Fewer buses are expected to replace North East V/Line rail services with another train tipped to be ready in March

AN extra V/Line train to service the North East is expected to be ready by March.

Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan and Northern Victoria Labor MLC Jaclyn Symes on Monday toured a workshop in Melbourne where the train is being set-up.

They saw carriages being refurbished with new upholstery, carpet and paintwork.

Under the Victorian Government’s Albury line plan, first announced in April, the three existing five-carriage sets will become four four-carriage sets.

Old becoming new: Jaclyn Symes, V/Line chief executive Gary Liddle, refurbisher George Fattouche and Transport Minister Jacinta Allan aboard one of the North East carriages being upgraded in Melbourne.

Old becoming new: Jaclyn Symes, V/Line chief executive Gary Liddle, refurbisher George Fattouche and Transport Minister Jacinta Allan aboard one of the North East carriages being upgraded in Melbourne.

Ms Symes said the change would result in less train services being replaced by buses.

“There will be two running, one back-up and one in maintenance constantly,” she said.

“I want brand-spanking new trains, but this will provide us with trains that will be comfortable and more reliable while we wait for new ones to be ordered and built.”

Ms Symes said she believed V/Line’s procurement team was still assessing the best replacement trains and the possibility of a joint order with another state before deciding on new rolling stock. 

V/Line spokeswoman Catalina Filip said the fourth train set was due to be completed in March.

Reducing carriages from five to four will see capacity on the services reduced from 330 to 290 seats.

Ms Filip said an average of 130 passengers used each Albury-Melbourne service.

Member for Benambra Bill Tilley said he was pleased the government was “finally getting on with the job” of bringing some improvement to the line.

However, he questioned whether back-up buses would be needed because the trains would be full.

Ms Symes said if there was a boost in patronage that should be looked at as a positive and there was potential for a spare carriage to be added to some services.

Border Rail Action Group convenor Bill Traill said the extra train was “not a solution” but would aid reliability.

“It was always going to be a palliative,” Mr Traill said.

“The only solution to the line is a solution to the track problems and replacement of the aged fleet by a modern reliable fleet.

“Both need to be coincidental, otherwise the modern fleet will be condemned to a junkyard in a few years.

“The track needs to have significant capital funding.

“The maintenance approach has failed, there are significant formation problems which need a big capital injection.” 

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