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A new rail line through Melbourne's west that was meant to free up capacity for both regional and metropolitan services has resulted in just two extra Metro Trains services being added to the city's timetables.
The Regional Rail Link, the city's first major new suburban rail line in 80 years, opened on Sunday, ushering in services to Geelong at an unprecedented interval of every 20 minutes during weekdays.
And trips on Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo trains are set to become more reliable because they will be separated from metropolitan rail lines.
But the bungled launch of a new timetable for metropolitan Melbourne has seen virtually no extra services added on stretched western suburbs railway lines.
The new timetable, meant to start in April, has now been delayed until at least the end of this year.
Part of the justification for the federal government pouring money into the $3.65 billion project was "to create extra capacity on the Werribee, [Sunbury] and Craigieburn lines", the late Lynne Kosky said as public transport minister in 2008.
The Regional Rail Link – separate V/Line tracks from West Werribee to Sunshine and a new pair of tracks from Sunshine to Southern Cross – promised to provide space to run 23 extra metropolitan services each morning and evening peak hour.
A spokesman for Public Transport Victoria said there would be a timetable change later this year, which was currently being designed.
Metro Trains expects to run extra services on the Werribee, Sunbury and Craigieburn lines as a result of the new timetable, but referred questions to Public Transport Victoria.
Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said it was fantastic the new rail line would provide rail services to thousands of new residents on Melbourne's fringe. "For once we've got these new suburbs in outer Melbourne that have good public transport. It should be a model for future urban growth," he said.
But he said the promised benefits of the new rail line had not yet eventuated: "For Metro passengers there's virtually no difference."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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