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FIFTY-two V/Line trains — including 11 on one day — were cancelled or altered in February and March on the Geelong line due to staff sickness, regional rail operator data shows.
Track congestion and “maintenance requirements” also delayed more than 100 trains over the past two months while signal faults affected more than 80 trains.
In March, 33 trains were altered or cancelled due to staff sickness, including 11 on Monday March 26. Those trains were cancelled.
Nine trains were also affected on Friday, March 2, including three reduced from six to three carriages — stripping 660 seats from the line.
Nineteen trains were either cancelled or altered in February and commuters were left stranded for 45 minutes on February 2 when the 10.04pm Waurn Ponds to Southern Cross was cancelled.
On that day six trains were cancelled and another three services were replaced by buses.
V/Line, which notifies commuters of cancellations via Twitter, did not specify if cancellations are due to sick train drivers or conductors.
The rail operator has failed its punctuality target of 92 per cent 39 times in the past 42 months — a target that allows trains to run up to six minutes late and still be considered on time.
V/Line spokesman James Twining said each Geelong line train required a conductor to operate.
“We do on odd occasions have shifts that can’t be fulfilled due to unexpected staff shortages, of which staff illness is the primary cause,” Mr Twining said.
“Where possible, V/Line has standby drivers available to address unexpected staff shortages.
“We expect to have nine additional drivers by May.”
V/Line operates more than 2850 train services on the Geelong line each month, including 360 Melbourne-bound and 359 Geelong-bound per week.
More than 220 trains in January and 88 trains in February were cancelled, according to V/Line data.
Cancellations on the Geelong line due to sick V/Line staff have angered commuters.
Craig Byron said: “Here’s a novel idea; hire a few extra staff to cover for illness. Might make sick days less of an Armageddon event.”
V/Line has more than 1800 workers and about 445 drivers.
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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