Victoria’s regional train network has consistently failed to meet targets and has been weighed down by a $535million maintenance backlog, a Victorian Auditor-General’s report has found.
Patronage on the rail service has grown by more than 88.3 per cent in the past decade, leading to overcrowding and delays, with the report finding the regional service was not prepared for the increase.
‘‘V/Line has not successfully dealt with the challenges it has faced over the past decade,’’ the V/Line Passenger Services report said.
‘‘V/Line was not prepared for the strong growth in patronage and the resulting increase in service demand following the opening of the Regional Rail Link which fundamentally changed the nature of its operations.
‘‘V/Line did not foresee this growth or fully understand the causes of its poor performance because it lacked the necessary capability.’’
While overall patronage has increased by 88 per cent, north and north-eastern lines have only had increased customer figures of 30 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.
The modest patronage growth in northern areas of the state is in stark contrast to the west and south-west which has had passenger numbers more than double following the completion of the Regional Rail Link.
Despite the previous failures, the report found there were improvements occurring.
‘‘(V/Line) has recently started to turn this situation around and is now better informed about the risks and challenges facing its operations,’’ the report said.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the current government inherited an ‘‘operator in crisis’’.
‘‘This report shows V/Line is back on track after years of cuts and neglect from the former Liberal and National government,’’ she said.
Although the report said V/Line had improved its approach to a number of areas including maintenance and assets management, it found that according to the government’s rolling stock strategy — Trains, Trams, Jobs 2015-2025 — based on the design lives of vehicles, 40 per cent of the regional train fleet will need to be replaced by 2025.
Apart from the new VLocity trains, some of V/Line’s classic fleet of trains have been in use for double their 30-year design life.
The report makes eight recommendations to V/Line and Public Transport Victoria, including better monitoring of service performance and reviewing transport governance.