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V/Line failed to meet its punctuality target on the Bendigo line for the 22nd consecutive month in March, prompting a call for action from public transport users.
Less than 82 per cent of Bendigo line trains were on time last month, more than 10 percentage points below V/Line’s target of 92 per cent and down from 83 per cent in February.
The organisation last met its punctuality target in May 2015, when 94.9 per cent of Bendigo trains ran on time.
Public Transport Users Association regional spokesman Paul Westcott said the figures were “not good enough”, given any train that arrived within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of its schedule was considered “on time”.
“That’s already an inbuilt leeway [so] I don’t think it’s overly ambitious and I don’t think it should be reduced,” he said.
“I think it’s important that V/Line ensure they try to meet the targets by getting the system working, both from the maintenance and infrastructure point of view, and also timetabling, to make sure that things actually work properly and that is obviously not happening.”
V/Line chief executive officer James Pinder said on-time running on the line was affected by delays where V/Line shared sections of the track with Metro trains, as well as by train faults.
Mr Pinder noted service delivery showed an improvement of 4.6 percentage points to 95.9 per cent in March, despite an incident in which a child avoided serious injury after being struck by a train at Kangaroo Flat.
“We’re just thankful our alert driver spotted the child just as a warning from police was being forwarded from our control centre,” he said.
“It’s a huge relief that tragedy was avoided – and it also shows the impact on our passengers when for any reason there are people near our tracks where they shouldn’t be.”
But Mr Westcott said incidents like the near miss and another in which a train was derailed after striking a vehicle abandoned on the track in Kangaroo Flat in February did not account for the string of missed targets.
“There are unfortunate one-offs with accidents caused by stupid behaviour of other people, but it’s just not good enough,” he said.
“While it’s unfortunate, it doesn’t explain the total monthly figures by any means.”
Mr Westcott stopped short of calling for a second track on the Bendigo line, which was removed as part of the Regional Fast Rail Project, to be restored, but said the idea was at least worth considering.
“Restoring the duplication of the single track beyond Kyneton certainly needs to be one of the things that is looked at when trying to work out why targets aren’t being met,” he said.
This article first appeared on www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au
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