There seems to be no relief in sight for the harried commuters of Victoria rail until June. The rising wear and tear of rail wheels and the resulting repairs have thrown the V/Line services in disarray since January. The maintenance is making progress. But it may take another four months to complete.
According to Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan, the crisis will continue until June as fixing the wheel-wear issue is taking more time. The emergency repairs have already forced out many regional trains from the network, reports 9 News.
“Significant work has gone on in the last week to address and understand the issues with the wheel wear rate,” the minister told reporters in Geelong. Noting that it is a period of frustration, Allan said restoration of a full timetable can happen only in June.
Suburban rail operator Metro has already banned Victoria trains from entering Melbourne after boom gates started failing to close at many level crossings near Dandenong.
The new acting chief of V/Line, Gary Liddle blamed the dry weather for the higher wheel wear rate. He said remedial actions like lubricating rails and calibrating train speeds are under way.
Now the V/L authorities are planning to put out an interim timetable for Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Gippsland for the next five weeks. Meanwhile, buses will continue to ply in place of cancelled Victoria rail services. The transport minister has already made the bus travel free.
Meanwhile, The Age, in a report said excessive budget cuts on the Regional Rail Link project contributed to V/Line’s current crisis. It blame public servant, Corey Hannett, for the problems. He was heading the Labor’s major transport infrastructure program with oversight on the AU$11 billion Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, AU$6 billion level crossing removal scheme and upgrades for the congested Dandenong rail corridor.
The news report said key cost-cutting changes by Hannett are backfiring now. It includes his decision to retain an existing rail flyover at North Melbourne instead of building a new one. The report alleged that the flyover’s tight curves are the main reason for the excessive wheel wear that has crippled the Victoria rail services.