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Are you happy when you ride on Melbourne's trains?
Your answer might have a lot to do with which line you use, leaked Metro data shows.
Live in the city's leafy east , and there is a good chance you rate your commute OK on most days.
But in the city's west, north and south-east, where population growth is at its strongest, train passengers rate their daily commute a little less kindly.
Metro's breakdown of "customer satisfaction" levels on Melbourne's 16 rail lines reveals commuters on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines are the least satisfied, due in no small part to the fact they are lumbered with the city's least reliable rail service.
Satisfaction levels on the two lines recently hit 68.7 per cent. Metro has blamed poor on-time running for the low rating.
The lines, which share the Dandenong corridor currently being elevated into a "sky rail" to remove nine level crossings, have the worst punctuality performance in Melbourne.
They are the only two with an on-time running record over the past 12 months that sits below the 88 per cent performance threshold set by the state government, below which Metro is financially penalised and passengers with a monthly or yearly ticket are compensated with one free day of travel.
Commuters at Southern Cross Station. Photo: Vince CaligiuriCommuter Jesse Heazlewood, who travels on the Pakenham line to get to and from work in the city from Hallam on weekends, said the line "always seems to have something wrong with it".
"There's been a few times where I've arrived late to work because of delayed trains or because a bus was replacing trains, or the service was inefficient," he said.
"It makes it a bit of a pain waking up. I now wake up an hour earlier just to make sure I get in on time," Mr Heazlewood said.
It's the opposite story for commuters on the Belgrave, Lilydale, Glen Waverley and Alamein lines that service the leafy eastern suburbs.
They are the happiest in Melbourne, the survey reveals, in part due to superior punctuality.
On the Glen Waverley line, for example, 96.6 per cent of trains were on time in the past year, the best result in Melbourne.
Satisfaction on those lines is at 73.5 per cent.
But Metro's satisfaction ratings, contained in a 2016 strategic plan leaked to Fairfax Media, reveal that reliability is just one factor that influences how people feel about the level of service on trains.
According to the survey, passengers have marked Melbourne's railways down due to a perceived lack of safety, space and comfort on trains, poor station facilities and ticketing.
Metro has proposed a series of initiatives to improve satisfaction – and its own image in the public eye – although many would require government approval and funding.
The strategic plan reveals the company has set a target of 85 per cent "customer satisfaction" by 2026, a big jump on its score for 2015 of 72 per cent.
To hit this mark it aims to:
It also wants more staff on the network.
Metro intends to "reinvigorate the pivotal and revered role of station masters and associated station staff", the plan says.
To improve public perceptions of safety, Metro has proposed giving police and authorised officers a more visible presence.
It has also suggested developing an app passengers can use to "request assistance discreetly" when police or authorised officers are not on the scene.
Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton said good station facilities were important, but the "deal breaker" for passengers was unreliable trains.
Passengers also placed a premium on getting a seat, Dr Morton said. He cautioned Metro and the government not to go too far in removing seats to add capacity.
"You take that too far and your trains start to look and feel like cattle trains, and that's not a positive experience for passengers."
It's likely Metro will need to make significant improvements to Melbourne's railways to hit its 85 per cent target.
Metro's satisfaction score for 2015 was derived from a government survey of 850 people.
Metro must achieve a customer satisfaction rating of just 70 per cent under the terms of its current franchise agreement with the state, which is due to expire in November.
The government and Metro are negotiating a potential seven-year extension of the agreement, but with significantly tougher performance targets and less latitude for time-saving tactics that inconvenience passengers, such as station-skipping.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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