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Victoria's troubled regional rail operator has a $535 million maintenance backlog and has consistently failed to meet targets, the auditor-general has found.
Patronage on trains and buses run by V/Line has grown by almost 90 per cent over the last decade to 17.7 million passengers in 2015/16, leaving commuters facing delays, cancellations and overcrowding.
"V/Line's performance over the past 10 years has mostly fallen short of its targets and community expectations, despite infrastructure improvements and timetable changes," the report said.
The auditor-general found some rolling stock had been on the rails for 60 years, which was double its design life.
"The scale of funding required to address the maintenance backlog is significant - approximately $534.8 million across the entire V/Line network," the report said.
Between July 2013 and March 2017, V/Line did not meet performance standards 47 per cent of the time.
The auditor-general criticised V/Line for measuring reliability and punctuality against the daily schedule, rather than the master timetable.
On average, the report found seats ran out on more than half of peak services on the Geelong line in the nine months to March.
Operator 'not dealing with challenges'In early 2016 V/Line was forced to replace 350 trains with buses for weeks at a cost of $300,000 per day because of problems with excessive wheel wear on VLocity trains and their failure to activate boom gates in time at a Dandenong level crossing.
The disruption resulted in the loss of 600,000 passengers that financial year and cost up to $2 million a week in lost fare revenue as a result of the Government's offer of free travel.
"V/Line has not successfully dealt with the challenges it has faced over the past decade," the report said.
"However, it has recently started to turn this situation around and is now better informed about the risks and challenges facing its operations.
"V/Line was not prepared for the strong growth in patronage and the resulting increase in service demand following the opening of the RRL [Regional Rail Link], which fundamentally changed the nature of its operations."
The report said senior executive staff met weekly in a "visualisation room" to discuss V/Line's performance and problems.
The auditor-general recommended V/Line strengthen monitoring processes to make sure trains run on time and improve its system for analysing whether it was meeting performance benchmarks.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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