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AT least 7300 seats have been stripped from Geelong trains in the past four months, leaving V/Line commuters standing in crowded carriages.
Train faults, staff issues, animal strikes and vandalism have resulted in V/Line pulling carriages off the Geelong corridor at an average of 16 times a month since July.
V/Line data shows the majority of 64 reduced-capacity trains on the Geelong line since July ran during the morning or afternoon peaks.
Felix Drummond, 18, became light-headed and dizzy on a recent peak-hour, reduced-carriage service from Geelong to Footscray.
He said he was met by Metro staff at Footscray after almost fainting on the packed train.
“It was like nothing I’d ever seen before …. it was really packed,” Mr Drummond said.
His father, Lachlan, of Geelong West, commutes to Melbourne for work and said he ended up on a reduced carriage service “probably once a fortnight”.
“Everyone’s fighting for a spot … it’s a distasteful experience,“ he said.
“The issue with reduced-carriage services is one problem, but it’s compounded by the fact that you often have trains on either side of those services that skip stations or stop early. The whole train system is in crisis.”
Since July, V/Line’s daily 7.33am four-carriage Wyndham Vale to Southern Cross Station service has been reduced four times, effectively taking 540 seats from the Geelong line.
And this week, the capacity of four Geelong trains has been reduced, effectively stripping at least 360 seats from the line.
V/Line CEO James Pinder said at least 95 per cent of trains on the Geelong, Waurn Ponds and Warrnambool lines ran as scheduled between July and September this year.
“Around 97 per cent of Geelong and Warrnambool peak-hour trains ran with their scheduled number of carriages in September,” Mr Pinder said.
“Carriage reductions are always a last resort, and we apologise to our passengers when this occurs.
“The 20-minute interpeak frequency on the Geelong line gives passengers better travel options and provides more room to carry more people.”
V/Line said trains removed from operation for maintenance were unlikely to return to service the same day.
The regional rail operator runs 52 morning and evening peak-hour trains, servicing stations including Wyndham Vale, Geelong, Waurn Ponds and Warrnambool. The majority of peak Geelong services are scheduled to run as six-carriage VLocity trains.
The Geelong Advertiser asked V/Line to reveal the scheduled capacity of all reduced train services between July and October.
But, despite being given 48 hours to respond, it did not release those details.
The Geelong Advertiser has used the lowest possible seat reductions to produce an estimate of the seats pulled from the Geelong line.
The first of the State Government’s order of 39 VLocity carriages made in the 2017 Budget will begin to be rolled on to the V/Line network next month.
V/Line Geelong services reduced
July — 11
August — 15
September — 18
October — 20
Seats lost (estimated)
July — 1740
August — 1572
September — 1746
October — 2280
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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