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.
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.
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.
Ballarat line, Yesterday, the 1614 Wendouree to Southern Cross train after departing Melton. Was only a 3 car train instead of the usual 6 car train. pic.twitter.com/NML6u72M1X— Grant M ???️?⚪⚫ (@GMan_XR6) September 11, 2022
It’s even worse for suburbs served by V/Line.— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) November 11, 2022
Here’s a pic someone sent me from last night: train heading for Deer Park/Tarneit/Geelong at 11:30pm. 45 mins wait for a short train, standing room only.
My friends from that line drove into the City last night. I don’t blame them. pic.twitter.com/eSla48j0V7
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.
I saw a relative onto the 16:36 train to Seymour. Just two carriages. Standing room only, on a weekend when lots of carriages are sitting around doing nothing. Lift your game, V/Line. pic.twitter.com/GeHCCd0eji— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) December 11, 2022
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.
- Read more about this in the latest PTUA member newsletter