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Media Release

11/9/2000

More Work Needed on Geelong's Fast Trains

While the fast train project demonstrates a well-founded commitment by the state government to regional rail infrastructure, the proposal for the Geelong line "needs far more work," said Tim Petersen, spokesperson for the Geelong Branch of the Public Transport Users' Association.

"The state government at first set itself a fairly easy task for the Geelong line, with an aim to take off only 15 minutes from the average hour-long trip from Spencer Street Station to the Geelong Station.

However, on further investigation, this figure seems less impressive. According to documents released by the Bracks Government on Tuesday, a 45 minute trip will be achieved only by expressing past important commuter stations such as such as Corio, Lara, and Footscray. This 45 minute trip would stop only at North Melbourne and North Geelong, just like the existing 4:42pm service from Spencer St, which takes 52 minutes to reach Geelong Station by 5:34pm. Therefore, under the current proposal only 7 minutes is to be saved on the equivalent existing trip,"stated Tim Petersen.

According to the summary released by the government, trains on the Geelong line will only use the existing rolling stock, instead of the new and much faster 160km/h trains that have been earmarked for other regional lines.

"While the government has committed to upgrading existing rolling stock, much of it is very run down, with carriages still left over from the 1940's and 50's," Tim Petersen said. Using existing rolling stock to Geelong, will mean that the Warrnambool line that serves much of south-western Victoria, will also be denied the better trains. "The people of the whole south-western corridor should demand to know why they are getting a second rate deal."

The report simply says that due to the sheer volume of passengers using the Geelong line, the upgraded existing locomotives and carriages should be the trains that are used. "The patronage on the Geelong line demonstrates its obvious importance, and should be the biggest reason for giving it a fair deal," said Tim Petersen.

However, the summary report does not give a technical reason why more 160km/h trains could be built to serve the Geelong line. "If there are problems with the capacity of the new railcars, perhaps 3 car train sets could be used. Loco sets could be shared with the other commuter lines in the peak hours. Running the faster trains on the Geelong line could mean that the 45-minute target could still be achieved by trains stopping at important stations such as Corio, Lara and Footscray" said Tim Petersen.

"We can only come to the conclusion that the government's consultants stopped after achieving their fairly easy 45 minute target, which they did largely by having trains not stopping at many stations on the Geelong line. It seems that they didn't think that they needed to go further and consider the best option for Geelong and the south western corridor," Tim Petersen said.

The Geelong Branch of the PTUA is also deeply concerned that the current proposal won't be able to meet the future needs of both metropolitan and Geelong trains in the section between Newport and Footscray stations. The fast train report itself expresses its concern that Geelong trains would get stuck behind slower suburban trains on this section. However, it doesn't seem to address this issue at all.

"Any train commuter to Melbourne knows the frustration of trains stopping on this section," Tim Petersen said. "Without a third track, (as is being considered for the equivalent sections of Bendigo and Ballarat routes,) at best the future capacity to run more frequent urban or Geelong trains is severely curtailed. At worst, when suburban trains are late, Geelong commuters will still find themselves stuck in a stationary or crawling trains."

The reports also seem to make no attempt to address the problems with full car parks at Geelong stations. The Geelong Branch of the PTUA argues that buses should be used to take extra commuters to and from the stations, so that the opportunity can be taken to improve service and increase patronage on Geelong's bus networks, without needing to build multi-storey car parks. However, considering that many of Geelong's bus services stop at 7:00pm or earlier, the government will need to provide buses that run late enough to take commuters home, so that they don't find themselves stranded at stations in the evening.

The government should also take the opportunity to upgrade the frequency of Geelong trains, which have been running hourly during non-peak times for the last 30 years. "No matter how much faster the train becomes, it simply won't be good enough if you can still drive to Melbourne in the time that you spend waiting for a train." The PTUA Geelong Branch argues for frequency to be improved to trains running at least every half-hour, all day.

Even the government's study shows the benefit:cost ratio for the Geelong line is 4.9, more than double the figures for the other regional lines at 2.0 or less. While overall, the PTUA welcomes the announcement of the faster trains as showing a new commitment to public transport; it only seems fair that Geelong receive the best upgrade possible. The PTUA is very keen to play a role in future discussions between stakeholders to achieve the optimum result for the corridor". Concluded Tim Petersen.

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 13 September 2000