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Ninety new train services will be added to Melbourne's metro rail network next month, mostly along the Sunbury line, when a new timetable commences on November 18.
But V/Line passengers travelling beyond Sunbury to Bendigo, Echuca and Swan Hill face an extra five to 10 minutes' travel time from that date, to make way for the extra Metro trains travelling on the line.
A handful of extra peak-hour Metro services will also be added on the Craigieburn and Upfield lines, as well as new peak-hour V/Line trains for Melton and Bacchus Marsh.
Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala said the timetable change, the third for Melbourne in 18 months, marked "another step towards providing a genuine metro-style service for Melbourne".
"With this change we're a step closer to a turn-up-and-go service, where customers won't need to know the timetable because they'll know it's only a few minutes' wait for the next train," Mr Lezala said.
Under the new timetable, trains will run from Sunbury at 12-minute intervals in the peak, and at six-minute intervals from Watergardens station in Sydenham. Off-peak, trains will run to Sunbury every 40 minutes.
Craigieburn trains will run at six to eight-minute intervals in the peak, and Upfield trains at 18-minute intervals. But journey times along those two lines will be extended by one to two minutes. Mr Lezala said this was due to passenger growth.
Travel times will be reduced by one to two minutes on the Frankston line, after they were extended by three minutes in a previous timetable change in May last year. Mr Lezala said that change had led to too many trains running ahead of schedule.
In other changes, passengers on the Altona loop will have to wait four minutes instead of seven for a connecting inter-peak train to Newport, and extra carriages will be added to some V/Line services to reduce overcrowding.
Forty-six bus routes in Melbourne's north-west will also have their timetables changed next month, to better connect with the Sunbury line.
Ian Dobbs, the head of Public Transport Victoria, said that running Metro trains to Sunbury and Diggers Rest for the first time following the $270 million electrification of the line would make for a slightly slower journey for V/Line passengers travelling further along the line.
"There's a slight slow-down of services on that particular corridor with this timetable, because we're putting more metro services in the mix," Mr Dobbs said.
"So that's led to a short-term increase in journey time of between five and 10 minutes roughly. The reason for that is we've got a lot more trains on that line. The regional rail link, when that comes in in a couple of years, is going to allow us to go back and significantly improve those times."
The $5.3 billion regional rail link is due to be completed in early 2016, and will separate Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong line trains from Metro lines, removing train bottlenecks in the western suburbs.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the timetable change would boost services to Sunbury by 64 per cent.
He also denied claims the Baillieu government's plan to put protective services officers on every railway station in Melbourne after 6pm was wasteful, saying that more people would use trains after dark once they felt safer doing so.
"When we get these stations manned right across the network, I'll absolutely guarantee that you will not find anyone asking for us to take them off," Mr Mulder said.
"I believe it's the best possible approach to drive patronage into the late hours of the night."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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