Punctuality boost on Ballarat line but commuter squeeze continues

For many full time commuters, carriage cuts are the unreported statistic which can make or break the journey from Ballarat to Melbourne. 

From a punctuality perspective, Ballarat commuters enjoyed a boost to performance in October with more than 88 per cent of services arriving within six minutes of their scheduled time. 

Performance boost: Punctuality on the Ballarat line in October was on the rise, however on average more than one train a day was cut in half.

Performance boost: Punctuality on the Ballarat line in October was on the rise, however on average more than one train a day was cut in half.

However across October alone 33 services were forced to operate at reduced capacity due to what is often listed as “maintenance requirements”, which can range from vandalism to mechanical faults. 

As recently as Friday evening passengers boarding the 5.10 Southern Cross to Wendouree were forced to cram into a half service. 

A V/Line spokesperson said “"while we endeavour to run trains as scheduled, there are times when services can operate with fewer carriages than planned”.  While this represents two per cent of overall services operated, it almost exclusively hits high demand trains as most off peak services are scheduled to run at three carriages.   

Public Transport Users Association Ballarat convener Ben Lever said reduced capacity on some of the line’s busiest services was high on the commuter complaint list.

“It seems like every carriage that isn't in the workshop is scheduled to be used in normal service, so when something does go wrong and a train has to be taken out of service unexpectedly, there aren't any spare ones to replace them,” Mr Lever said. 

While commuters can claim compensation when V/Line fails to meet its performance targets, the reduced carriages are not factored in as travellers are not guaranteed a seat. 

Melton resident and Ballarat line user Stephen Andrews said while people expected to stand on a Metro service, the different design of V/Line trains meant standing in a VLocity carriage was a far less attractive prospect. 

“With the Metro you can expect a peak hour service every 10 minutes and the trains are packed but they’re designed for that,” Mr Andrews said.  “The V/line is not designed to be over capacity, there's no standing room factored into any of the carriages.”