V/Line delays cause commuters frustration

UPDATE, 3pm: A spokesperson for Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder has hit back at Ms Edwards' claims.

"Maree Edwards obviously has a short memory," the spokesperson said.

"Instead of taking cheap pot-shots in press releases she should be acknowledging that the Coalition Government has improved V/Line's performance since taking over from Labor in 2010."

The spokesperson said under Labor in March 2010 more than 20 per cent of V/Line's trains were late.

"Under Labor in March 2010 Bendigo line train punctuality was 79.3 per cent compared to 85.2 per cent in March 2014 under the Coalition Government.

"The Coalition Government has managed to improve V/Line services at the same time as we have undertaken massive investments in upgrades and maintenance on the regional rail network. 

"During the Easter Regional Rail Link closure V/Line will undertake necessary maintenance of the Bendigo line including the reconstruction of a bridge at Gisborne, continuation of 28,000 timber sleepers being replaced with concrete and removal of speed restrictions at several locations.

"When complete this will assist in further improved punctuality for passengers. 

"The Victorian Coalition Government is also investing in new V/Line trains, with the first of 43 new VLocity railcars set to carry passengers by December this year.  

"We are making this $227 million investment in new railcars  to further improve V/Line services for passengers.

"The Coalition Government has also committed a total of $382 million in rail maintenance for regional Victoria since coming to office to address the serious maintenance neglect of the former Labor Government. 

"Regional Victorians are set to receive better internet connectivity, with the Coalition Government committing  $40 million to fix mobile blackspots and deliver free Wi-Fi on V/Line’s VLocity carriages operating between Melbourne and Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Seymour and Traralgon - a project that the Opposition have refused to support. 

"If not for the Coalition Government, Victorians would have a Regional Rail Link with no signalling and no trains to run on the tracks."

Earlier:

BENDIGO residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with V/Line service delays, says Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards.

"Delays are extremely frustrating for people," Ms Edwards said.

"Every day I have people writing to me and telling me there are problems with the V/Line service.

"Overcrowding is a major problem and this is a direct result of the Liberal National Government delaying the ordering of carriages for this service.

"We won't see new carriages on this line until 2016.

"In the meantime people are sitting on the floor, they're sitting in the doorways, and it's an Occupational Health and Safety issue if nothing else."

Ms Edwards comments come as V/Line's March performance results show all lines across the V/Line network continued to be late.

Most lines failed to meet the government's own benchmark of 92 per cent for punctuality, with 85.2 per cent punctuality for Bendigo.

"It means that anyone who is using the V/Line service to commute for work is often delayed and late for work," Ms Edwards said.

"That's obviously extremely frustrating.

"It's also frustrating for people who are late for doctor's appointments in Melbourne and other events they might like to go to.

"Whatever their reasons for travelling to Melbourne from Bendigo, or from Melbourne to Bendigo, the delays are frustrating and they are impacting on people's ability to get on with the things they need to do in their daily lives."

Ms Edwards said reliable public transport was hugely important for people living in rural and regional areas such as Bendigo.

"It's absolutely vital," she said.

"If Labor hadn't reopened the Bendigo to Melbourne line we would still be seeing people using the Calder Freeway as their main source of transport.

"What this has done is opened up the ability for towns like Castlemaine, for example, for people to be able to commute to the city or Bendigo for a myriad of reasons.

"The service has failed to meet the government's own benchmark around reliability and punctuality.

"Now while the Liberal National Government is prepared to invest $8 billion in a tunnel in Melbourne, I think that the neglect of regional Victorians, the public transport in regional Victoria by this government, is reprehensible."

The state government has been contacted for comment.

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