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Altona residents will finally get a regular direct train service to and from the city when the Metro timetable is updated next year, but most other lines are likely to get no boost to services, despite increased overcrowding, leaked government documents show.
The Andrews government has barely updated Melbourne's train timetables since it took office more than two years ago and scrapped a major upgrade that Metro and Public Transport Victoria had devised under the former Coalition government.
But a list of proposed extra services contained in the leaked Transport Department document reveals some lines are likely to get extra services next year.
The list of extra services is short: 47 Altona loop extensions, four extra trains a day on the Werribee, Craigieburn and Sunbury lines and one extra Eltham service.
No other lines see any change. Metropolitan train patronage grew 2.7 per cent last financial year.
The proposed update is good news for commuters on the Altona Loop, who have an inefficient off-peak shuttle service between Laverton and Newport that involves catching up to three trains to and from the city.
Most shuttle services will be replaced with a direct service to and from Flinders Street Station.
But beyond that, just 13 extra weekday services would be added next year.
The proposed timetable update addresses significant peak-hour rail overcrowding in Melbourne's western suburbs, but leaves mostly unused the capacity – up to 23 extra metropolitan trains an hour – created by the $3.65 billion Regional Rail Link.
A timetable update originally planned for April 2015 that would have used the new capacity to add services to nine lines was rejected by the Andrews government.
David Hodgett, the Opposition spokesman on public transport, said the government had so far failed to build on the 10-minute off-peak frequencies the former Napthine government added on lines such as Dandenong and Frankston.
"Labor's proposed changes to Metro timetables are disappointingly modest rather than the massive upgrade that is required with Victoria's population having risen by 123,000 in the past year," Mr Hodgett said.
Melbourne's rail system had become one of two halves, he said, with commuters in the east and south served by regular trains all day while in the north and west, "train frequencies remain stuck in the 1980s".
The government declined to comment on the proposed timetable because it forms part of confidential commercial negotiations with Metro about a seven-year extension of the rail franchise agreement.
"We'll add 80 more V/Line services every week in January, and will add more metropolitan services later in the year as part of the next metropolitan timetable change," Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said.
Jennifer Williams, a spokeswoman for the Altona Loop Group, which lobbies for better rail services to and from Altona, said the group had been told to wait until the second half of next year for significant improvements.
"It's not good enough," Ms Williams said.
"We were promised through services after Regional Rail [opened], that was 18 months ago," she said.
The documents also reveal another myki fare rise of 2.5 per cent is booked in for January 1, 2018, on top of the looming fare rise on January 1 next year.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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