Editorial: Albury's passenger rail service is showing improvement but that has to keep happening

IT’S not quite the “Slow train to nowhere” sung by bluesman John Mayall, but it certainly isn’t fast as it takes to the tracks between Albury-Wodonga and Melbourne.

If there has ever been anything slightly predictable about the Border’s V/Line passenger service, for so many years now, it has been its degree of unpredictability.

From sink holes, to slow zones to locomotives and passenger carriages that break down, it has been nothing short of a joke.

And yet it’s a joke without a punch line – what, after all, is there to laugh about?

It’s a rhetorical question of course, predicated on the the lack of action over the years.

To great fanfare the line was supposed to be completely upgraded at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The thinking was that this would then provide smoother travel and hence, the old carriages that have been used for decades – with very occasional mediocre upgrades – would not rattle apart.

That didn’t happen and the dreadful performance on the line has continued unabated, which means a train trip to the big smoke often means you’re on a bus instead.

It was tremendous news then when it was announced that $100 million would be spent on upgrading the North East line, thanks to an allocation made in the federal budget.

While some of that money was to go on planning, the vast majority – it was indicated – would be for physical works.

The litany of poor performance provides an extremely meaningful context for the latest figures released on how the service is going in the meantime.

No surprises there.

The Albury journey remains the most cancelled regional service in the state.

But at least some things have improved, most notably the number of services delivered from just under 68 per cent in May to 97 per cent in June.

Just over 91 per cent of services ran as timetabled in June, with on-time average over 12 months at 74.1 per cent.

V/Line should be given kudos of course where it’s due, the result its chief executive, James Pinder, puts down to the meeting of reliability and punctuality targets flowing from maintenance changes.

Given that the $100 million project is some time away, we would hope that V/Line would continue to work as hard as it can to make improvements for the sake of the eternally patient travelling public.

The community deserves nothing less.