V/Line V Late

By Simon Ruppert

Benalla's commuters are still struggling to get to work on time, with more than half of local V/Line services arriving late.

Recently released figures for the north-east line between Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga show that only 48.3 per cent of services arrived on time last month.

The line is one of seven V/Line services that failed to meet performance targets in July — with commuters forced to find other ways to get to work.

And it is not just commuters being affected, with many people across the region relying on the train to visit family, enjoy days out and to attend important medical appointments.

Rowan Smith moved back to Benalla two years ago and relies on the train to commute to her job in Melbourne.

"Basically the service has been a bit inconsistent," Ms Smith said.

"When I first moved back to Benalla and I needed to go back to Melbourne for work I used the V/Line.

This is one of three rare and classic trains that passed through Benalla in May as part of the 'Great Southern Loop'

"I was finding that about 80 per cent of the time it was late.

"And not even 10 minutes late; regularly it would be more than an hour. And not just in the morning — it was getting me back late, too.

"Generally if I am going down to Melbourne it is for a specific meeting, so the delay makes the whole trip pointless as I tend to miss the meeting I was travelling to attend."

Just over 12 months ago the Victorian Government reached an agreement over the design of new trains for the north-east line.

Ms Smith said at different times of the year there would be different reasons for the delays.

"In summer they blame the heat for it slowing down. In the winter they blame the bad weather. There's always a reason for the delay," she said.

"I've all but given up on the V/Line now and catch the XPT instead.

"It does leave Benalla at 5.15am and doesn't get back until about 10pm.

"But it's the only option if I need to get to Melbourne for a specific time.

"I'd rather have a longer day than have to catch a V/Line train. The other thing I occasionally do is to drive to Seymour and catch the V/Line from there.

"The Seymour service is much more regular and reliable, which doesn't make much sense as it uses the same line."

In October the Federal Liberal-Nationals promised, if elected, to build a fast rail connection between Wodonga, Benalla and Melbourne, slashing travel times.

Ms Smith added that she finds the staff at Benalla station to be excellent and wanted people to know that the delays are not their fault.

Unfortunately it is often the station staff that bear the brunt of complaints when there is often little they can do.

Member for Euroa Steph Ryan put the blame squarely on the man she describes as the 'Premier for Melbourne'.

Steph Ryan is unimpressed with the way the State Government are managing the NE Line

"(Daniel Andrews) ... has hit the brakes on VLine by failing to make the investment that’s needed to deliver reliable, modern, comfortable, fast regional rail services," Ms Ryan said.

"Labor are deaf to the countless Victorians who are inconvenienced on a daily basis by delays, breakdowns and cancellations.

"The federal Liberal Nationals continue to do the heavy lifting to deliver better country rail services, contributing more than $1.6 billion towards $1.75 billion in rail upgrades across regional Victoria.

"Daniel Andrews has found billions to pour into level crossing cost blowouts in Melbourne but he’s abandoned country Victorians."

A 30-year-old Benalla woman was charged with breaking a window at the Seymour Railway Station

A V/Line spokesperson said that acts of vandalism including copper wire theft, along with train and track faults, stopped many trains from running during July.

“V/Line’s priority is supporting the north-east line upgrade, which will improve the condition of the Albury line and enable V/Line trains to run up to 130km/h.”

“We understand that delays are very frustrating and we would like to thank passengers for their patience while we continue to work closely with the ARTC to try and improve performance on the Albury line.”

Saturday, August 8, 1898, was busy on the railway at Benalla.