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IT SEEMS life is anything but a beach for train travellers on the Altona loop. The latest quarterly customer satisfaction survey confirms the bayside suburb's commuters are among the most disgruntled in Melbourne.
Travellers on the single-line track - which branches off the Werribee line at Newport and loops through Altona and Seaholme before rejoining the Werribee line at Laverton - registered a satisfaction rating of 62.9 out of 100 for the June quarter.
That was almost four points below the network-wide average of 66.8 and nine points below the Alamein line, which has the city's happiest train travellers with a rating of 71.9.
Altona Loop Group spokeswoman Diana Rice said reliability had suffered badly since Metro overhauled its timetable in May last year, and train travel had become more arduous and time-consuming due to the need to change trains up to three times on trips in and out of the city. It has a train every 22 minutes in peak times.
Metro frequently bypasses the loop to make up time, a move Ms Rice said added up to 40 minutes to the journey because of the need to backtrack from Laverton station.
Ms Rice, whose closest station is Seaholme, said she was ''kidnapped'' while travelling home in the evening earlier this year when a loop train was suddenly altered to an express service to Laverton after it left Newport station.
''That was quite an interesting experience,'' Ms Rice said. ''A whole trainload of Altona-bound people get unceremoniously dumped at Laverton and then have to work out in the absence of clear announcements when the next train going through the [Altona] loop is coming and on what platform.''
Metropolitan Greens MP Colleen Hartland, who obtained the survey, said the loop should be duplicated and trains should be altered to run all the way to the city rather than shuttling between Laverton and Newport.
''With such consistent data showing the train service is the pits and commuters are the most dissatisfied, a concerted effort must be made to improve the Altona loop train service,'' Ms Hartland said.
The Altona loop has rated at or near the bottom in all five of the most recent quarterly surveys. But Public Transport Victoria had some good news for Altona loop travellers yesterday. It promised that waiting times at Newport station would be cut from seven minutes to four once a new timetable began on November 18.
A spokesman also said the number of trains bypassing the loop had dropped significantly.
The longer-term trend indicates gradual improvement. The satisfaction rating was at 60 points in the 2009 June quarter and at about 63 points in the 2011 June quarter.
Daniel Bowen, president of the Public Transport Users Association, attributed the Alamein happiness to the number of people on the trains. ''They're never crowded,'' he said.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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