Public transport users welcomed the announcement by the Labor Party that it would introduce 20-minute off-peak rail services to Melbourne if elected in November.
Convenor of the Geelong Branch of the Public Transport Users Association, Paul Westcott, noted that increased off-peak services were a very long-standing policy of his organisation.
“Five years ago V/Line told the previous state Labor government it could be done and it was Labor’s policy at the last election. V/Line told the current Coalition government the same thing, but it obviously hasn’t acted,” Mr Westcott said.
“Having more frequent off-peak train services to Melbourne makes rail much more competitive and will help get cars off the road.”
However Mr Westcott pointed out that local Geelong bus services needed a big boost if passengers were to make full use of any new services.
“It is ironic that, if this comes about, many bus services in Geelong will run less frequently than trains to Melbourne,” he said. “Pressure on rail station car parks is already overwhelming, and new off-peak passengers will struggle to make full use of the increased services with many car parks full by 9 am.”
Mr Westcott noted that it cost about $16,000 to provide just one sealed car parking space at a station and that, despite increases in capacity, the supply never keeps up with demand.
“The best way to reduce the need to provide yet more expensive station car parking is to run local bus services more frequently, and to ensure they actually connect with trains,” he said.
Mr Westcott also said that the single track between Geelong and the new Waurn Ponds station will limit the effectiveness of any service boost for South Geelong, Marshall and Waurn Ponds passengers. “Building a new station which can’t be served by every available train is, to that extent, a waste of money,” he noted.