Throngs of commuters heading into Bendigo for school and work each weekday have forced V/Line to resort to providing “backup” buses when peak-hour trains reach capacity.
V/Line confirmed it has been busing early morning travellers from Castlemaine into Bendigo since May, with an average of more than 60 passengers filing onto two road coaches each day.
A spokesman for the regional rail operator said the coaches connected with the 6.16am weekday service from Melbourne when it arrived at Castlemaine station.
“The decision to offer backup coaches was made in close consultation with the schools and ensures the students experience a more comfortable journey,” he said.
“The Victorian government has ordered 87 VLocity carriages over the past two years and these continue to be added to the V/Line network as they roll off the production line.”
The spokesman said the journey still attracted a normal myki fare, meaning passengers weren’t entitled to a refund or discount.
The revelation comes as Victorian deputy Auditor-General Dave Barry released his report into V/Line’s passenger services on Wednesday.
Mr Barry found V/Line had been unable to “consistently meet punctuality targets for its train services” meaning passengers connecting with bus services in regional towns risked missing their connection if the train was late.
“When trains do not run on time, some passengers may miss connections with other public transport services,” he wrote.
“PTV, which is responsible for co-ordinating public transport, does not monitor V/Line train connections with regional town buses and is not aware of the extent of this problem.”
The report follows calls from City of Greater Bendigo regional sustainable development manager, Trevor Budge, for the state government to expand the Bendigo Metro project to cater for “a substantial number of school children” being bused into Bendigo from towns along the line “because there isn’t enough capacity in the rail system.”
“The train could in fact just service the region because we know that there are so many people that want to come to Bendigo in the morning, whether they’re coming up from Kyneton or Castlemaine or whether they’re coming from Echuca,” he said.
“Why can’t trains start in the morning at Kyneton and go to Castlemaine and Bendigo and that train could arrive at Bendigo at a reasonably early time like, say, quarter to eight or something like that?”