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Soaring passenger numbers and lagging infrastructure have turned regional commutes into peak-hour nightmares as figures show standards have plummeted on V/Line services since the last state election.
From November 2014, the number of late trains across the network has soared and the number of cancellations has more than doubled.
There were 15,291 regional rail services that did not run on time over the 12 months to October and another 3487 that never arrived at the station.
V/Line puts aside $300,000 in its annual budget for taxis to ferry passengers impacted by outages and in the 2016-17 financial year paid out $84,435 in additional fare compensation to fed-up commuters.
A crowded V/Line train from Footscray to Geelong.Regional rail has emerged as a key state election issue as Victorians prepare to head to the polls. Both parties have outlined differing plans to develop fast rail and ease Melbourne’s crippling congestion and population pressure.
Chief executive James Pinder said there were now 20.8 million regional rail trips a year compared to seven million a decade earlier.
“V/Line’s network is different compared with five years ago, with the introduction of the Regional Rail Link in 2016 effectively transforming V/Line from a country rail operator into a commuter service,” he said.
“The $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival will provide more services to the regional network and help ensure we continue to offer passengers a safe and reliable service.”
Since the end of 2016, V/line’s monthly results have consistently failed to come close to punctuality targets, with one in every 10 trains running late.
V/Line boss James Pinder in Geelong. Picture: Alison WyndThe 3.10pm Southern Cross to South Geelong train is infamous among commuters as a “ghost service” that on average disappears four times a month.
Labor has committed $340 million to add 54 new VLocity carriages and $100 million for detailed planning on fast rail that would cut trips from Melbourne to Geelong down to 35 minutes.
A Coalition government would spend $19 billion if elected to rebuild the state’s network and introduce 200kmh services that would reduce the Geelong-Melbourne journey to 32 minutes.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said: “We know how frustrating unplanned disruption can be — that’s why we had the fight with Canberra to get the money we were owed and now work is underway to upgrade every regional rail line.”
Opposition public transport spokesman David Davis said regional rail had not kept pace with population growth.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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