Gippsland rail line misses out

GIPPSLAND is set to become one of the last remaining rail lines to share V/line services with metro trains, despite hosting the longest stretch of metro track in the Victorian network.

This comes as the service recorded the state’s worst punctuality targets for more than 12 months running, with only 77.8 per cent of trains arriving at destinations within six minutes of scheduled times, according to performance figures released last Monday.

A spokesperson for V/Line said Gippsland was the most affected service in the state, with 50 per cent of delays directly attributable to congestion, and the service had not met performance targets since before 2006.

Patronage on the Gippsland line has increased 138 per cent over the last five years, faster than any other regional Victorian service.

Under the State Government’s Regional Rail Link rail infrastructure upgrade, the Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat lines are currently undergoing track duplication in their metro sections, which after their scheduled 2016 completion, will make the Seymour and Gippsland lines the only remaining service having to share with metro trains.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said while the recent state budget funding announcements for extra V/Line carriages and maintenance works across the regional network could help to alleviate the congestion, he had been raising the issue “for some time now”.

“To rectify that situation, it will require significant resources to improve vastly the performance and congestion issues,” Mr Northe said. However he was unable to detail the likelihood of required funding in the near future.

In 2006 the Bracks Government had planned construction of a third track between Caulfield and Dandenong stations in its ‘Meeting Our Transport Challenges’ plan under $153 million in funding attached to the Dandenong Rail Corridor project; however, two years later the planned upgrades had all but disappeared, without a single mention in the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan.

Public Transport Users Association regional spokesperson Paul Wescott said due to the extended length of rail network which would need to be duplicated, the project had been “put in the ‘too hard’ basket”; however there were other options the government could consider.

“They wouldn’t have to duplicate the whole line; they could do it in sections gradually to allow for overtaking,” Mr Wescott said.

“They are doing that right now with the line from Melbourne to Albury by putting in long passing loops so trains can keep running and pass each other, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for Gippsland.”

Transport Minister Terry Mulder did not respond in time of going to print.