A coach stop somewhere

V/Line coach stops and dead running in the middle of nowhere

This is a photo of me, taking a photo of a remote coach stop at Kaarimba in northern Victoria.

Daniel taking a photo of a bus stop in regional Victoria


Because advocacy is messaging. And messaging sometimes needs pictures.

And next time I need a photo of a remote coach stop, I’ll have one.

People often forget that V/Line has quite an extensive coach network, reaching many towns that may have had rail services in the past, but no longer do, and also reaching places that never did, and enabling cross-country trips.

The services are generally timed to connect with rail services, but are not usually very frequent – perhaps only once or twice a day in many cases – but can still be a lifeline for local communities.

A V/Line coach driving down a road in northern Victoria

I’ll write about the short weekend getaway to Echuca later – yes it was by car due to planned detours/stops along the way.

I noticed a V/Line coach heading along this road up to Barmah from Shepparton, when there’s none scheduled. As almost visible on this slightly crooked still from the dash cam, it said “Shepparton” on the front.

Could it be… dead running? Where a vehicle runs without passengers to get into position to run a service?

In this case it may have been running from a depot or a previous run in Shepparton to Barmah (about 62 km) to run the 11:37 service back again.

Preferably you don’t want too much dead running, especially over long distances. If it has to happen, ideally it’s done in service, so passengers can use it. Notably Yarra Trams runs most of their trams to and from depots in service.

Perhaps this coach doesn’t always come from Shepparton. Or perhaps the timing is too tight to reliably take passengers.

But if not, it might as well be in the timetable and available to passengers.

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.

11 replies on “A coach stop somewhere”

Then you have the “coach stops” at Cannie and Meatian where the coach doesn’t actually have a stop, you just get picked up and dropped off at a location you arrange!

It is interesting that VLine can take us by coach well into southern coastal New South Wales. I wonder if many of the VLine coach services are well used or just a provided public service. I suppose there would be ridership numbers somewhere.

A quick look at figures in V/Line’s Annual Report for 2018-19 (last pre-COVID) shows about 1.3 million coach passenger trips. It also says there are more than 1,462 V/Line-branded coach services – I presume that’s per week? If so, that would mean around 70,000 services per year. So an average of around 19 passenger trips per service? And less after COVID but maybe more now with the fare cap?

@Lachlan, how interesting, I didn’t know that!

@Andrew, there are also some quirks to the V/Line fare cap for journeys outside Victoria. Basically the $10 cap only applies within Vic and for a few KMs over the border.

@Steve, there’s some data floating around indicating that broadly, patronage is back to what it was pre-pandemic, except for peak CBD journeys… but I don’t think it’s measuring regional coach. I’m trying to crunch the data I’ve seen and will do a blog post soon.

I dont know why peaple complain about vline I been travelling on vline trains and coaches for years I don’t have problems with them

@Steve I find coaches to be fairly decent. Usually the drivers are fairly nice and have a good vibe, they don’t run that far behind schedule, and now that the fare cap exists, they’re reasonably priced. But vline trains I’m honestly not a big fan of. Rarely on time, horrendously under serviced, and usually overcrowded. Also no services at night, even on nights you’d expect there would be (like New Year’s Eve). Which may be fine for coaches, since they primarily serve low population areas, but isn’t so fine for the trains.

The Interstate fare difference is a flat rate of approximately $22 full fare or $11 concession. The Victorian fare cap extends 60 km into neighbouring states on V/Line interstate services.

I have an FOI request in progress for V/Line coach patronage stats broken down by route. Will let you know once I get it!

I wish dead running was practically eliminated like tram services for metropolitan busses and metropolitan trains. Most of the dead running is to and from depots and you could have literally thousands of extra services a week if you removed almost all of it.)

If it can carry passengers it should carry passengers! I understand why dead running exists as it’s done because a service that were to take passengers takes significantly longer to get to the end destination if it has to constantly stop and allow passengers to get on and off. This could be eliminated if express services were run and only stopped at a couple of stops (generally major) before the end destination. This means that passengers who live further away will have shorter journey times.

This also isn’t limited to the direction of the service (eg. outbound) because they may then take a service in the opposite direction (eg. Inbound) for a couple of stops because it ran express but was quicker than waiting for the next all stops service.

Everyone benefits because more people spread out over more services reduces crowding.

There’s also the benefit of more and more frequent services persuading and convincing people to use public transport more often raising revenue.

I believe if the PTUA pushed for this it would actually be successful as it’s a pretty reasonable suggestion and one that is almost free to implement.

Off topic but there used to be an outbound morning express on the Sunbury line (at least express from Footscray to Sunshine, not sure beyond) that I don’t think was timetabled. The thing was – it sat at Sunshine for a number of minutes to wait for the train to Swan Hill to get in front of it. Those minutes would’ve been more productive stopping at Middle Footscray, West Footscray and Tottenham.

Ps. Another issue that can be easily solved is the “half timetabling” of dead running services where it might say on a bus stop for example “22:15 D” service.

“D” (Depot) could say “bus estimated to arrive around this time but cannot be guaranteed as its returning to the depot”.

These small issues are the reasons why dead running exists and how small changes can make it convenient for the operators to run them.

PS. Another point I didn’t mention is that the greatest benefit to implement this would be new services before and after the current first and last of the day. Few “last or first service” vehicles are actually taking passengers before they get into position.

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