Regional commuters on the Gippsland line could see a decrease in services and further delays with new plans by the State Government to improve rail links.
As part of the State Government’s new budget which will see $24 billion dedicated to projects improving transport infrastructure around the state, the Pakenham/Cranbourne line will see $2.5 billion in improvements, aimed to boost capacity by 30% on the already overcrowded line.
The project is designed to increase the number of services by introducing 25 new high capacity trains, improve dangerous level crossings at Murrumbeena, Clayton and Carnegie and also introduce signalling never before used in Australia for increased train efficiency.
The plan also introduces a new train depot at Pakenham East, which will create local jobs in the area, as well 3000 jobs during the corridor’s five year construction.
But despite sharing 60km of track with its metropolitan counterparts, V/Line commuters on the Gippsland line can only expect signal improvements, which will allow for a “more reliable journey” as outlined in a promotional brochure published by the State Government.
For some disgruntled commuters, it isn’t enough.
Regional commuters in Berwick, a rapidly growing suburb 45km from the CBD, rely on the V/Line for access to the numerous schools, two major hospitals, two TAFEs and major university in the area, all within walking distance of the railway station.
However, V/Line services there run twice a day, once in each direction and are often late.
As a result, many regional commuters are forced to catch metropolitan trains to Pakenham in order to relieve congestion on the track, and then catch a V/Line service to their destination.
Berwick Secondary College student, Kelsey Nichollas, said catching a Metro train was often problematic.
“[I’ve had to catch a suburban train] three times because [the V/Line] has been so packed… I get off at Moe and it’s an hour, and I never get a seat.”
Layla Homewood, a regular commuter from Warragul, finds the V/Line cheaper than driving to university, but criticises the availability of its services at Berwick.
“It’s not good enough… the increase in suburban services will create a backlog of V/Line services which cause more delays and cancellations. Plus, there’s basically nothing going into V/Lines anyway.”
“You just have to catch it to understand how bad it is.”
An increase in V/Line services to and from Berwick is a sentiment echoed by a Metro representative, who said that V/Line funding was entirely dependent on the government.
“The government can change policy so that more V/Lines can stop at Berwick, but it’s up to [them]”
Transport Minister Terry Mulder defended the allocated funding, calling it necessary to “keep Victoria strong, create jobs and cement Melbourne’s position as one of the world’s most liveable cities.”
The project is scheduled to begin in early 2015 and finish by 2019.