No fare rise this January

Is V/Line ready for the promised fare cut expected in March?

I’d been wondering why there was no announcement about a fare rise – they usually are announced in December and take effect from 1st of January. And they’re usually based on the annual CPI to September, which was 7.3% this year.

I’ve now learnt that there is no rise scheduled.

Merry Christmas!

What I expect will happen is that there’ll be a rise during 2023, probably introduced alongside the V/Line fare cap promised by Labor during the state election campaign.

I didn’t spot it in any official policy documents, but some media comments suggested that it would take effect in March.

It’s not perfect, but it does largely fix the high cost of V/Line fares, particularly those for journeys from Melbourne to just outside it, for instance Geelong.

The problem? It will result in sudden patronage growth, particularly on weekends, which V/Line is not ready for.

Peak patronage is still well down across the public transport network, but weekend patronage across the network is close to pre-COVID levels.

V/Line runs a lot of short trains on weekends, and these are crowded. I’ve seen and heard of multiple instances of this in recent months.

And it’s not a new problem – it’s been happening for years.

The danger is that a fare cut will make it so crowded that some passengers will be crowded out. They’ll either have to wait a long time for another train (many of them are hourly on weekends) or give up completely.

If they do squeeze on-board, standing for a long distance, they’ll be discouraged from travelling by train again.

For trains into Melbourne, this will be a huge problem for the last few stations before reaching the Metro network – which includes the outer-western suburban stations such as Caroline Springs, Deer Park, Tarneit and Wyndham Vale.

For trains heading out of Melbourne, apart from the few services requiring bookings, it’ll be pot luck as to whether you can get on board or not.

The good news? It’s not a peak problem when all of the fleet is in use. It’s a problem at times when there are plenty of spare carriages available.

It’s basically the Connex problem from 2006.

Just like back then, authorities seem to be oblivious to when and where demand is occurring on the network.

They claim to want more people on the system, but through their inaction they are suppressing patronage growth.

Crowded short trains are inexcusable, when scores of carriages are sitting unused in stabling.

The government and V/Line must pull their collective fingers out and boost capacity. Extra services are preferable to cut waiting times, but at the very least, all daytime (and most evening) trains must be 6-cars when the fare cuts come in.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

6 replies on “No fare rise this January”

Maybe Vline will have to reconsider their Velocity configurations as the VR had to do with the off peak Hitachi trains back in the seventies when rider-ship started to explode?

We don’t even have to wait for the fare cap to start. It’s school holidays now and V/line are still using 3 car trains on weekday interpeak services on the Ballarat line, despite the trains being overflowing every day with increased numbers of people wanting to come into Melbourne.

And let’s not even start on the hourly weekend service…

While a smaller issue, running three carriages also limits the number of bicycles that can be comfortably taken on the train.
With the Geelong and Ballarat lines having larger station spacing compared to metro lines being able to use a bike at both ends of the train journey can be the best way for some people to get about. The stopping patterns also limit these – I have caught the only reasonable morning train to Ardeer a couple of times to work, and the bicycle racks are full leaving Southern Cross with more people with bikes waiting at Footscray because people need to use them to get to work in Melton or Bacchus Marsh.

I live in Melbourne in a single car household with my family in Warrnambool, so I was initially excited about the idea of no longer having to pay $39 for an economy, off-peak, one way ticket. But if the train is so full as to not reliably be able to be boarded then it isn’t quite worth it – it could be completely free but if it’s horribly unreliable and crowded (with no guarantee you’ll even get a seat) Id have to stop using it, despite not wanting to drive or get a second car.

Are the trains running only 3-car sets during intrapeak and weekends because of staffing limits for on-board staff? The trains seem full and it’s not for the lack of sets.

Great to see a fare price for the better, but what about how insane a daily fare is for travelling a few Stratton’s on metro nowadays? If you’re going in and out of the city eg from Richmond you pay the same price as someone from Cranbourne

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