To woodford and all, Thanks at last for establishing a consolidated thread for this topic so it doesn't get buried in multiple other threads. Whilst I don't propose to repeat all that I've said repeatedly on all other threads, I will where appropriate refer to some of that material to address woodford's point and help others get a bit of the picture. Firstly there is money in the new budget as previously foreshadowed to start the developmental work for a replacement train fleet for the N sets for both broad and standard gauge, so for this exercise let's not get derailed on what that might be as the focus here is what can you do to give people on what was V/Line's premier InterCity route a decent, reliable and reasonably attractive service for the next 4 to 5 years.
Firstly, even though the current N sets had a very comprehensive upgrade of their air-conditioning, toilet systems, the removal of highly unreliable underfloor diesel alternator sets and replacement with dedicated power cars, and the completion of a light servicing facility, carriage washing plant etc at Dynon, together with an overhaul of the 3 dedicated N class locos, the performance, presentation and reliability of these trains has been appalling and all N sets even on Broad Gauge have been run down as well. This is partially due to maintenance by Bombardier being sub contracted to EDI with EDI having lost a very substantial contract to Bombardier some years ago and their prime focus being on DMU maintenance.
So scrap that entire maintenance arrangement for the NE sets and give it to Gemco as a full on contract not as the type of contract that they have now where they are only used when V/Line/Bombardier get in a jam. Giving them that contract as a complete operation gives them the opportunity to undertake proper comprehensive preventative maintenance program as well as the daily trip and other maintenance, which is not done now. No more overnighting at SX the inbound up set that is so called cleaned. Send it down to GEMCO each night for proper cleaning and servicing so any minor defects can be addressed as it was always planned to be. This means the current 3rd set which acts as the standby set is sitting at GEMCO able to thoroughly serviced and replenished as a proper standby set should be. There are numerous examples of the so called standby set sitting in the stabling area at Dynon with difects not attended to and the standby set US Do not reduce the train consist size, you'll need the capacity to carry the passengers who'll return to the service once you've got it back up to the standard it should be.
Spare cars. Make up a standby power van and at most another 2 sitting cars and be prepared to break up sets for changing out individual cars. This is also important to undertake the heavy servicing needed on the fleet to get it back into decent shape A P class loco was gauge converted for this very purpose, and let GEMCO use that as well as using the train wash which has never been used effectively by V/Line and wash the sets each night as they should be.
Return all the current N class locos back to Broad Gauge to beef up the tight motive power situation there. Hire 4 G class or equivalent on long term hire with V/Line radios transferred from the N's, so you get a better performance out of the 3,000 units which are simpler to maintain as well, and start using the power vans on the train sets as they were intended to be and the way that GSR does on the Overland, IP and Ghan!!!
Give them GEMCO the cleaning at Dynon and Albury as well so they have entire responsibity end to end. They service The Overland and the XPT and they do a good job.
At Albury, set up a proper overnight stabling and light cleaning facility to the north of the station set up so that it can be future-proofed for the new N set replacement and able to undertake very small running repairs which cannot be done now, thereby ensuring that even the overnight set at Albury is properly serviced. Gemco can then establish a small multi task team to support the overnight cleaning and servicing of the set at Albury as part of the enhanced maintenance/cleaning/and management function in Dynon. The stabling facility will significantly reduce the risk of graffiti attack!!!
Now the money side. V/Line will have and will continue to do so spending what must be millions of dollars on rail replacement services over the past 6 years for the NE standard gauge service because of the totally unacceptable way the NE service has been managed. The long term hire of 4 G class equivalent units, the conversion of a power van, and a couple of sitting cars, the establishment of a proper stabling facility in Albury and a considerably beefed up maintenance and cleaning contract end to end with GEMCO is frankly a mere drop in the ocean for what has been spent and the loss of business and reputation that has taken place. With new trains coming at the earliest I would suggest 4 even 5 years, the operation can't continue as it is and this type of regime MUST be place anyway to support any new replacement fleet.
This is not rocket science. Whilst not ideal having to continue with the existing fleet, the fact that the trains would be fully maintained, ultra clean and reliable would be a substantially better offering than what takes place today. Frankly I'd go further and get the services running marginally faster with the 3,000HP units and modified dampeners on the bogies of the N cars say 120/125 km/hr, I'd definitely dump Springhurst Station stop at less than 30 passengers per month and that combination could bring the schedule down just a little but at least evidence that some genuine attempt has been made to deliver something significantly better. We know something like 15 minutes is in some timetables to allow for crossing of other trains that hasn’t been removed since Passing Lane 1
Only after I had done that and the service bedded down would I consider upping frequency. In any case with Victoria spending almost $6million a year contribution to the XPT service and owning a full XPT set I’d be reinstating the code-share arrangement so V/Line ticketed passengers could access the XPT services. That increases the number of trips to 6 each way each day enabling more options for residents in the NE and we’d be getting more value out of the millions we spend on supporting the XPT.