Fast train update

February 2004

This is a brief update on the Geelong branch’s December 2001 Fast Train document. Since that time, electrification has been ruled out for the project and the importance of stops at intermediate stations seems to have been affirmed. The track and signal upgrades have almost been completed and the Fast Rail focus is shifting to service planning.

The focus of the Geelong branch of the PTUA is on ensuring:

  • Adequate and consistent stops at stations;
  • More frequent services;
  • Timetables planned to minimise conflicts with metropolitan trains;
  • Fare integration with Geelong buses and Melbourne’s public transport; and
  • Buses connecting to trains at Geelong stations.

Adequate and Consistent Stops

We understand that regular and consistent patterns of service have been recommended by independent consultants to the Fast Rail Projects, and support this wholeheartedly. Passengers would be able to understand and remember departure times more easily, and overseas evidence suggests that this has led to patronage increases of up to 30%.

We propose three main types of services:

  • “Semi-express” services stopping at (Marshall), South Geelong, Geelong, North Geelong, Lara, Werribee, Footscray, North Melbourne and Spencer Street.
  • “Stopping all stations” services (including stops at North Shore, Corio and Little River. Stops at Newport could be cut out with integrated fares and faster services on the Werribee line.)
  • “Express” services running during peak times, stopping at the main Geelong stations, North Melbourne and Spencer Street.

Better rail and connecting bus services will need to be provided to Geelong’s northern suburbs in the future as the service evolves from a commuter service into a “catch-all” transport service.

Frequent Services

The branch recommends services running every half-hour, with “stopping all stations” and “semi-express” services alternating. During peak times, additional “express” services should run between each of the half-hourly base services. Afternoon peak services need to be extended later into the evening to cater for the ‘spreading’ of peak demand.

Base half-hourly services are needed to ensure that people don’t have to wait at stations for the time it would take them to drive between Geelong and Melbourne. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is one of the major barriers to greater rail patronage, especially for business travellers who cannot justify a potentially hour-long wait for the next train.

Even conservative estimates on European standards suggest that, after the introduction of memorable timetables and fare integration, patronage on the Geelong line would be easily able to justify half-hourly services.

In particular, earlier and more frequent services are required on weekends (especially Sundays) and later services are needed returning to Melbourne from Geelong in the evening.

Timetables Minimising Conflicts with Metropolitan Trains

We understand that the Rail Projects Group is looking at reforms to the metropolitan train timetable and running practices to provide more rational train patterns as well as clearer paths for country trains. We welcome this move, particularly given that Geelong travellers are still very concerned about the regular delays experienced by the Geelong trains in the metropolitan network, and especially between Newport and Spencer Street. Travellers will be particularly frustrated if their new fast trains deliver them at great speed into metropolitan Melbourne only to experience the same unreliability as experienced before the rail upgrade.

Fare Integration

V/Line fares should be integrated with fare systems in Geelong and Metropolitan Melbourne, so that travellers can seamlessly transfer between buses, trains or trams at either end of their journey. Multi-modal fares provided a major boost to Melbourne’s public transport patronage when introduced, and European experience suggests that patronage could be boosted by 15% by integrating V/Line fares.

The successful trial of including entitlements to travel in Zone 1 with a Geelong-Melbourne ticket clearly showed that fare integration was possible without replacing the ticketing system. The arrangement should be continued indefinitely and extended to buses in Geelong (in accordance with our Fare Reform Discussion Paper

The integration of fares at the Geelong end would also have the effect of reducing ticket prices to levels more competitive with the costs of driving. It would also play a key part in a policy to coordinate buses and trains in Geelong.

Buses Connecting With Trains

Ensuring that passengers can quickly and easily transfer between buses and trains at Geelong stations would provide an alternative to driving to the stations, ease pressure on station car parks and increase patronage on Geelong’s bus services.

This would require coordination of existing bus services with trains (which would be easier to achieve with regular train timetables), as well as the introduction of new services. Extra bus services are needed to connect with evening trains (including afternoon peak trains) which currently arrive in Geelong after Geelong’s local bus system has all but shut down. These extra services would also improve the local transport network for people making trips within Geelong.