Thursday, June 26, 2008

No margin for error in rail squeeze

Premier John Brumby has defended the State Government's attempts to cope with soaring passenger numbers on Melbourne's rail network.

Speaking on radio 3AW this morning, Mr Brumby said an increase in services on the tram and bus network could help ease the pressure on train operators.

"The system is running at full capacity and if you assume petrol prices or oil prices in the future stay high, there will be increase of demand in the system,'' Mr Brumby said.

"When the system runs 100% capacity there is no margin for error it is likely that the level of breaches could be higher."

Mr Brumby said the Eddington report, which recommends building an $8.5 billion rail tunnel linking Footscray to Caulfield and bolstering already-stretched train services in the west, would also help address the issue.

"Our goal is to make it fit. I haven't got the numbers in front but the objective is to carry increased number of passengers.

"That is what (the) Eddington (report) is all about. That is what the record road investment programmes is all about and record investment trams and buses is all about.''

Leaked tender documents show that by 2011 28% more commuters are expected to use Melbourne's trains but its fleet will expand by only 11%, The Age revealed today.

That equates to a jump in passenger numbers from 198 million this year to 253 million in 2012.

And passengers in regional Victoria are also facing a tight squeeze, with V/Line carrying a record number of passengers - breaking the 1 million mark for the first time in the year to May.

When questioned about the leaked documents on radio 3AW this morning, Mr Brumby admitted rail operators could face lighter penalties for late or cancelled trains.

"The expression of interest document flags is there maybe some flexibility,'' he said.

Numbers have also increased on Victoria's regional rail network, with V/Line reporting a rise of more than 23% in passengers on some lines.

Figures released by V/Line show the Ballarat/Bacchus Marsh and Bairnsdale/Sale lines have recorded a 23.2% rise in patronage in the year to May.

Passenger numbers rose on the Shepparton, Traralgon and Ararat lines by more than 20%, while the Geelong route had a 16.2%. jump.

No comments: