FORMER deputy prime minister Tim Fischer believes putting VLocity trains on the Melbourne to Albury line is as simple as “changing a pair of slippers”.
Mr Fischer, a passionate rail advocate, said V/Line’s VLocity units would run more efficiently on the North East corridor’s standard gauge line than the broad gauge which operates throughout much of Victoria.
Rail users have long sought the high-speed VLocity carriages, which operate on the Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Geelong lines, for the Albury-Melbourne route.
The carriages are capable of speeds up to 160km/h, a step up on the North East line’s maximum speed capability of 130km/h.
Mr Fischer said the wheel-wear “cancer” which has plagued the VLocity trains had been caused by sharp curves in the first 2km out of Southern Cross station.
“It’s been a massive botch up for which we will pay the price for years to come,” he said.
“Be confident, it is fixable but we need a bit more attention and priority on the North East corridor to get it fixed.
“The opportunity ought to be seized while they are redoing the bogies and wheels of the VLocity units to convert two VLocity units to standard gauge once and for all.
“It’s like changing a pair of slippers.
“Originally, the overall template for the VLocity unit is for a standard gauge operation as much as it is for the Irish broad gauge.
“They could run on the standard gauge that has been in place for over 60 years all the way through to Albury and that would save at least half an hour.
“The argument that they say it’s technically not possible, that is wrong.”
Many have argued the VLocity units aren’t suited to long-haul trips but Mr Fischer said they had been running between Melbourne and Echuca for years.
“You could put a mobile catering cart which might just happen to be more reliable than the catering buffet mini-bar service currently provided which for much of the summer for long periods has not been open to passengers,” he said.
“You might want to take out one row of seats and give everyone an extra inch of legroom.”
Mr Fischer supported The Border Rail Action Group’s push for a share of the next order of VLocity trains.
He said the ageing N-class trains running between Melbourne and Albury were in dire need of upgrading.
“The paint job on the locomotives is hiding a multitude of sins,” he said.