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Melbourne's train commuters will receive no immediate relief from the peak-hour crush, with no plans to significantly boost train timetables until at least the end of the year.
The last major timetable change was June 2014, despite demand for train travel growing by 6.5 million journeys a year and peak-hour overcrowding worsening on the city's busiest lines.
The Andrews government has allowed the overcrowding problem to fester despite opening the Regional Rail Link 13 months ago, which created the capacity to run an extra 23 peak-hour trains between the city and the fast-growing northern and western suburbs.
Those extra trains were planned to run on the Werribee, Craigieburn and Sunbury lines, three of the four worst lines in Melbourne for peak-hour crushes. They would have enabled an extra 54,000 passengers to access public transport.
Instead, just two of those 23 available services have been added to the timetable, on the Werribee line, leaving almost all of the capacity created by the $3.65 billion Regional Rail Link unused.
Eight new trains purchased by the former Napthine government, at a cost of $176 million, have also been introduced to the Metro fleet in the past two years, but are not being put to full use.
The eight new trains give Metro a fleet of 209 trains, but just 185 are in service in the morning peak, leaving more than 10 per cent of the fleet stabled at the busiest time of the day.
Meanwhile, Public Transport Victoria has halved its resources for measuring overcrowding on trains and trams.
Trains that could ease the peak-hour crush are sitting idle. Photo: Paul RovereThe authority now measures train and tram crowding levels just once a year, in May, after it scrapped the October load survey that had been in place for several years in late 2014 to help pay for the state government's decision to scrap zone one-and-two fares.
The most recent load survey, from May 2015, revealed increases in train overloading on all lines servicing Melbourne's northern and western suburbs.
There is 'overloading' on all train lines servicing the north and western suburbs. Photo: Michael Clayton-JonesAccording to budget papers, metropolitan train patronage grew from 227.5 million in 2014-15 to 234 million in 2015-16.
Both the Public Transport Users Association and Wyndham Council, which services Melbourne's south-western growth zone, called on the government to do more to meet passenger demand.
"Regional Rail Link opened more than a year ago," he said. "This opened up space on the Metro network for dozens of additional peak-hour trains on some of the busiest lines, but almost no extra services have been provided."
The failure to update the timetable also left Altona and Williamstown line passengers with a 22-minute wait between trains in the peak, and the preservation of the Altona Loop shuttle between Newport and Laverton, despite promises to replace it with a direct service, Mr Bowen said.
Wyndham's transport portfolio holder, Glenn Goodfellow, said the council had lobbied the Andrews government to increase peak-hour services on the Werribee line from five trains an hour to eight trains once V/Line trains switched to the Regional Rail Link.
"Given that the Werribee line remains one of the most overcrowded in Melbourne ... council is disappointed that these extra services have not been delivered," Cr Goodfellow said.
The council has recently approved construction of an extra 35000 homes and the release of 6500 residential lots.
Jacinta Allan, the Minister for Public Transport, said the government had made two timetable updates, including bringing in 24-hour transport on weekends, and would update the timetable again at the end of the year.
"We're working on the next round [of] timetable changes now, while we deliver the public transport projects Victoria needs - the Metro tunnel, 50 level crossing removals and next-generation, high-capacity trains," Ms Allan said.
"These projects will enable services so frequent you don't need a timetable, you just turn up and go."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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