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V/Line: coming fare cuts set to worsen crowding

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.

Images of recent V/Line weekend and late evening crowding due to short trains.
Top-left and bottom-right pics: Grant M on Twitter

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.

PTUA’s scorecard for the 2022 Victorian election

Where are the services?

With billions spent on transport infrastructure recently, the time has come for investment in additional public transport services to make the most of it.

Our election scorecard reviews differing policies. Some initiatives are already funded, and/or assumed to be locked-in no matter who wins the election – including many infrastructure projects initiated by Labor while in government.

Read the summary and the full scorecard here

We’ll be posting updates regularly until the election.

Responsibility for electoral comment is taken by Tony Morton, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

Victorians want investment in public transport

Polling released today by the Climate Council shows that Victorians want all levels of government to invest more in public and active transport. The PTUA is supporting the Climate Council’s call for governments to allocate at least 50% of their transport budgets to public transport, and 20% to safe walking and biking infrastructure.

80% of Victorians agreed that governments should invest more in public transport, with 63% saying they would be more willing to use services if they were more frequent, better connected, reliable, safe and affordable.

Just 16% of Victorians want roads prioritised in the transport budget, while 39% want improvements to public and active transport prioritised, and 35% want a balance between the two.

“These poll results reinforce what we’ve known for a long time – people want convenient alternatives to driving,” said PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen. “If you create a well-connected network of frequent public transport services, people will use them.

“If we had services running every 10 minutes, all day every day, across our trains, trams and major bus routes, millions of Victorians could get around conveniently without needing to drive – slashing carbon emissions, reducing congestion, and saving their household budgets.

“There’s still a need to invest in big city-shaping infrastructure for the future, but most of these improvements to frequencies could be rolled out in a matter of months – as quickly as you could train the drivers.

“Electric cars are an important part of cleaning up transport, but that transition can’t happen quickly enough on its own – giving people real alternatives to driving would slash emissions this decade, and be incredibly popular as well.”

More information:

Incremental improvements welcome, still waiting for big investment in service, says PTUA

The Public Transport Users Association has welcomed the Victorian Government’s ongoing commitment to improving the state’s public transport networks, but says Victorians are still waiting for a ‘step change’ investment in service delivery to match the government’s record in building infrastructure.

“We’re pleased to see improved metro and regional train services roll out with the ‘switch on’ of the government’s Big Build,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “A boost to scheduled service kilometres on the bus network shows we’re moving in the right direction, and there are important new initiatives on V/Line rolling stock, accessible tram stops and regional services.”

New investments in public transport and rail freight networks and operations total $1.38 billion over the forward estimates, compared with $965 million of new investment in roads and private car travel, and $43 million on walking and cycling.

But Dr Morton emphasised these improvements were still incremental in nature, and fell short of the game-changing investment needed in service frequencies and span across the bus, tram and train networks to meet Victoria’s climate and accessibility challenges, and compensate for decades of neglect of alternatives to car travel.

“The experts say we need to cut carbon emissions by at least two-thirds in the next decade to have any chance of keeping climate heating below 2 degrees, and limiting catastrophic damage to our way of life,” Dr Morton said. “Transport has to start doing the heavy lifting, as on current trends it’s set to become our largest source of emissions. And we won’t get there just by getting everyone to buy an electric car: on realistic estimates, even a fully electrified car fleet in 2030 will still produce carbon emissions per passenger about one-third that of cars today, and three or four times higher than a moderately loaded diesel bus.” [1]

A step change in frequent public transport services across suburbs and regional cities is also essential to COVID recovery, according to the PTUA. “Transport planning is now playing catch-up to the shift in daily travel patterns,” Dr Morton said. “More people are doing their day-to-day activities close to home on weekdays, but finding their local public transport isn’t up to the task, given how the planning of services has been so heavily skewed toward CBD commuting for so long. The world’s other most livable cities show how public transport can work for both commuting and for local travel.”

“We also need to improve access to our transport network, for people of all backgrounds, all needs and all abilities,” said Dr Morton. “There are great accessibility improvements with the new V/Locity rollout, and close to $100 million of investment in making our tram network accessible. It’s all very welcome, but at the same time, it will still take decades at this rate to have a fully accessible public transport system.”

The PTUA remains optimistic about future service improvements following through from the state’s Big Build initiatives, including the Metro Tunnel and Suburban Rail Loop. “But that’s no reason to overlook what can be accomplished now, with our substantial existing infrastructure and resources, to get Victorians moving again without creating a new traffic and emissions nightmare.”

