Could the names of Melbourne’s new stations be inspired by literature?

The search for names for Melbourne’s five new Metro stations has attracted the interest of author, George R R Martin. He’s “bemused and flattered” that the most popular public nominations so far are references to places in his Game of Thrones novels/TV series.

The idea of a Melbourne Metro Station named Winterfell tickles my fancy… though, having been to Australia numerous times, I will assert that winter never really does come down there. 

He says the Victorian Government doesn’t need his permission to use a name from his novels if it wants to and, “even if they did, I’d give it”. The Premier, Daniel Andrews, while relishing the attention, says he’s not convinced.

I agree with the Premier on this one. Do we really want to end up with faddish station names that give undue dignity to a TV show that was popular in the second decade of the twenty-first century? If the public vote had been taken 15 years ago, the popular choice might well have been ‘Nine and Three-Quarters Station’.

And if Game of Thrones, why not names inspired by Melbourne’s own Neighbours – could CBD North be ‘Charlene (Mitchell) Station’ and CBD South be ‘Scott (Robinson) Station’? Or why not go for broke; rename Melbourne Central to ‘Graham Kennedy Station’ and, when built, christen the adjacent CBD North, ‘Bert (Newton) Station’?

This is why the Government must ultimately make the decision on the station names, as indeed it has said it will. It’s fair enough to ask the public for suggestions and it doubtless seemed like good politics at the time. But it can’t be a referendum; Winterfell would be our own version of Boaty McBoatface. The names of these new stations should reflect the aspirations of all residents, not just those who have HBO (or, more likely, who know how to torrent). The stations could be around for 100 years or more and so the names should be consistent with a long-term view.

As I pointed out recently, it’s a fallacy that station names must denote their location. That opens up the options. I like the idea of stations and train lines with names that denote a distinctive personality. Some years ago I quoted this passage by one of the characters in David Mitchell’s first novel, Ghostwritten, describing the London Tube (see A literary map of Melbourne’s railways?):

As the fine denizens of London Town know, each tube line has a distinct personality and range of mood swings. The Victoria Line for example, breezy and reliable. The Jubilee line, the young disappointment of the family, branching out to the suburbs, eternally having extensions planned, twisting around to Greenwich, and back under the river out east somewhere. The District and Circle Line, well, even Death would rather fork out for a taxi if he’s in a hurry……

Docklands Light Railway, the nouveau riche neighbour, with its Prince Regent, West India Quay and its Gallions Reach and its Royal Albert. Stentorian Piccadilly wouldn’t approve of such artyfartyness, and nor would his twin uncle, Bakerloo. Central, the middle-aged cousin, matter-of-fact, direct, no forking off or going the long way round…….

Then you have the Oddball lines, like Shakespeare’s Oddball plays. Pericles, Hammersmith and City, East Verona Line, Titus of Waterloo……

London is a language. I guess all places are.

There’s lots more. The Northern Line “is the psycho of the family”. Kennington Tube Station is the sort of place “where best-forgotten films starring British rock stars as working class anti-heroes are set”.

Makes me wonder how, given some literary license, the essence of Melbourne’s public transport system might be captured. I know if my local station were a country, it would be cold war Russia; if it were a language it would be Pidgin English; and if it were a mental state it would be deeply depressed.

Naming them after people with a knowable biography is fraught, but there are plenty of other options. Personally, I think indigenous names are the way to go but there are other fields the five names might be drawn from, such as science or literature (I like the idea of making the five famous by naming them Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina, and Timmy).