by large airport-style split-flap displays.
A clock tower has also existed at end of Elizabeth Street since 1883. The first clock was known as the 'Water Tower Clock', after a wooden framed water tower erected on the site in 1853. This clock remained in place until 1905 when work begun on the new station, the clocktower being moved to outside Princes Bridge Station. In 1911 it was moved to Spencer Street Station, where it remained until the station redevelopment of 1967. Sold to a private collector, it was returned to public ownership and is now located at the Scienceworks Museum in Spotswood.
Today's Elizabeth Street clock tower was constructed between August 1906 and November 1907, the clock being built by Melbourne clockmaker F. Ziegeler to an English design. Originally needed to be wound every day, it is now electrically operated