The V/Line fare cuts promised by Labor during the election look set to be introduced in March.
This is a welcome move, which will largely resolve V/Line fare affordability issues.
It will also stimulate demand for V/Line journeys – a good thing, but only if the system is ready to cater for it.
Weekend travel in particular is likely to surge, worsening existing crowding.
Longer lines requiring reservations are also likely to see all seats sold out, making it harder for some people to book and travel.
It’s important that service upgrades come first.
Overcrowding on some weekend V/Line services is already an issue. We’ve seen regular crowding on the Ballarat, Geelong and Seymour lines, which serve outer western Melbourne as well as regional destinations.
A key factor is V/Line’s regular pattern of running short 2 and 3-car trains on weekends.
V/Line’s fleet is now sizable, and much of it sits idle on outside commuter peak times. This means weekend crowding is a problem of its own making.
In fact this is a repeat of problems with Connex Melbourne running short weekend trains 15 years ago. It seems nothing has been learnt.
We urge the government to bring forward boosts to V/Line services ahead of fare cuts, with longer trains as an absolute minimum precondition.
And the government must be ready to further invest in additional services as patronage grows.
This is a modified version of an article from our member newsletter from December 2022. Join the PTUA to receive regular newsletters.