Commuter frustration

ONLY 52 per cent of trains on the Bairnsdale line are arriving on  time.

Based on performance statistics to April 30 this year, 52.5 per cent of trains arrived — 42 out of the 90 scheduled services.

This is better than March’s result, where 47.6 per cent were on time. Extending that out to the past six months, 56.4 per cent arrived on  time, though only 10 services were cancelled.

Extensive works on the line close to Melbourne, including level crossing removals, new stations opening, and repairs, contributed to the delays.

Many services have been replaced by buses, which were also affected by the Monash Freeway roadworks. These are not included in monthly punctuality and reliability statistics, to ensure train services are accurately measured.

This is the main reason there has been a drop in the overall percentage of Bairnsdale services arriving on time, as there is a smaller pool of services measured.

A V/Line spokesperson said $500 million was being invested to upgrade the Gippsland line, which would deliver more reliable services.

“Some train services will continue to be replaced by coaches while level crossing removal works continue this year,” the spokesperson said.

“Our focus remains minimising the disruption as much as possible and continuing to engage with our passengers on ways we can help can improve their travel experience during these times.”

Express coaches were trialled in April for commuters in Warragul and Drouin during the morning peak, while express coaches from Bairnsdale, Stratford, Sale and Rosedale have also been provided.

Compensation for services that are delayed by more than 60 minutes may be available.

However, the Gippsland V/Line Users Group believes V/Line should recognise the issues disrupting passengers.

The Users Group’s Natalie Thorne said V/Line was getting the same messages from many angles.

“During disruptions, cheaper fares are one thing that recognises the services we get are second-rate,” she said.

“It’s so inconvenient, it doesn’t feel fair to pay full-fare for a service so poor — if a trip lasts 90 minutes longer every day there should be recognition with compensation.”

Ms Thorne said timetabling of bus replacements also needed to be addressed, and during severe disruptions, customer service needed to be improved.

“We’d like temporary bus lanes on the Monash or Eastlink — there’s no outbound bus lanes on Eastlink,” she said, adding accurate bus timetables would also be appreciated.

In other parts of the state, the Geelong line recorded its highest on-time performance result in 18 months and the Ballarat line was up more than eight percentage points to 85.4 per cent.

Punctuality improved on almost all lines, with the biggest rise on the Warrnambool line, which recorded its best punctuality result in more than six-and-a-half years, up 18 percentage points to almost 93 per cent.

Metro Trains’ punctuality result of 93.2 per cent was its best since the new contract came into force in late 2017.

The state government has begun upgrades on the Gippsland line, as part of the $1.7 billion Regional Rail Revival program, which will include track duplication and signalling upgrades, as well as a new bridge over the Avon River to deliver VLocity services to Bairnsdale.

Detailed planning is underway regarding the interface between the High Capacity Metro Trains depot at Pakenham East and Gippsland V/Line services.

The state Nationals have discussed plans for a dedicated Gippsland line into the city.