TRAIN drivers seeking to become part of the Bendigo V/Line train crew can face a wait of several years.
“Positions in Bendigo are highly sought-after,” a spokesperson for the regional rail operator said.
Thirty-four train drivers are based at V/Line’s Bendigo Depot, seven of whom are qualified to teach trainees.
V/Line believes staffing is adequate to meet the demands of the current Bendigo line timetable, which has 296 weekly services.
But demand on the regional rail network is growing rapidly, and the operator knows it will need more train drivers.
V/Line has about 350 full-time equivalent drivers. The state government expects the number of qualified drivers to swell to about 415 by December.
The regional rail operator is training 108 new train drivers, with seven trainees rotating through Bendigo every two weeks.
Further trainee driver recruitment is planned, but V/Line is presently seeking to hire experienced train drivers.
The government this week welcomed 10 new trainees, which it said would help deliver services on the Ballarat line.
“Upon qualifying, drivers are eligible to be put on the waiting list to be based at our regional depots,” the V/Line spokesperson said.
Because positions in Bendigo are so competitive, ‘it can take several years until an opportunity presents itself for a driver to be based there’.
Driver requirements have increased in the past 18 months due to timetable changes, additional yard and maintenance moves, and an increase in collisions with animals.
So-called ‘animal strikes’ result in additional fleet moves for the bio-wash.
“Our current crop of trainee drivers will ensure we can deliver future service additions to the V/Line network and meet other daily operational requirements,” the spokesperson said.
Fewer Bendigo and Kyneton trains are being cancelled due to driver sickness or unavailability, according to V/Line, accounting for one per cent of the 12,461 services scheduled on those lines – 131 trains – in the past calendar year.
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