We know there are problems. We know some of those stem from historic issues. The point being what can be done now and into the future to address those problems?
There is no "quick win" which can be implemented tomorrow. Or next week or next month. But there are some areas where I would ask questions.
1. Are the combined VLP / Metro / freight path timetables as efficient as they can be or could some judicious tweaking result in better pathing and improved reliability if not shorter journey times?
2. Are there any alternative routings available which could be used to reduce conflicts at pressure points? The option exists to dual-gauge the Upfield line for instance which while it does limit speeds might not do so to the detriment of the overall service and opens the way to have Seymour / Shepparton / Albury trains use this route.
3. Is the overall timetable sufficiently robust in terms of rolling stock rostering? Is the best use being made of through-routing via Southern Cross or are there more options here? Are some services not allowed sufficient stand time here and therefore a late arrival results in a late departure?
4. Would it be more operationally satisfactory to combine certain trains where practicable to use fewer pathways? It may result in reduced departure options but is one reliable trip better than two unreliable ones? Two VLs or Sprinters coupled together provide the same accommodation for fewer pathways.
5. Is the overall timetable robust in terms of stopping patterns contributing to delays? Are there some VLP trains which are too close behind a Metro stopper for example and which could have their timing adjusted slightly to improve pathing and reliability?
6. Is platform supervision of boarding and alighting adequate or are there delays caused at the platforms through poor regulation which then contribute to a wider system issue?
Other than dual-gauging via Upfield and a need to then relocate a few sidings these issues can be resolved and written into the next available timetable change. That gives a reasonably quick and modest level of improvement.
Alongside that we can look at long-term options which might include metropolitan tunnels and a removal to them of some surface-level suburban trains. That in turn would create more space more often for more country trains.
Rolling stock procurement is also an ongoing issue. The N-sets won't last forever and are not the oldest rolling stock in service either. Likewise the locomotive fleet where some routes still rely on small and quite elderly mixed-traffic P-class locos. Procurement should factor in projected traffic growth allowing for what can be determined today such as the sharply rising costs of private motoring and a potential for further rail traffic growth if services gain the reputation for being quick and reliable.
The do-nothing option will only result in the rail system grinding to a halt very swiftly and the road network likewise not long afterwards.