Government, PTV and V/Line could make a significant impact on the improvement of V/Line NE services in a matter of days. It is pretty widely known around the industry that a number of highly experienced people were pushed/shoved out the door across both PTV and V/Line who really know how to fix this stuff. There is a clause in the agreement with V/Line (and other operating companies) that the head of PTV can "direct" V/Line to undertake certain activities that are in the best interests of the State. So that lever is there. Similarly and rarely done these days is the Minister has the powers to also "direct" its agency to undertake certain actions as well.
So Direct PTV to engage two (most likely retired) folks who are respected leaders in train operations and train maintenance acting under Ministerial direction to review operations and maintenance activities of the NE. Issue a direction to V/Line that these persons acting under Ministerial direction will be provided with full access to maintenance and operational records and proceedures including budget allocations etc.
Enable these people to engage reliability experts Interfleet or Worley Parsons to undertake the detailed audits and identify what systemic and other issues are causing this and then prepare an action plan with short term "quick win" type improvements and subsequently a fully costed and developed program that can ensure that the operation is on a sustainable footing in terms of resources, operations, maintenance and funding. It's easy to say just fix it but you really must know the root causes of this in detail because to have such an ongoing problem like this says its systemic.
These experienced guys will know exactly what to be focussing on even before these detailed assessments are undertaken but you don't want is this being half baked where you get a short term improvement and then the operation degrades again.