Thursday, August 21, 2008

Massive rise in Geelong train trips

by Peter Begg

GEELONG commuters are jumping on board public transport, with passengers on V/Line's Geelong line surging 19.8 per cent in the past financial year.

V/Line yesterday said there were 3,081,829 passenger trips on the Geelong line in 2007/08, up by more than 500,000 trips on the previous year.

The transport operator was commenting after Premier John Brumby released figures showing patronage on metropolitan trains had increased 12.7 per cent in the past 12 months.

The Melbourne figures showed that 32 million more trips were taken on trains, trams and buses in the past 12 months. Of those, the biggest increase was the 12.7 per cent increase on metro trains.

V/Line has also released its latest performance figures for July, which showed that congestion on Melbourne train lines was continuing to affect its Geelong services.

The latest figures show 95.3 per cent of trains on the Geelong-Werribee section of the line ran on time in July.

But when trains got closer to Melbourne, only 82.6 per cent were punctual.

The V/Line figures showed that out of 1387 trains that ran on the Geelong line in July, 239 were late by five minutes or more.

This is above the carrier's target of 110 delayed trains.

Of the 239 Geelong trains delayed last month, 85 were late due to metropolitan congestion and 36 were held up by infrastructure faults. Train faults held up a further 31.

In June 45 trains were late because of metropolitan train congestion.

V/Line media manager Daniel Moloney said one of the challenges for operators with extra patronage was getting all those extra passengers on and off trains.

"The boarding times take longer, and there are also more trains competing for space," Mr Moloney said.

"So under the broad banner of metropolitan train congestion, there are a lot of V/Line and Connex trains competing for X-amount of space and there are huge numbers of people affecting boarding times."

Mr Moloney said the only thing that would improve V/Line's performance was major infrastructure upgrades, such as extra track space around the Footscray area and the rail tunnel raised in the recent Eddington report.

Mr Brumby attributed the jump in patronage in Melbourne to the introduction of 300 new weekly services to the metropolitan train timetable and the Early Bird Metcard, which allows free train travel for people who arrive at their destination before 7am.

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