Southern Cross Station

ProjectSouthern Cross StationLocationMelbourne, AustraliaArchitectGrimshaw in collaboration with Jackson ArchitectureInstallerInSight SystemsSubmitted bySennheiser

Southern Cross Station is the public transport hub of Melbourne, Australia. It serves over 1.2 million people every week and is Victoria’s primary metropolitan, regional and airport gateway. The station went through a major audio enhancement project, executed in collaboration with Sennheiser and facilitated by InSight Systems.

Addressing the station’s communication challenges with precision, Sennheiser’s cutting-edge wireless solutions have been strategically deployed to optimise audio transmission and reception throughout the station’s expansive infrastructure.

Central to the project’s success are Sennheiser’s flagship A5000-CP antennas, meticulously selected and positioned by Insight Systems, Southern Cross Station’s managed service partner. These antennas, renowned for their exceptional performance, provide robust coverage across Southern Cross Station’s four regional train platforms. Despite the station’s harsh RF environment, characterised by electromagnetic interference and high voltage cables, the A5000-CP antennas ensure interference-free communication, significantly elevating the station’s audio capabilities.

Complementing the antennas are Sennheiser’s wireless microphone systems from the G4 range, including the ew300 handheld systems, powered antenna combiners, and receivers. These solutions empower station staff to deliver targeted announcements with clarity and precision, overcoming the limitations of the station’s previous paging system.

Furthermore, Southern Cross Station benefits from Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM), a professional software solution for remotely monitoring and controlling wireless systems. WSM provides comprehensive visibility and control over the entire audio network at the station, facilitating real-time adjustments and firmware updates as needed. This advanced monitoring capability, coupled with the expertise of InSight Systems, ensures the reliability and resilience of Southern Cross Station’s audio infrastructure in the face of dynamic RF environments.

Mass communication and mass transit don’t mix or, at least, that was Southern Cross Station’s experience. Melbourne’s main train hub for regional rail (as well as a key metro rail hub) had significant issue difficulties in effectively communicating with its customers due to the limitations of its outdated paging system. The station’s sprawling regional rail platforms, spanning up to 300 meters and accommodating a constant influx of passengers, exacerbated the challenge. With the whole station (all 16 platforms) receiving the same message simultaneously, the lack of zoning in the old system led to ineffective communication, causing frustrations among commuters.

Moreover, Southern Cross Station’s environment posed significant hurdles to the installation of a new communication system. Acting as a natural Faraday cage and inundated with electromagnetic interference from high voltage cables, radio and TV stations, and the sheer volume of passengers absorbing RF signals, the station required a wireless solution that could withstand these extreme conditions. Any solution would need to be exceptionally robust, interference-free, and reliable, ensuring seamless communication every time someone picked up a microphone.

To address these challenges, Southern Cross Station engaged InSight Systems who, with the support of Sennheiser developed an appropriate solution. Sennheiser’s expertise in wireless technology and InSight Systems’ management services proved instrumental in overcoming the obstacles posed by the station’s environment and communication requirements.

Supporting Insight System’s design vision for Southern Cross Station, Sennheiser assisted in mapping the RF environment across the four regional train platforms, determining the type and quantity of Sennheiser’s A5000-CP antennas required. Following extensive calculations the Sennheiser team recommended eight highly directional helical antennas for each platform, strategically positioned at the Public Information Display Structure (PIDS) positions. This approach ensured that each platform functioned as its own zone, minimising intermodulation, and guaranteeing interference-free communication.

InSight Systems selected wireless microphone systems from Sennheiser’s G4 range, including ew300 handheld systems, powered antenna combiners, and receivers, to complement the antenna setup.

Additionally, the integration of Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM) provided comprehensive monitoring and control capabilities, allowing for real-time adjustments and firmware updates as needed.

Southern Cross Station’s wireless audio upgrade stands as a testament to collaboration and transformative impact in the realm of mass transit communication. This project addresses the unique challenges faced by many transportation hubs around the world, offering a solution that increases efficiency, reliability, and passenger satisfaction.

By seamlessly integrating Sennheiser’s advanced audio solutions, Southern Cross Station has significantly enhanced its communication capabilities, ensuring timely and contextual information delivery to commuters. The transition from a scatter-gun paging approach to targeted announcements has alleviated frustrations among passengers and station staff alike, streamlining operations and enhancing the overall commuter experience.

The successful implementation of Sennheiser’s A5000-CP antennas, guided by meticulous planning and strategic deployment, has overcome the formidable obstacles posed by the station’s environment. The solution’s exceptional performance in extreme RF conditions has paved the way for interference-free communication, marking a significant technological advancement in the field.

Furthermore, the partnership between Southern Cross Station, InSight Systems, and Sennheiser underscores the power of collaboration and innovation in driving transformative change. Through shared expertise and dedication, this project has not only addressed the immediate communication needs of the station but also set a precedent for future advancements in mass transit communication worldwide.

By prioritising passenger satisfaction, operational efficiency, and safety, Southern Cross Station has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that mass communication and mass transport can mix, which deserves recognition.