Maybe we will have to agree to disagree Mike, but I would certainly suggest the budget airline argument is a red herring.
A single return from Bairnsdale is currently $75 or a 500km round trip by car. Considering petrol and parking costs, the two are in the same order of magnitude price-wise, perhaps very close to identical. Obviously the situation is more complex for multiple travellers, but let’s stick with the single adult for now.
What that means is the price point is very difficult for the irregular traveller to compare, and, when they do, they will find the railway and the train are “much of a muchness”. So what will persuade them to choose one over the other?
The car’s biggest advantage is flexibility at the end of journey, and ability to make stops along the way for food, toilet and so on.
The train has to find a way of competing with this: I don’t believe that is “flashiness”, it’s just sensible service provision. The toilet is covered, and there’s the added incentive of not needing to drive.
I think you would find that even the most budget-conscious travellers would find the purchase of snacks on a Tiger Perth flight, or at the airport at either end, a useful amenity. Even if they packed their own sandwiches most of the time, it helps to know you can get a coffee. And as for wifi, your rational budget-conscious traveller would be very tempted by the option not to spend his own money on internet! Aside from that, whatever your personal expectations are, free public wifi is increasingly expected of service providers, and there’s no reason V/Line should be the same.
These are not radical suggestions - they are simply what I would expect of a railway looking to maintain its relevance to Victoria’s passenger-carrying future. While I agree carrying those passengers safely, reliably, and punctually (in that order) is crucial, the comfort element cannot be ignored.