Relief for peak rail commuters

Peak-hour commuters on three of Melbourne’s most overcrowded railway lines will get a handful of extra services when a new Metro timetable starts in August.

The timetable update will usher in new peak-hour services on the Sunbury, Werribee and Craigieburn lines.

The three lines will each get an extra morning peak service and an extra evening peak service on week days, adding 30 new services to the timetable.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said that from August 27, the new services would run where they were most urgently needed.

“The new services will make a real difference getting people to work quicker and home sooner,” Ms Allan said.

Ms Allan said the government was “adding services and delivering the major projects our network needs”.

Passenger growth in Melbourne’s west and north-west is so rapid that demand on the Sunbury and Craigieburn lines is expected to exceed capacity by 2021 or earlier.

One solution to coping with that growth, the $11 billion Metro Tunnel, is not due to open until 2026.

The first of 65 longer trains the government has ordered, which can comfortably fit 1100 passengers, are due to enter service late next year and will run between Sunbury and Pakenham.

Daniel Bowen, spokesman for the Public Transport Users Association, welcomed the extra services, but said the government should have gone much further.

“It is obviously a step forward, but it’s not a major change to the timetable,” he said. “They don’t appear to be making best use of the track capacity freed up by the opening of the Regional Rail Link.”

The $3.6 billion rail link, between Southern Cross Station and west of Werribee, gave V/Line services dedicated lines and created capacity for up to 23 extra metropolitan services an hour when it opened in mid-2015.

“I think commuters would like to see more substantial changes to the schedules to cut waiting times and relieve overcrowding,” Mr Bowen said.

Coalition transport spokesman David Hodgett said the extra services would be welcomed on the lines involved, but would do nothing to relieve serious overcrowding on the Melton line or at new suburban stations in Tarneit and Wyndham Vale, which are along the Regional Rail Link.

The Coalition has promised to introduce a timetable of trains every 10 minutes between peak periods on several metropolitan lines, including Werribee, Craigieburn, the Sunbury line as far as Watergardens and the Upfield line as far as Coburg.


The Age