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THE ongoing costs of the V/Line saga will blow out to tens of millions of dollars with no clear plan as to who will bear the costs.
V/Line acting chief executive Gary Liddell along with key representatives from Public Transport Victoria and Metro faced a parliamentary committee yesterday to address the the ongoing regional rail crisis.
The costs of the rail failures and free travel finally came to light at the hearing, with free travel believed to have costed around $2 million a week over the 16 day free travel period. The figure is expected to grow as time goes on and more V/Line commuters apply for refunds for Myki Pass tickets.
The figures are expected to continue to soar with the current replacement bus regime expected to be costing up to $300,000 a day. The government has already admitted full services might not return until the middle of the year meaning the costs will skyrocket with Mr Liddell admitting there was currently no plan for how the high costs would be addressed.
Mr Liddell would not comment on a number of issues faced by V/Line, only saying he had been hired to deal with the problems going forward. These issues included cuts to the V/Line budget made by the previous government, changes to the regional rail link project or reasons as to why former chief executive Theo Taifalos had left the organisation.
Long term solutions for the myriad of problems currently facing regional rail, including the Ballarat line, were not brought up at the hearing.
He also said he deemed the service since the launch of Regional Rail Link a “success” due to the huge growth seen in patronage which he believed showed support for regional rail. This is despite services buckling under that increase causing commuter outrage as trains become overcrowded and delayed on a regular basis.
A reason for the wheel wear issue which has caused the latest problem is still unclear, with Mr Liddell saying there was still not a definitive answer.
Despite this, he reiterated services would return to full strength by the middle of the year.
Public transport officials at the hearing said news of the wheel wear issues were first discovered during the first week of January, however PTV and Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan were not informed until January 14.
Greens MP Colleen Hartland also called upon former public transport minister Terry Mulder to join Ms Allan in fronting the committee.
$23 million in safety upgrades to level crossings was already announced last month to ensure boom gates were triggered by approaching V/Line trains following a number of failures.
MISERY CONTINUES:The cost of replacement coaches for V/Line trains has skyrocketed and will cost a lot more before the wheels are fixed.
This article first appeared on www.thecourier.com.au
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