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The Regional Rail Link is a project that described itself as a "landmark infrastructure project designed to remove major bottlenecks in Victoria's rail network."
Costing $3.65 billion, it promised to deliver a better rail service for western Victorians and those living in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
Instead, trains on the Bendigo line have missed their monthly punctuality target for the first time in a year.
Public Transport Victoria says 91.5 per cent of Bendigo services were on time during June, down on the 94.9 per cent result in May, and just short of V/Line's 92 per cent target.
V/Line has expressed regret that performance has suffered since the Regional Rail Link opened last month.
Public Transport Users Association regional spokesman Paul Westcott says that's little comfort for travellers who were promised reliability and punctuality.
"I think there are a lot of people who travel on the Regional Rail Link at the moment who are wondering about this; because if nothing else the Regional Rail Link, which cost about $4 billion, was supposed to deliver reliability, and the one thing that seems to have suffered since the full opening, with Geelong trains also using their section, is that reliability has plummeted," said Mr Westcott.
"Bendigo, although it's still the most reliable line, seems to have suffered from the problems that are also affecting Geelong and Ballarat trains on this new section of track.
"It's extremely disappointing. It seems that V/Line has somehow messed up the timetables. We hope that's what it is. We hope that it's not that the new infrastructure is in fact unable to deliver the new promised reliability no matter what."
Mr Westcott says the timetabling issue is the most likely cause of the delays, as one third-more trains are forced onto a new section of track. It is causing significant delays from Sunshine into the city.
"Trains still have to follow each other along the track and join each other at Sunshine where the lines all meet each other; obviously there's going to be a problem at that point if two trains meet each other at the same time.
"It has been going now for about two or three weeks and these problems emerged straightaway, so it looks as if it's a question of timetabling the trains better."
Given that it was such an expensive project, he finds it troubling that so little planning went into such a simple yet important part of the project - knowing which trains were running where.
"V/Line has had a long time to plan this new timetable; the Regional Rail Link has been open for Bendigo and Ballarat trains for almost a year; it's just the Geelong trains joining them on that section of track that was the change," said Mr Westcott.
"It's ironic, given that the whole idea was to remove clashes with Metro trains.
"It seems to have compounded the problem."
V/Line has responded to Mr Westcott's criticisms.
"The Regional Rail Link has been the biggest change to the V/Line network in about 10 years and naturally it takes a few weeks for all new timetables to bed down," said their spokesperson.
"We're closely monitoring performance on the Bendigo line and will continue to work with Public Transport Victoria as part of the new timetable implementation.
"Some of the reasons for delays on the Bendigo line last month included train faults and emergency services requests.
"V/Line's performance results are published monthly on our website, which includes a link to the compensation page. This details how eligible customers can apply for compensation on lines that have not met their punctuality targets.
"Reliability on the Bendigo line for last month was 98.6, which exceeded our target of 96 per cent."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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