Tim Fischer: V/Line carriages just not good enough

Tim Fischer wants an overhaul of carriages — or even the introduction of faster VLocity trains — on the Melbourne to Albury line.
Tim Fischer wants an overhaul of carriages — or even the introduction of faster VLocity trains — on the Melbourne to Albury line.

TIM Fischer’s experience with a cancelled V/Line train has prompted a call for a major overhaul of carriages used on the North East track.

Better still, the former deputy prime minister would like modified, high-speed VLocity carriages introduced on the Melbourne to Albury run.

Mr Fischer said the VLocity trains were being used on the Ballarat and Bendigo-Melbourne lines.

“They’re the standard diesel train unit and they can go at up to 160km/h,” he said.

“You would have to make it slightly different for this line. They run as far as Seymour at the moment on the broad gauge.

“A VLocity train would take half an hour off the journey for starters.”

Mr Fischer was booked on the 6.01pm service out of Southern Cross Station in Melbourne on Thursday.

“Quite late in the piece, about 5.25pm, passengers were told that they were to be put on coaches,” he said.

“We had to go down to the bus terminal and they sorted out four or five buses. We eventually got, in my case, to Benalla 20 minutes late.

“The excuse was, as I say ‘excuse 2d — carriages defective’.”

V/Line has had a run of problems on the line over the past week, with a radio communications system breakdown and various track works resulting in passengers being switched to coaches.

It has announced all trains between Melbourne and Albury next weekend, August 3 and 4, will be replaced by coaches because of track work.

“I know these things cost money but a lot more people would use it if it existed,” he said.

Mr Fischer said it remained to be seen whether there was the political will to implement such changes.

“This is a challenge for state members along the corridor,” he said.

“That’s (member for Benambra) Bill Tilley in the north and Benalla and Seymour in the south.”

But Mr Tilley disputed Mr Fischer’s argument, saying the track was not yet up to scratch.

Mr Tilley said the Australian Rail Track Corporation had only just obtained and begun using specialist machinery promised back in January to fix the track.

“The simple fact of the matter is the track has been shaking the state’s responsibility of the carriages and engines to pieces,” he said.

“We always want the biggest, brightest, shiniest new car, but we’ve got to get the infrastructure right.”

After that, Mr Tilley said investigations could begin into the best train to run on the tracks.

Mr Tilley said he and his fellow North East MPs were awaiting a briefing on when the track works were expected to be completed.