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TRAIN users from country Victoria can now reach the city quicker than some commuters living in Melbourne suburbs.
The Regional Rail Link will allow country trains west of Melbourne to avoid the clogged suburban network, reducing travel times.
The latest section of the link between Melbourne and Geelong opens today.
But it’s little comfort for passengers from outer suburban areas forced to endure long journeys on crowded, uncomfortable trains.
Commuters from Geelong can now make the trip to Southern Cross station in just 56 minutes — quicker than the journey in from Pakenham, Frankston, Cranbourne, Lilydale and Belgrave.
Passengers coming on express services from Ballarat can make it to Southern Cross quicker than from Pakenham, despite the regional city being 50km further from the CBD.
The quickest ride in from Ballarat was reduced to 70 minutes when those trains moved to the Regional Rail Link last year.
Yet it can take as long as 80 minutes to get to Southern Cross from Pakenham, via the city loop.
And in a double blow to Pakenham passengers, from today they will no longer be allowed to catch V/Line services directly to Flinders St.
Pakenham commuter Samantha Irving was stunned to learn that the train journey from Ballarat to Melbourne was quicker than from Pakenham.
“It would be nice to have a faster train from Pakenham with fewer stops, it would certainly make life easier with little ones,” she said.
Before the Regional Rail Link project, suburban and regional trains shared the same tracks through Melbourne’s west, meaning both networks were affected by congestion and delays.
The new line, which Ballarat and Bendigo trains have been using since July 2014, provides a dedicated track for regional trains through the metropolitan system between Sunshine and Southern Cross Station.
Geelong trains will also begin using a new track through Wyndham Vale and Tarneit from today.
Public Transport Victoria spokesman Jess Maguire said regional train services now stopped at fewer stations compared to Metro services, meaning faster travel times.
“By getting regional trains off metropolitan tracks, the project enables more frequent and reliable services, providing faster travel times,” she said.
Ms Maguire said plans were in place to decrease train travel times for suburban commuters.
“The Government’s plan to unlock Melbourne’s busiest rail line by ordering 37 new high-capacity trains and removing every level crossing between Dandenong and Caulfield will boost capacity by up to 42 per cent on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line every day,” she said.
“The project will accommodate an extra 11,000 passengers in the morning peak — and boost capacity across the network by freeing up existing trains.”
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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