Free travel follows V/Line fiasco

The State Government has announced free travel from Saturday after a problem with a Gippsland line boom gate triggered havoc across V/Line train services this week.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said travel would be free on all regional trains and buses from this Saturday to the end of the month as a “small acknowledgement” to passengers.

New VLocity trains have been banned from operating between Pakenham and the city after one failed to trigger a boom gate at Dandenong on Friday.

Commuters on the Gippsland line have faced delays of more than an hour with V/Line offering replacement coaches. Ms Allan said issues with boom gates had been identified in 2011 with a report prepared by the former government in 2013.

“It’s disappointing for those passengers on the Gippsland line that the report wasn’t mentioned,” she said.

In the next three to six months, the government will install axle counters at 29 level crossings to ensure VLocity trains run on metropolitan tracks, such as the Pakenham onwards portion of the Gippsland line. Wheel wear was also identified as a cause of service disruptions.

Ms Allan said V/Line had not adequately prepared or planned a maintenance regime to meet “many more” services and kilometres of track, following a new timetable which began in the middle of last year.

The government has also called an independent operational review into V/Line.

Ms Allan said V/Line was working around the clock to undertake the maintenance and replace the wheels to get more services up and running.

V/Line said as part of the safety investigation, testing by engineers and safety experts was taking place and Public Transport Victoria was expecting to have a clearer picture by mid-week.