Council blasts V/Line

PAKENHAM commuters on V/Line train services to Melbourne are paying less than a quarter of the price travelers from Sale are slugged.

Wellington Shire Council highlighted the discrepancy after expressing disappointment at a recent state government decision to allow metropolitan rail passengers back onto Gippsland rail services.

In June the government announced Melbourne-bound Pakenham commuters would not be allowed to board V/Line services. However, the government has since watered down that policy following additional loading analysis and feedback from Pakenham residents.

While Sale and Bairnsdale receive just three services each day to and from Melbourne, commuters travelling from Pakenham have access to 70 services to Melbourne and 64 returning from the city.

Mayor Darren McCubbin said that while the government agreed to prevent Pakenham travellers from boarding regional rail services between 4pm and 6.30pm, it remained clear other services outside that bracket were also already full with Gippsland-bound passengers.

“V/Line’s own statistics appear to indicate that the 3.19pm from Southern Cross (Melbourne) outbound is also already at 100 per cent capacity. That is one of 19 services per day that travel as far as Traralgon, and one of a limited number that connects by coach to Sale,” Cr McCubbin said.

“This already packed train is one V/Line proposes to allow additional metro passengers destined for Pakenham to board.

“It simply doesn’t make sense.”

Cr McCubbin said there was a stark difference between rail fares for regional and suburban passengers.

“A Pakenham passenger pays $3.76 to travel 58 kilometres to Flinders St,” he said.

“At an equal rate, one-way travel to Sale would cost around $16. Off peak travel to Sale is in fact $26.20, while peak rate sits at $37.40.

“If the reasoning behind this regression is one of service equality for all passengers, perhaps consideration could be given for greater equality of fares between regional, suburban and metropolitan public transport options.”

“A few months ago, the decision to prevent Pakenham-bound passengers on regional trains was hailed by the state government as a big win for Gippsland,” Cr McCubbin said.

“This makes it even more perplexing why the decision is almost entirely revoked, and without courtesy of a formal announcement to the people it affects the most.

“However, I understand that Pakenham passengers have been advised of the changes by V/Line.”

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan recently said the decision struck the “right balance” between ensuring Gippsland passengers received exclusive access to the busiest V/Line services, while allowing Pakenham passengers to catch a regional train when there was room.

Ms Allan said passenger loads on other peak services would be monitored to ensure boarding rules continued to balance the needs to regional and metropolitan passengers.

The Gippsland Local Government Network, of which Wellington Shire Council is a member, has put forwards its concerns in a letter to the minister. The GLGN pushed for the government to go back to its original decision.

Meanwhile, council will also write to the minister and V/Line requesting that mobile phone “black spots” be dealt with on the rail line between Traralgon and Bairnsdale at the same time as those from Dandenong to Traralgon.

The government recently announced it would spend $18 million on fixing black spots from Melbourne to Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour and Traralgon.

“We want to be treated equally with the people between Traralgon and Dandenong,” Cr Malcom Hole said.