The reality of a month’s worth of transferrals and delays is setting in for regular Latrobe Valley V/Line commuters today, as a major repair effort to damaged track west of Morwell gets underway.
The V/Line service east of Moe was closed on Wednesday after temporary repairs to track embankment instability, discovered last Sunday evening, were deemed insufficient.
Road coaches have replaced the service east of Moe, with commuters being asked to arrive for Melbourne-bound services 20 minutes earlier than scheduled Traralgon and Morwell departure times, to ensure the train service enters the metro network at its scheduled times.
The temporary arrangement is expected to last at least a month, as V/Line develop and implement a long term solution for the troubled section of track, which sits in the Morwell River Wetlands.
Attempts to notify regular V/Line commuters of the early departure of the replacement coaches were made Thursday evening via its web page, text messages, and the media, however some commuters arrived at stations to find their usual services had already departed.
“Although we did have some people caught out, the vast majority of commuters arrived for the earlier buses on time,” V/Line regional manager Tim Pianta said, acknowledging the situation was “a big deal” for commuters.
There were concerns on Friday that for irregular weekend V/Line travellers, unaware of the changed timetable, would be caught in the lurch between infrequent train services on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ve got a weekend coming up and people that don’t travel regularly may well be caught out by this,” Mr Pianta said on Friday, adding V/Line was considering additional buses for commuters who missed the services.
Regular V/Line commuter Grant Taylor of Traralgon said despite the extra travel time and service change, the price of petrol still made public transport a more attractive option.
“This is still easier for me,” Mr Taylor said.
However patronage from Morwell and Traralgon had dropped, according to Mr Pianta, with some Valley commuters choosing to drive directly to Moe to avoid the bus transferral.
Monash University spokesperson Tim Grainger said its shuttle bus service, which transferred students and teachers from the Morwell train station to its Churchill campus, would continue to operate in conjunction with the V/Line service timetables.
Irregular V/Line user Amarnath Walgama of Dandenong was visiting a friend at Monash University on Friday, via the Monash University Morwell shuttle bus hook up, and said the transferral made no large difference to his journey.
“It’s not a big hassle for me, it was only an extra 10 minutes on my trip,” Mr Walgama said.
Mr Pianta acknowledged while some commuters may be driving to avoid the temporary arrangements, he was confident most regular travellers would adapt.
“We certainly have had our fair share of incidents in the last three years… this has been a challenge with such a lack of time to prepare for it, but the engineers need to do their job, while we are just focusing on ensuring streamlining services for commuters,” he said.
“Normally it only takes (regular commuters) a few days to get back into the swing of new travel arrangements.”
Mr Pianta urged commuters to keep up to date with service information via the V/Line call centre, on 1800 800 007 or the webpage, vline.com.au/gippslandline