[1] Calculations for a renewable electricity transition similar to AEMO’s ‘step change’ scenario project that a fully electrified car fleet will entail emissions from electricity of approximately 80g CO2-e per passenger kilometre in 2030. This compares with 22g CO2-e per passenger kilometre on a diesel bus carrying 40 passengers. See

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Limos to fix station car park pain

The PTUA has welcomed a new government plan to provide access to public transport by hiring limousines to collect passengers from home to get them to their local station.

With some car parks costing more than $100,000 per space, taking train users to the station by limousine has been found to be cost-competitive with the car park expansion plans of the State and Federal governments, and avoids many of the problems such as the eyesore of multi-storey car park structures in suburban locations.

Catching a limousine to the station will be welcomed by passengers who will no longer need a car just to get to the station. It also avoids many of the problems with the contentious car park expansion plans of the State and Federal governments, such as the mass removal of trees, local traffic congestion at peak times, and impacts on local walkability.

Passengers will book a limo to the station via an app. Just as with station car parks, passengers will pay nothing extra on top of their train fare.

Because each limo can make several trips to the station each peak hour, the service will resolve the issue of car parks filling up by 7am, and will help to bring costs down. It can also be used by people who cannot drive, including children, seniors and those with mobility difficulties.

The PTUA understands that as the program rolls out, further efficiencies are expected to be found, including:

  • having multiple passengers travel in each vehicle;
  • picking up and dropping people off at a designated location at the end of their street instead of outside their home;
  • shifting towards larger, longer vehicles with more seats and wheelchair access;
  • running the vehicles on dedicated routes to and from each station, at least every 10 minutes all day, so that people don’t have to book, and they can easily get to the station all day, not just when travelling in peak hour;
  • on-road priority, including dedicated lanes and traffic light priority; and
  • transitioning to electric vehicles to reduce emissions.

“It’s great to see governments finally thinking about how to get people to public transport without them having to drive a car”, a PTUA spokesperson said.

Original pic source

40 years on, time to scrap the 7-day Myki Pass

Fare reform needed for a post-COVID world

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on the State Government to review public transport fares, and make adjustments to reflect expected changes to travel demand as Victoria comes out of COVID-19.

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said October 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of Melbourne’s public transport fare zones and tickets allowing travel for a specific time: 2 hours, daily, weekly, or longer.

“Zones were revolutionary, bringing Melbourne’s trams, trains and buses under a common ticket and fare system for the first time. This helped lead to higher patronage, as passengers could buy one ticket to cover a connected journey on a bus, train and tram.”

Mr Bowen said that forty years on, there had been a huge impact of COVID-19 on public transport demand. A new Monash University Public Transport Research Group paper predicts patronage will most likely return to 80% of normal.[1]

But CBD commutes are expected to remain at lower levels, with probable widespread shift to part-time Work From Home arrangements for many office workers.

Mr Bowen said the State Government should reform the fare system to make sure public transport remains attractive.

“There is a chance to make changes to ensure public transport is attractive for people as we come out of COVID, including for off-peak, non-work journeys.”

A key reform proposed by the PTUA would be removing the 7-day Myki Pass and replacing it with an automatic fare cap at a reduced cost of 4 days, or fewer.[2]

“Currently the 7-day Pass provides a week of travel for the cost of 5 days. So it can benefit some regular travellers, but only if they are using the system 6 or 7 days a week. And to get that benefit, the Pass needs to be pre-purchased and loaded onto the Myki card.

“For many people, the days of commuting 5 days a week to the office are over. A cheaper weekly cap would help improve the attractiveness of public transport for both work and non-work trips, even for passengers who are only commuting to work 3 days a week.”

Weekly fare caps are used in cities such as Sydney and London[3]. Unlike prepaid weekly Passes, they can be used by those who are not sure of their travel patterns at the start of the week.

“This change would also mean a cost saving for those who still commute 5 days a week, and it would make Myki auto-top up work better for more people.”

The PTUA also believes the 30% off-peak discount should be returned, and made permanent. The discount was a temporary measure introduced in 2020, and ended in August.

Other fare changes worth consideration are removal of the Free Tram Zone, to relieve CBD tram crowding and delays, and either replacing the train-only Earlybird fare with the off-peak discount, or making it multi-modal.

V/Line fares should also be reviewed to remove discrepancies with metropolitan fares such as the big price jump when travelling from Melbourne to outside Zone 2.

“Melbourne’s zone system now spreads well into regional Victoria, and has served us well. But as we recover from the pandemic, the fare system must be revamped to ensure public transport is still a competitive, viable option for more Victorians”, concluded Mr Bowen.

[1] Graham Currie et al, Evidence of a post-COVID change in travel behaviour – Self-reported expectations of commuting in Melbourne

[2] Automatic fare capping was built into the Myki system, but is currently only used for daily fare caps.

