THERE is still time for V/Line and a railway union to resolve the dispute, a government spokesperson has said on the eve of rolling strikes across the network, beginning in Bendigo.
"We expect negotiations to continue in good faith between the parties involved," the spokesperson said.
As V/Line calls for the Rail, Tram & Bus Union to "come back to the bargaining table" the union has told it and the government it is "always ready to negotiate when (they) take these talks seriously".
A new enterprise agreement could slash working conditions for conductors, customer service and other operational workers, the union's Victorian branch secretary Luba Grigorovitch said.
"While Victoria has seen a complete boom in regional patronage, the government is expecting V/Line workers to do more with less, more services less support, less funding, and our members just won't stand for it," she said.
The government is not negotiating with V/Line's employees.
Discussions have instead taken place between the company's management and the union.
Yet the union is concerned its members are working "harder than ever" without enough support from the government.
It has accused transport minister Melissa Horne of being "missing in action" during the negotiations.
V/LINE has urged a union to come "back to the bargaining table" as staff prepare to strike tomorrow in the first wave of industrial action planned for the coming fortnight.
There will be no train services on the Bendigo or Swan Hill lines on Wednesday, or on Maryborough's on Thursday.
Two meetings last week between management and the Rail, Tram & Bus Union failed to bring enterprise agreement negotiations to an end.
They have now officially stretched over six months. The current agreement expired four months ago.
The union has not ruled out further strikes once this round of industrial action ends.
V/Line plans to bring in up to 130 buses to manage demand on Wednesday but CEO James Pinder said it remains unclear how much the company will have to pay to cover cancelled train services.
That bill will depend on how many people decide to travel with V/Line on Wednesday, as well as other lines expected to be impacted over the coming weeks.
"I don't want to guess at a number, but it's a significant cost for us. That will depend on how long these disruptions go on for," Mr Pinder said.
He pressed the union to return to the negotiations he said would help Australia's fastest growing railway service.
"We need to modernise this organisation," Mr Pinder said.
"This is about us wanting to work with our workforce and the unions that represent them so that we can deliver for customers in Victoria."
V/Line announced record passenger numbers last financial year with 22.4 million trips taken across the state in its 2018/19 annual report.
Its modernisation efforts have also included 226 new staff members, updates to trains and other rolling stock and maintenance on rail lines, the report stated.
The union has been contacted for comment.
More to come.