V/Line intends to make some people stand during journey: Victorian Auditor-General report

UPDATE 2.20PM  A regional transport advocate is concerned for passenger safety on the Bendigo line following revelations V/Line intends to make some customers stand on busier services.

A report from Victorian deputy Auditor-General Dave Barry, released on Wednesday, claimed the regional operator planned to make some Victorian commuters stand for parts of, or complete services, in response to rising patronage. 

The report states V/Line recently added handles on all VLocity trains for standing passengers.

However, Public Transport Users Association regional spokesman Paul Westcott said current trains weren’t designed for the proposal, arguing the plastic handles were “less than adequate”. 

“The handles are used for people walking up and down the aisles – not for standing passengers,” Mr Westcott said. 

Despite this, he said customers on the Bendigo line would not be forced to stand regularly, or for long periods, given its comparatively lower patronage levels.

“Overcrowding on the Bendigo line is not as big a problem as on the Ballarat or Geelong lines,” he said.

Busier sections of the line – from Sunbury to Melbourne and vice versa – could see passengers standing temporarily, Mr Westcott said, but not for an extended period.

The state government had brought the situation on itself by standardising the carriage length of trains, making trains only operable with carriages in multiples of three, he said. 

“If there’s six carriages and the trains are full, they can’t do nine because the platforms aren’t long enough,” he said.

The state government has been contacted for comment.

EARLIER Victoria’s regional rail operator intends to have some customers standing for all or parts of their journey, a report from Victorian deputy Auditor-General Dave Barry has claimed.

The report on V/Line passenger services, released on Wednesday, suggests the operator recently added handles on all VLocity trains for standing passengers. 

The move is a response to increased passenger numbers across Victoria, according to Deputy Auditor-General Barry, who suggests the move toward standing passengers will “require a significant shift in expectations for V/Line passengers”. 

“V/Line will need to develop a clear communication strategy to address the needs of its passengers during the transition,” the report states.

It is unclear if Bendigo line passengers will be made to stand for sections of their journey. 

A regional transport advocate recently said the Bendigo line’s failure to consistently operate at full passenger capacity during peak-commuting times pushed it further down the pecking order for extra services and carriages, claiming the line “was not a pressure point as far as capacity”. 

V/Line commuter figures for June show that Melbourne-bound trains on the Bendigo line before 9am were 79.5 per cent full, on average, compared with Ballarat (87 per cent) Geelong (93.9 per cent). 

Regional rail capacity figures. Source: V/Line

Regional rail capacity figures. Source: V/Line

Conversely, in the afternoon peak periods in the same month, Bendigo-bound trains were 80.1 per cent full, while the Ballarat (94 per cent) and Geelong (89 per cent) lines had better patronage. 

Public Transport Users Association regional spokesman Paul Westcott said while it was clear Bendigo had less commuters than other regional centres closer to Melbourne due to its geographical location, the line “was not a pressure point as far as capacity”. 

“(Bendigo is) not going to be at the top of the tree when it comes to getting more services and rolling stock (carriages) unless they try to get more frequent services,” he said.