Rail fail frustrations mount

Train services have all but ground to a halt with Gippsland commuters facing up to six more weeks of replacement buses.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said she had been advised line restrictions would be lifted at the end of last week, but interim safety measures had been determined by the rail safety regulator.

Ms Allan said a combination of software and hardware work around boomgate operations would take up to six weeks to implement.

“I had been told last week work and the testing was being done and there was optimism the line would resume at the end of this week,” Ms Allan said on Thursday.

“Frustratingly for Gippsland passengers, this has not come about.”

Rapid wheel wear and an imposed Metro ban on the high speed VLocity trains after a boom gate failure at Dandenong on 15 January forced V/Line to cancel most train services.

Gippsland commuters are entering their third week of hour-long delays, with only four older locomotive services operating between Traralgon and Melbourne daily. The remaining train services have been replaced by road coaches.

“I know this is very unexpected and frustrating for passengers and they have every right to be furious and so am I, and on behalf of the government, I’d like to apologise for the disruption,” Ms Allan said.

Last week, Ms Allan announced V/Line chief executive Theo Taifalos had resigned and free travel had been extended until Sunday, 7 February.

The government has already ordered a review of V/Line operations.

V/Line acting chief executive Gary Liddle said V/Line became aware of the wheel wear in early January and had taken mitigating actions such as temporary speed restrictions and extra greasing of the rails.

Mr Liddle said the wheel wear rate had reduced, but V/Line needed to understand the wheel wear rate and replace wheels where needed.

He said V/Line had consulted Metro and the safety regulator to implement an interim measure to resolve the boom barrier issue before axle counters were installed over the next six months.

“We will introduce this technology on the Gippsland corridor that will enable us to open the Gippsland corridor to VLocity trains again,” Mr Liddle said.

“There will still be disruptions until we are able to get the full fleet of VLocity trains back on as a result of the wheel wear.”

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said there was a notion the government had effectively sacked the chief executive, rather than accept responsibility.