V/Line admits defeat

V/LINE has conceded defeat in the battle to get its Albury-to-Melbourne service to run on time.

The train service is set to introduce a revised timetable to allow for a trip of up to four hours and 15 minutes.

The trip is now listed as 3½ hours.

But it is believed V/Line will add 30 to 45 minutes to its timetables to more accurately reflect travel times.

It comes after a month in which at least one service ran late every day, with coaches replacing trains on some days.

Most days saw delays for at least four services.

Yesterday’s noon service from Melbourne arrived at Wodonga more than 90 minutes late.

In further bad news for train travellers, the member for Benalla, Bill Sykes, said it could be two years before the trackwork to fix the problems causing the delays was completed.

Dr Sykes said the change to the timetable “made the best of a bad situation”.

“For the timetables to say that one leg of the journey takes 2½ hours (to Benalla) and it takes another hour longer than that is ludicrous,” Dr Sykes said.

“It is commonsense to do what needs to be done.”

V/Line chief executive Rob Barnett said the authority was still talking to Public Transport Victoria about introducing a revised timetable.

“The biggest thing our customers want is certainty that their train is going to arrive at the time we say it will,” he said.

“While the train is taking longer than we’d like, a revised timetable will give customers an accurate indication of their journey time.”

Mr Barnett said he understood passenger frustration but couldn’t say when travel times would improve.

“North East Victorians have been enthusiastic in using the train following its return,” he said.

“We hope our customers can understand the issues around the service and work being carried out to improve it.”

Dr Sykes said that constituents had complained this month of ongoing delays.

“People won’t like the longer travel times but they are more upset about not being able to make appointment times based on a timetable that can’t be met,” he said.

“We need to fix the root cause of the problem and that will take two years.

“In handling the symptoms, a more accurate timetable is one step but another step is the V/Line texting service which proves useful, particularly for those who are meeting the train.”

Mr Barnett said V/Line was working with the Australian Rail Track Corporation to address track conditions on the Albury line to improve train punctuality.

After the recent completion of ARTC trackwork between Seymour and Violet Town, punctuality had improved, he said .

But there remained significant work to be done.

“Recent poor performance has related to speed restrictions in place due to the condition of the track, of which the ARTC have committed to progressively repair as part of the ballast rehabilitation program being undertaken along the rail corridor,” Mr Barnett said.

An ARTC spokesman said the program, which started earlier this year, would take 4½ years with most works scheduled to be completed by June next year.

“We expect customers to see a gradual improvement every few months as we repair new sections of the track and speed restrictions are removed,” he said.

Editorial — page 32