Rail users express concerns at heated forums

 

News article: Rail users express concerns at heated forums

Regional rail users have expressed their concerns to authorities in heated forums at Benalla, Wodonga and Wangaratta.

  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Regional rail users have expressed their concerns to authorities in heated forums at Benalla, Wodonga and Wangaratta.



On Monday around 90 people gathered on the Benalla train station platform, with about the same number turning up to Wodonga's Cube on Tuesday.



Locals questioned V/Line and Australian Rail Track Corporation executives about lengthy delays to services, poor quality rolling stock and other unpleasant experiences.
Rail users express concerns at heated forums


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I think the North East as we know has been badly managed by EVERYONE including Vline.

Most interesting and most dear to my heart and this woman is certainly right was the following comment.  

Speaking at the Benalla forum, Glenrowan's Pauline Bailey said she finds the Albury to Melbourne service "unreliable". "Often I'd like to use it but I feel I can't," she said. Ms Bailey was one of several speakers who said their local rail service was "third-world" compared to that in Scandinavia and other European countries. Works on the line have been going for several years, with the fixing of ballast causing speed restrictions and delays.
Somebody

There is also a soundbyte you can listen to on the ABC website which sets out the opinions of this group.  There is a definate need to look a long distance better riding rollingstock but Vlocity services are not the answer.  Vline need better long distance rollingstock.

The sound byte: Residents Interviewed over the lack of viable passenger rail services for Wangaratta and Benalla

I know it has been said before but people i believe are really get jack of vline's approach to delays and excuses.  The Northeast is an important part of Victoria with no transport vision from Vline.

Regards
Brian

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  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
What is wrong with Vlocitys for a trip of that distance?
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
What is wrong with Vlocitys for a trip of that distance?
TheBlacksmith

I believe they are not in their current form setup for long distance travel.  Take the european and USA experience, they are setup with dinning and lounge car arrangements.  

The current velocity setup is more akin to 2 hour journey max.

This is just my view but I think the travelling pub;ic in the long distance marketplace are looking for a little more.

Regards
Brian
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I believe they are not in their current form setup for long distance travel.  Take the european and USA experience, they are setup with dinning and lounge car arrangements.  

The current velocity setup is more akin to 2 hour journey max.

This is just my view but I think the travelling pub;ic in the long distance marketplace are looking for a little more.
bevans
When you considered the European and USA experience, did you consider the difference in fares charged for those sorts of services?

A "first class" V/Line ticket Wodonga to Melbourne is $40.  The equivalent fare in the US for a trip of a similar duration and similar length costs about three times that.  Similar sort of ratio if you look at the cost of rail travel in the UK.

It varies with season, with line, you can get specials, off-peak discounts, early purchase discounts, bulk purchase discounts, etc, etc, etc.  But still, the difference in what people are currently paying "on average" is substantial.  Perhaps people here are willing to pay for it - I really don't know - but I suspect that if you told the assembled mob that their fares were going to double or something, then you'd have a far rougher reception than experienced by the V/Line and ARTC people at these forums.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
I think the Vlocity is reasonably well suited to medium distance travel, I use them frequently and as they are toilet equipped, they seem to do the job OK. Dining you can do without, even snack service is moot. I find them more comfortable than the N sets and when you have the snack bar open all you end up with is a certain demographic that wants to buy beer and get pissed. The rest of us can probably do without that.

But it is all hypothetical, as with the current speed restrictions, a Vlocity could not stretch its legs and do the job properly anyway.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

I believe they are not in their current form setup for long distance travel.  Take the european and USA experience, they are setup with dinning and lounge car arrangements.  

The current velocity setup is more akin to 2 hour journey max.

This is just my view but I think the travelling pub;ic in the long distance marketplace are looking for a little more.

bevans
There is something of a difference in the way you Mexicans think.  In NSW 2 hours isn't the long/short distance threshold - it's a suburban commute Smile!  

The issue with V'Locities for NSW type journey lengths is the lack of a meal service, and perhaps enough luggage space.  Most CountryLink passengers/journeys would find the V'Locities a pleasant upgrade, even if they did have to bring their own sandwiches.
  JimYarin Chief Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
There is something of a difference in the way you Mexicans think.  In NSW 2 hours isn't the long/short distance threshold - it's a suburban commute Smile!  

The issue with V'Locities for NSW type journey lengths is the lack of a meal service, and perhaps enough luggage space.  Most CountryLink passengers/journeys would find the V'Locities a pleasant upgrade, even if they did have to bring their own sandwiches.
djf01

are meal services available on all nsw regional services?
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

are meal services available on all nsw regional services?
JimYarin
Depends on what you mean by regional I suppose, but basically yes.  

