Faced with the huge suffering of commuters, Victoria Parliament’s Committee on Economy and Infrastructure Committee has summoned the authorities and questioned them for the protracted V Line train crisis.
Those summoned included representatives of Metro Trains, Transurban and VicRoads. On Tuesday, the panel questioned authorities of V Line and Public Transport Victoria. V Line CEO Gary Liddle was quizzed for the reasons that caused delays and mass cancellations since early January.
Delayed boom gate closing faults of V Line trains on Victoria’s rail network were detected four years ago, according to the head of Public Transport Victoria when reporting to the parliamentary committee. According to Jeroen Weimar, Public Transport Victoria’s director of performance, some V-Locity trains were failing to trigger boom gates. As a result gates would come down fast and lift early. But he assured that ongoing repairs will plug the problems and there will be no compromise on safety. Though fault in carriage wheels and boom gate issues are being blamed, the engineers have not traced the real problem.
The train crisis already led to the resignation of V Line’s chief executive Theo Taifalos in January. With no relief in sight, commuters are now taking buses and travelling free. About 20 percent of train services on the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines have been hit. Victoria’s Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said she does not see any change until July, reports ABC News.
Meanwhile, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy insisted that Minister Jacinta Allan should appear before the committee.
“There’s 1.25 million Victorians in regional Victoria who rely on V/Line, it’s their main way of getting … to and from Melbourne, so to avoid coming to the inquiry would be disingenuous,” he said.
Meanwhile, plying buses in the place of cancelled trains is costing Victoria heavily. Already the cost of regional rail crisis has touched $33 million. According to V Line’s Interim chief executive Gary Liddle, the state is spending up to $300,000 a day for running 200 coaches in place of trains.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan defended it by saying such decisions are to protect passengers, reports 9 News. Commuters have been offered 16 days of free travel and they are getting further extension.
The costly repairs include an estimated $23 million axle counter installation program. It will cost around $45 million by March 18. This is to ensure that trains correctly trigger the closing of boom gates at the level crossings.