Currently under Myki, a 7-Day Pass must be preloaded onto the Myki card. It is priced at 5 x the Daily fare. Prior to Myki, a weekly ticket was about 4.3 x the Daily fare.

[3] Many cities including Melbourne use a daily cap system. Cities with longer fare caps include:

Coverage of this story: Herald Sun 28/10/2021: Fares cap urged for myki users

PTUA welcomes Auditor-General’s report into Transport Planning

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the Victorian Auditor-General`s report into Integrated Transport Planning.[1]

The Auditor-General found that while the Department Of Transport has more than 40 separate plans and strategies, this does not constitute an integrated transport plan, as required by the Transport Integration Act.

PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen said the PTUA supports the Auditor-General’s calls for the State Government to ensure that an integrated transport plan is prepared and made public, as soon as possible.

“With the huge government investment in transport at the moment, it’s crucial that it’s all working towards a clear, shared goal. For example, given the enduring view that we should move towards zero emissions, and become less dependent on private car travel, a proper transport plan would consider whether widening the Eastern Freeway to 20 lanes actually contributes to that goal.

“Likewise, we should have a public transport system where all the different modes connect with each other seamlessly to get people where they need to go. This means an easy and accessible walk to the bus stop, a bus that’s timetabled to connect with the local train, and level boarding at the tram stop.

“We all rely on the transport system for access to jobs, education, services and a myriad of other journeys. Better public transport services and effective transport planning are key to achieving sustainability and continued prosperity for Melbourne and Victoria.”


Bus performance data welcomed – and highlights the need for improvements

The PTUA has applauded the State government’s release of bus network performance data for the first time.[1]

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said the organisation had been asking for years for the data to be published, to help transparency and accountability around the bus network.

“Detailed train and tram performance data has been published for decades now. Buses have yet again been the poor cousin, despite upgrades to realtime tracking equipment some years ago.

“We’re very pleased to see the government finally release this information, to drive discussion and debate about how to improve bus services.”

Mr Bowen said that PTV/DOT should continue to release transport network performance data, including punctuality information for regional buses where available, and that it would be preferable to allow users to export and filter the data more effectively, to aid transparency and analysis.

As expected, the bus performance data showed that punctuality improved during 2020 as COVID-19 took hold, with fewer passengers using the service, the removal of on-board payments, and less traffic.

However the data also showed that some routes have ongoing poor punctuality problems. The routes with the lowest ontime performance from January 2019 to June 2021 were:

Route Ontime*
Jan 2019-Jun 2021
Jan-Dec 2020
Highest ontime month
606Elsternwick to Fishermans Bend70.7%78.9%91.6% (Sep 2020)
182Werribee to Tarneit70.9%NANA (Route started 30/5/2021)
417Laverton to Laverton North72.3%77.8%91.5% (Sep 2020)
538Broadmeadows to Somerset Estate77.5%82.6%93.5% (Aug 2020)
795Warneet to Cranbourne79.0%79.5%89.0% (Aug 2020)
400Sunshine to Laverton80.0%77.7%87.0% (Apr 2020)
745Knox to Bayswater80.0%82.9%89.5% (Sep 2020)
693Belgrave to Oakleigh81.0%89.1%96.7% (Aug 2020)
414Laverton to Footscray81.5%85.9%95.0% (Sep 2020)
303Ringwood North to City81.6%84.2%86.5% (Oct and Nov 2020)
NETWORK WIDE AVERAGE90.4%92.9%96.7% (Aug 2020)

*PTV defines ontime as no more than 4 minutes 59 seconds late, and no more than 59 seconds early

Surprisingly, routes 795, 400, 745 and 303 were unable to achieve 90% punctuality (within five minutes) at any time during 2020, despite few passengers and little traffic during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Mr Bowen said that if people couldn’t rely on bus services, they wouldn’t use them.

“Logical routes, good timetables and frequent services are all important. But if buses are rarely on time, even when there’s no traffic on the roads, how can passengers rely on them?”

The PTUA believes the newly released data should help the State government prioritise improvements to bus services, including on-road priority.

“Buses are vital for serving journeys not possible by train and tram. The government’s recent release of a high level plan[2] for improvements to bus services is very welcome. This data helps show which routes need immediate attention.

“While it might be justified in some cases to adjust timetables to better match traffic delays, a better outcome is improved on-road priority: smarter traffic light priority, removal of indented bus stops, and bus lanes and queue jump lanes at intersections where possible.

“Other measures such as ‘Rapid Running’ on frequent routes[3] and all-door boarding can also help cut delays.

