Normal train services are not expected to resume until June as the regional train crisis veers further off track.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the government and V/Line expected progressively less buses replacing trains and more VLocity trains operating in the April to June period.
“Based on a no-change basis as we understand it today, we will have the restoration of the full timetable in June of this year,” Ms Allan said at Geelong Train Station on Thursday.
The State Government has announced an interim V/Line timetable beginning today for the next five weeks to provide “stability and certainty” while work continues to restore normal services.
Ms Allan said two extra peak-time Metro services in the morning and evening would run between Pakenham and Melbourne from Monday, 15 February.
“This will mean that rather than in those peak periods Gippsland passengers being on a bus all the way to Southern Cross, they will have the option if they want to get off at Pakenham and get onto a Metro service that will be targeted to them,” Ms Allan said.
However, passengers will be expected to hold a valid ticket on regular V/Line trains and coaches from today.
Train-replacement coaches will continue to be free until at least mid-March.
“We can’t fix this problem overnight, but we are doing what we can to acknowledge the disruption and provide certainty for passengers,” Ms Allan said.
Ms Allan said she expected line restrictions on the Gippsland line between Pakenham and Melbourne would be lifted by mid-March, pending approval from Metro and the rail safety regulator.
The service has been disrupted since a V/Line high speed train failed to trigger a boom gate at Dandenong on 15 January.
Road coaches have been replacing trains on the Traralgon line, except for the 5.27am and the 6.37am Traralgon-Southern Cross train and the 4.58 and 5.37pm Southern Cross-Traralgon train.
V/Line chief executive Gary Liddle assured passengers it was working hard with Metro and the regulator to ensure line restrictions on the Gippsland line were lifted as soon as possible.
Mr Liddle said the rate of wheel wear had been reduced, but were still deteriorating faster than they should be.
He said a Monash University report due in mid-March would assist in understanding the cause.
“We apologise to you that this has happened. V/Line is owned by the regional community and we want to make sure we serve that regional community,” Mr Liddle said.