Evidence of broken service

February 15, 2017

Regular commuter, Kathy Burden says Benalla's train service is 'broken'

When Kathy Burden and her husband were thinking about moving to Benalla, she did her homework to see if it was feasible to commute to her job in Melbourne several days a week.

On the face of it, the rail service could work.

Just a couple of hours on the train, which could be spent working on a laptop.

But things haven’t quite panned out that way for the past 18 months she’s been taking the troubled journey.

‘‘I commute into Melbourne two or three days a week and work from home for the other days,’’ Ms Burden said.

‘‘I noticed it’s a very unreliable service, so I started keeping notes on everything.

‘‘I get the XPT in the morning, which leaves at 5am because that’s the only way I can get in before 9 (am). It gets in at 7.30.

‘‘Then the only train home is the V/Line at 6pm. It’s meant to get here (Benalla) at 8.36 (pm) but most of the time it’s late.

‘‘It leaves on time, but there’s always excuses, like recently because of all the rain we had over winter, the tracks have got mud holes.

‘‘There’s always something. Last night there was a sick staff member, so there was no buffet car. They might seem like little things, but it’s constant.’’

During the past fortnight, services have been affected by ‘‘seasonal heat restrictions’’.

Public Transport Victoria performance results show that from November 2015 to 2016, on-time performance punctuality on the Albury line dropped nearly 40 per cent, from 94.9 per to just 55.2 per cent of trains arriving on time.

Ms Burden has been meticulously cataloguing all the problems with the service and believes more people would use the train if it was reliable.

‘‘I always talk to people on the way home and quite often they’ve said, ‘this is the first time I’ve caught it in ages. I normally drive in,’ or they drive to Seymour,’’ she said.

‘‘There’s 20 train services to Seymour each day. ‘‘There’s five (to Albury) and two of those are the XPT.

‘‘When these things (delays) happen all the time, you just sort of think, this is broken.

‘‘I thought, I’m in the best position to say how broken it is because I’m on it regularly. So now every time I travel I log it all.

‘‘I sent it to BRAG (Border Rail Action Group) and then I send it to Steph Ryan (Member for Euroa) and Jaclyn Symes (Member for Northern Victoria) and Cathy McGowan (Federal Member for Indi).

‘‘If there’s a real issue, when it goes wrong it goes horribly wrong, those I flag with Daniel Andrews (Victorian Premier) and Jacinta Allan (Minister for Public Transport).’’

So what’s the worst things that’s happened?

‘‘There was one night in November, I got to the station at 10 to six to come home and there’s an announcement being made that the train to Albury is departing in 12 minutes, and you look at the platform and there’s no train and you think, ahhhh, am I on the right platform?

‘‘So I walk out and check the monitor and yes, it is meant to be on this platform.

‘‘A minute to go, there’s still no train, no further announcements, then after a while we get, ‘oh yeah, the train is on its way, it will get there in 15 minutes’. Forty-five minutes later there’s still no train.

‘‘After a while they say, we’ll put you on the Seymour train at 10 to eight.

‘‘And you think, ‘if you’d told me earlier I could have got to Seymour.’ That Seymour train was 20 minutes late, so it was well after 11 o’clock before we got home.’’

Another trip, the doors locked on the train and the passengers could not get off in Benalla.

‘‘Normally the train sits (at the station) for a few minutes. I don’t think the train was there for 30 seconds, it just took off and there was a whole heap of us just like, ‘Umm we can’t get off. My husband is waiting for me at the station’.

‘‘We ended up going through to Wangaratta. The guard didn’t even come out to talk to us. We were banging on his door and he just shouted, ‘I know there’s a problem, I’ll be out’.

‘‘So we get to Wangaratta, they put us in a taxi back. One lady said, ‘Where’s my luggage?’ They’d put it in the V/Line office and the V/Line staff had gone home and locked the office.

‘‘This lady said, ‘but my medication is in there.’ Who knows what health implications that could have.

‘‘And you think, these things happen and no-one seems to care about it.’’

Despite all this, Ms Burden loves her life at Chesney Vale and won’t be moving soon.

‘‘I do work for a good company and they’re very understanding,’’ she said.

‘‘The fact that I can work from home a couple of days a week, and this lifestyle, it’s pretty good. In that regard, it is worth it.’’

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