The former CityRail region that extends roughly 4 hours from Sydney doesn't, but these are really intended as commuter services, as weird as that sounds.
  JimYarin Chief Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Depends on what you mean by regional I suppose, but basically yes.  

The former CityRail region that extends roughly 4 hours from Sydney doesn't, but these are really intended as commuter services, as weird as that sounds.
djf01

so this limited to countrylink services like canberra and dubbo?
  waynes Junior Train Controller

Location: Victoria
so this limited to countrylink services like canberra and dubbo?
JimYarin

Countrylink use the XPT and also the Endeavour/Explorer? cars on their services.  I have used the Canberra service a few times from Sydney and have always when taking the early service out of Sydney purchased a hot breakfast meal.

Vline definitely need a buffet car on anything over 2 hours and maybe a seated car on Albury/Swan Hill and Bairnsdale Services.  Only problem is Vline don't understand the word Service.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
The infrastructure on the NE main line is proving time and again that it is unfit for purpose.  Even a relatively untrained eye can see frequent and significant mud holes, dips and distortions in the track and rotted wooden sleepers (largely on the BG south of Seymour).  Regular derailments and complaints of rough riding from staff and passengers alike add to the argument that the whole thing is in a poor state despite significant sums of money having been spent on its "improvement".

Passenger rolling stock should allow for a majority of journeys (excluding those of a regional commuter nature on the Seymour services) to be above 90 minutes in duration and many taking longer than several hours.  It is reasonable over that duration to have available at least light refreshments.  The XPT service seems to do a good trade in full cooked meals and not all are for passengers making the entire Sydney - Melbourne journey by any means.

I would see a minimum specification for a Melbourne - Albury service as seating of a superior quality to that offered suburban and regional commuter passengers i.e. not 3+2 and with more comfort than a Sprinter or Harris car.  The N-sets and VL units are just about acceptable though could certainly be improved upon.  Ample luggage space must be provided and some form of food and drinks service which should be open for at least the majority and ideally all of the journey.  The VLP snack bars are opened when staffing permits which can vary if the staff member concerned is also busy assisting with other duties such as ticket checks on a busy train.  It is widely regarded as not acceptable hygienic practice to be both serving food and performing other tasks.  On-train catering can be franchised out (as is generally done in the UK) with minimum service contracts in place to ensure standards are met.  Whether service is from a fixed counter or a trolley can depend on the actual journey being worked; there are arguments for and against both though hot meals cannot be served from a trolley.

VLP operates on a very low cost recovery basis and while fares are cheap to the user they are subsidised to the hilt.  That is a political decision.  Fares were already cheap and were then cut substantially a few years back.  Some might argue that was done to buy votes in the next election.  It is true that in the US, Europe and particularly the UK that walk-up fares can be very much more expensive.  In general those nations also offer the quality of service to match the fare from the ground up.  Track is usually first class, trains often among the best there are, seating and customer service are of high standards and while those trains can also be very crowded there is also the opportunity in many cases to reserve a defined and labelled seat rather than the random VLP system which does nothing to prevent unreserved passengers sitting in your "reserved" seat.  In the UK they would be firmly ordered out to sit elsewhere.

If the product is right the passengers will choose to use it.  Fares are not the only consideration as the British example shows.  Some of the highest fares in the world have done nothing to slow the huge growth in passenger rail which continues because the service is reliable, frequent, safe, fast (even some London and south-east commuter trains run at 225kph) and efficient.  And in most cases beyond purely metropolitan commuting distance at least a trolley snack service is offered with a more substantial light meal service, and sometimes a full plated meal, available from a buffet counter or served at your seat on most long distance trains.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

BTW, when and where were these forums held again?  And is it really still that cold down there they needed to be heated?
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
I think the Vlocity is reasonably well suited to medium distance travel, I use them frequently and as they are toilet equipped, they seem to do the job OK. Dining you can do without, even snack service is moot. I find them more comfortable than the N sets and when you have the snack bar open all you end up with is a certain demographic that wants to buy beer and get pissed. The rest of us can probably do without that.
TheBlacksmith
V/Line buffet cars haven't sold alcohol for several years.

Mike.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Vline definitely need a buffet car on anything over 2 hours and maybe a seated car on Albury/Swan Hill and Bairnsdale Services.  Only problem is Vline don't understand the word Service.
waynes
V/Line well understand the word 'service' however dragging around 45 tons of dining or lounge car for the half a dozen people at a time that would sit in there isn't good for the power to weight ratio of train sets nor a very good use of an extremely scarce and expensive resource...namely train carriages.

