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On Wednesday evening, just before peak hour, V/Line Ballarat’s Twitter announced to commuters that once again, trains would be delayed and disrupted from Southern Cross.
While commuters grumbled their way to coaches, some questioned why.
The company responded, saying a high number of animal strikes had caused the disruptions.
According to V/Line, trains were involved in 66 animal strike incidents in October - averaging more than two a day.
Usually, the trains hit kangaroos in rural areas, which are unfenced.
Hitting livestock like cattle and sheep is rare, but still happens occasionally.
The extra strikes may be caused by the dry conditions in much of the state, forcing mobs of kangaroos to search for food across a wider area, and potentially onto tracks.
A higher than normal number of strikes have occurred in the last two months, and in October, they required 43 carriages to be temporarily removed from the network.
After an animal strike, the carriages are cleaned and inspections are undertaken to ensure nothing’s damaged.
The time taken for a bio-wash can vary, depending on complexity, but the task must be completed for the safety and well-being of train maintenance staff.
It usually takes one or two days for a train to return to service, which has led to the peak hour disruptions this week.
The strikes are more common on more rural lines, but the trains are used across the network, so a train that runs during the day to Traralgon may be used at peak hour on the Ballarat line.
If it hits something, it’s taken off the network to be washed and inspected, which affects the peak hour service.
V/Line prioritises the peak services, supplementing capacity with coaches.
“We understand how frustrating fewer available seats is for our passengers so we work quickly to get affected carriages back out on the network,” a V/Line spokesperson said.
“Where possible, we’ve provided coaches to help passengers get where they need to go.”
Counselling is offered to staff involved in serious incidents.
Performance has been an issue on the Ballarat line this month, with near-daily disruptions and delays, including a major meltdown after a fault at Sunshine, which also affected Geelong and Bendigo services.
Punctuality rose from 85.2 per cent of trains on time in August to 89.6 per cent in September for shorter services, and from 83.2 per cent to 86.9 per cent for longer services.
Both of these figures are below targets.
Trains were slightly delayed again last night by a level crossing fault at Deer Park.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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