All focus on Gippsland line

The State Transport Minister has acknowledged returning VLocity trains to the Gippsland line was made a priority.

It follows the government announcing all but two Gippsland train services would be back on tracks on 21 March after significant service disruptions and replacement coaches.

Minister Jacinta Allan said she had recognised the line did not have any of its regular services in the last couple of months compared to other regional services.

Unlike Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong lines, Gippsland had only four train services between Traralgon and Southern Cross with all remaining services replaced by coaches.

“The line restriction had to be worked on and lifted and I made it a significant priority for maintenance on the VLocity trains to be quicker than expected to return a great number of services to Gippsland,” Ms Allan said. 

It follows a V/Line high speed train failing to trigger a boom gate at Dandenong in January.

The new VLocity trains have been banned to operate between Pakenham and the city while V/Line investigates the incident and other concerns about wheels wearing rapidly.

Ms Allan told The Express interim measures to lift the ban used track detection devices, but the government had long-term plans to install axle counters over the next six months.

In response to questions about punctuality and capacity, Ms Allan said the State Government had accounted for 21 new VLocity carriages in last year’s budget.

She said trains at Bombardier were in production and would go into areas where services were under pressure, such as Gippsland.

A plan to remove nine level crossings between Dandenong and Caulfield, improving passenger capacity by 42 per cent, was also said to provide Gippsland passengers “capacity that it desperately needed”.

“Certainly punctuality is a key issue raised by regional passengers and there is more to do in this area,” Ms Allan said.