Mike.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
V/Line well understand the word 'service' however dragging around 45 tons of dining or lounge car for the half a dozen people at a time that would sit in there isn't good for the power to weight ratio of train sets nor a very good use of an extremely scarce and expensive resource...namely train carriages.

Mike.
The Vinelander

Mike I actually disagree with you there.  It is all about "experience" when you chose to take a vline service to work and back over a longer distance.  This is what the UK firms are now discovering.  Do you remember the privatised warrnambool services with the Friday dinning car?  Very popular.

Regards
Brian
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Mike I actually disagree with you there.  It is all about "experience" when you chose to take a vline service to work and back over a longer distance.  This is what the UK firms are now discovering.  Do you remember the privatised Warrnambool services with the Friday dinning car?  Very popular.

Regards
Brian
bevans
I recently returned from UK where I travelled extensively on Virgin's Pendolino services on the North West (Glasgow) line and on the First Great Western (FGW) HST trains to Penzance.

Both of these lines are very popular, run hourly and operate 5+ hour long journeys, however the only one to offer anything resembling a lounge car, is the Night Riviera overnight sleeper train to/from Penzance and all else including the peak time 'chef-on-board' services operate a 'to seat' meal service. There is ONE dining car service train on the FGW...at a premium travel experience cost.
However UK has a much more dense population that can support this kind of service.

http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Your-journey/On-board/Pullman

I have no idea how popular the Friday to Geelong dining car service (Avoca) I believe was however with the shunting that's required to add and remove dining cars, obviously the meals don't cover the cost of the shunter needed.
  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
What shouldn't be forgotten though is that essentialy V/Lines main consideration is that they just want to run a Melbourne - Albury service. The fact it is now SG isn't a decision of theirs and if truth be told, they would probably prefer BG. That way (a) they have full flexibility of locos / rollingstock across the network and (b) not fighting their way through a sea of freight trains. At the end of the day they are pretty much the victim of a federal decision to standardise the line and ARTC's futile attempts to maintain it. Having said that, they could probably improve their PR aspects and communication of the issues they're up against.

In terms of suitability of V/Locities for Albury, we seem to keep thinking Melb - Albury is a couple of hours and that everyone on board is travelling full length. Have statistics even been published showing examples that maybe 80% of passengers only travel as far as Benalla or that 50% of Albury travellers board north of Seymour? If so, you might find that buffet cars etc. are slightly over the top because only a small percentage travel full length. Then again, it could well show that 90% travel full length with only 10% jumping on/off here and there.
  bevans Site Admin
  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
Haven't people rung up for pizza at Traralgon on previous Steamrail trip stops??
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Haven't people rung up for pizza at Traralgon on previous Steamrail trip stops??
Ballast_Plough

Falls of his chair laughing and loves it!
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
Falls of his chair laughing and loves it!
bevans
Don't laugh, we used to arrange for coffee and doughnuts to be delivered to the morning Traralgon train at Dandenong for a while.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Don't laugh, we used to arrange for coffee and doughnuts to be delivered to the morning Traralgon train at Dandenong for a while.
TheBlacksmith

I rather like that idea!
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
It's hardly unique though it's a good idea.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
There's nothing wrong with providing a V/Locity standard of seating, or slightly better, on long-distance services, but First fares really need to go up (and the product can improve accordingly).

At least there's a future. Mechanically, the trains can be identical.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

There's nothing wrong with providing a V/Locity standard of seating, or slightly better, on long-distance services, but First fares really need to go up (and the product can improve accordingly).
Watson374

Improve the product eh?  Perhaps courtesy Limo transfers?

Seriously, the gulf between revenue and cost is so great, and so much of the cost is fixed vs variable - raising fares will do nothing good.  It will surely increase revenue per head - and it *may* even slightly increase revenue overall: at the expense of volume (and thus further increasing the the cost/trip subsidy and weakening the case for continued government support).

The way forward IMHO is cheaper (for the provider) with less rather than more gold plating.

There is no question V'Line's V'Locity services are - operationally at least - hugely more cost effective than the NSW equivalent.  But the NE SG operations face more or less the same issues as CountryLink.

I think perhaps there might be some benefit (and a lot of parochial administrative disadvantages) in having a common agency handle distance public transport in SE Australia to operate the SG passenger rail and feeder bus networks, jointly owned by the NSW, VIC and ACT governments, and perhaps with some fed contribution as well.  One EBA, One fleet sensible strategy and non-overlapping feeder bus network.

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