Opposition to Sunbury electrification an indictment of Connex

Community fears betray poor standard of metro train service, says PTUA

Calls by sections of the Sunbury community to retain the existing V/Line service in preference to more frequent suburban train services are “an indictment of Connex’s poor standard of service”, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said today, while restating its support for the project.

“Connex’s poor reputation for slow, dirty, overcrowded, understaffed and unreliable trains has tainted the perception of our suburban trains to the point where people don’t want them, even where they can provide a much more frequent service,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “This outcry from Sunbury is a clarion call to Connex and the Brumby government to clean up their act.”

Mr Bowen said the Sunbury upgrade should still go ahead, but in conjunction with an overhaul of suburban train operations. “There’s no law of nature that says metro trains have to be dirty, slow and cancelled. Perth’s electric suburban trains are as fast and comfortable as V/Line, and so are those in many European and North American cities. We deserve just as much, not just for Sunbury but for all those people in Melbourne who are looking to use public transport more often.”

Mr Bowen said that despite perceptions, official statistics showed V/Line’s services were in fact less reliable than Connex’s. “It came as a suprise to us as much as anyone, but Connex has actually outperformed V/Line on this line every single month for the past year,” said Mr Bowen. [See figures]

Communities would have more control over the standard of train operations if they were allowed to return to public ownership, Mr Bowen said. “Our trains and trams revert automatically to public ownership in November when the contracts expire,” he said. “The government is having to work hard, and spend a lot of money, to prepare a new set of contracts. This effort is wasted, and would be better spent fixing the service from a passenger’s perspective.

“Provision of high-frequency electric train services to Sunbury is the best way to encourage high rates of public transport use in Melbourne’s north-west,” Mr Bowen concluded. “That’s what we saw when suburban trains were extended to Sydenham and Craigieburn: people flocked to the more frequent services. But there’s a clear message coming from the community that the current standard of Connex’s service is unacceptable.”

Sunbury line performance: Connex and V/Line (Excel format, 24Kb)