“Of course, the most punctual bus service won’t get passengers if the route is indirect and the buses don’t come frequently. Most Melbourne buses don’t provide the service level needed to attract people out of their cars – and town buses in regional Victoria are even worse.

“Priority measures must be matched by commitments to boost services and provide a bus network that meets the 21st century travel needs of Victorians”, concluded Mr Bowen.

* * *


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Why ignoring the timetable might be good for passengers

The release of the Victorian government’s bus plan has highlighted many planned initiatives, but one that got some attention is ‘rapid running’. This article from the PTUA’s June member newsletter explains what it means.

If you’ve ever been on a bus that sat waiting at a time point for its scheduled departure time, a new Department of Transport trial might be of interest.

Since March, route 246 has been testing ‘rapid running’. This means that during frequent times (when buses are every 10 minutes) buses will depart from the terminus on time, but then not stop and wait for the schedule along the length of the route.

Instead of using printed timetables, passengers are encouraged to use real-time information on their mobile phone via the PTV or other apps, and of course the high frequency means waiting times don’t normally exceed 10 minutes.

The immediate benefit to passengers is a faster ride once on the bus.

Longer term benefits include that authorities may be able to run additional services without needing extra funding.

We’re also told it can ease the case for on-road priority, as any measures taken to speed up buses are certain to be useful, rather than simply resulting in even longer waits at time points.

So far the feedback on route 246 from local passengers has been mostly positive, in part because the route punctuality is normally so poor due to traffic that the timetables were rarely accurate!

DOT are looking at expanding the trial to other routes, including testing the concept with slightly less frequent routes running at a 15 minute frequency.

PTUA has been consulted on the trial. While we agree that a 10 minute service can work well with this arrangement, we’re not sure if 15 minutes is frequent enough. There are also concerns about passengers without smartphones. That said, we are keen to see what the trial finds.

Since Tram Tracker was introduced more than a decade ago, many tram users have switched to using real-time information instead of timetables.

The provision of real-time information for buses and trains has followed, but some passengers still unaware of it.

Whether ‘rapid running’ ends up on more routes or not, better promotion of real-time information would make a lot of sense.

And certainly on routes with 10 minute services, ‘rapid running’ seems to have a lot of merit.

And of course, Victoria’s public transport network could do with a lot more routes running every 10 minutes.

This article is from the PTUA’s June member newsletter. To get regular news from the PTUA, and support our campaign for better public transport, join as a member.

A steady-as-she-goes transport budget for COVID recovery

The Victorian Government’s 2021-22 budget reflects its cautious approach to post-COVID economic recovery but is building steadily on its previous commitments for public transport and rail freight, according to the Public Transport Users Association.

New commitments in the budget are a healthy reassertion of the need to compensate for the three decades of disinvestment in public transport infrastructure and services prior to 2010. New expenditure on public and active transport initiatives totals $2.9 billion in this budget, accompanied by $741 million in new expenditure on initiatives supporting roads and private car travel.* This, however, comes on top of prior spending that on the whole has favoured roads over public transport.

“On the whole, these new initiatives in both public transport and roads are sensible, pragmatic commitments to ensure our existing transport networks operate well into the future,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton.

The largest single item of new transport expenditure is the purchase of new suburban train rolling stock, which is budgeted at around $1 billion but with few details yet disclosed regarding timelines. “This is a welcome and necessary investment but the details are still vague, in particular how much of the expenditure is to take place beyond the forward estimates,” Dr Morton said. “We trust that by next year there will be clear targets for how much is to be spent and what year we can realistically expect all these new trains to be on the tracks – particularly given the delays in the earlier Evolution train order.”

Other initiatives include a programme of improvements and increased maintenance on the regional train network, improvements to tram infrastructure including additional separation from cars, new work at Caulfield station to speed up trains and improve interchange with Metro Tunnel services, and a catalogue of minor bus service improvements.

“We commend the government in particular for including new bus routes in growth areas and investing in the sustainability of the suburban bus network,” Dr Morton said. He pointed to the introduction of new or more frequent bus services in Clyde, Tarneit, Yarra Ranges and Fishermans Bend. “At the same time, it’s only hinting at the kind of reform that’s needed in order to support new home-based travel patterns in our suburbs post COVID.”

“The entire package of bus improvements amounts to an extra $15 million a year. That’s less than what is typically spent expanding one railway station car park catering for a fraction of the patronage.”

“Overall we see the government building on its solid infrastructure credentials in this budget,” said Dr Morton. “But we also look forward to seeing a more transformative approach to bus and tram services in particular, as our new post-COVID travel patterns become permanent.”