V/Line spent more than $33,000 on taxis from Ballarat train stations in just 18 months.
Data released by state opposition rural transport spokesperson Steph Ryan after a freedom of information request reveals $63,270 was spent between July 2018 and November 2019 on train replacement taxis on the Ballarat line, including Ararat and Maryborough.
Across the entire state, $343,589 was spent on train replacement taxis in that time.
From Ballarat stations - including Ballarat, Wendouree, Ballan, and Beaufort - there were 142 fares on 58 separate days, costing $33,723.78.
The most expensive fare on the Ballarat line was a taxi from Melton, which cost $985.74 - the most expensive Ballarat fare was a $621.28 trip in November 2019, with the average fare costing $235.83.
Taxis are used during unplanned interruptions, including animal strikes and police requests, to make sure no one is stranded even if replacement coaches are used, according to V/Line - about $300,000 is allocated for taxis each year across the entire network, with "strict" policies in place and auditing to ensure the funding is not misused.
A V/Line spokesperson said in a statement taxis can be a more viable option than a coach replacement at times.
"While we make every attempt to ensure train and coach services are accessible, there are times when taxis are also used for passengers with a mobility aid to ensure they can get to where they need to go," they said.
On some occasions patronage volumes may be better suited to utilising a taxi service when compared to the cost of running a full replacement coach service.
Taxi services can also be used from time to time during planned disruptions, usually in situations where it is more practical for a taxi to transport passengers than a coach, for example short distance journeys to and from stations with low patronage levels.
Taxis may also be used for passengers who would otherwise experience long waits for a coach service, such as passengers with mobility aids who cannot board a coach because the mobility aid space is already taken or the coach is not equipped to carry their mobility aid.
Ms Ryan said in a statement the numbers are an indication of just how often country trains are being cancelled, breaking down or are inaccessible for people with a disability, and slammed the state government for not investing in the line.
"V/Line trains are breaking down so often that hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxis have had to be called in to ferry passengers around the state," she said.
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"It's not good enough for country people not to be able to arrive to work or medical appointments on time or for our access to further education and training to be hampered by a train network that doesn't get us where we need to be.
"The Andrews Labor Government fought tooth and nail for more than a year to hide this information - it's clear they don't want Victorians to see this information."
Works on the $500 million Ballarat Line Upgrade, fully commissioned in February 2021, were under way during this time.
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