No More Seven Car Geelong V/Locity Trains?

While the recent announcement of the addition of 40 new carriages to the V/Line fleet is welcome after years of overcrowding, particularly on the Geelong and Ballarat lines, I believe that an important point has been missed.

“Mr Mulder said today the Government would spent about $207 million on 40 carriages. The carriages equate to seven three-carriage trains. The remaining 19 carriages will be used to bump existing two-car trains up to three.”

This is interesting because in November 2008, the “flagship” services between Melbourne and Geelong were upgraded from six carriages to seven carriages. This was achieved by coupling a three-car set with a pair of two-car sets to provide seven carriages.

The single platforms at South Geelong and Marshall, and both of platforms five and six at North Melbourne were extended to cater for the increased length of the consists.

Except there won’t be any two-car V’Locity sets left after this order is completed. So consists can only be in multiples of three carriages.

Three, six or nine.

We won’t see nine, as the platforms aren’t long enough – so the longest V’Locity consists we will see are six carriages long.

The money specifically spent extending the platforms to host seven carriages has effectively been wasted.

Now, it could be argued that the additional seven V’Locity sets will allow more trains to be run to cover the drop in carriages numbers making individual services – and that yet may happen.

That would certainly be welcome.

However, the government has not yet committed to the increase of services:

“A V/Line spokeswoman said the Baillieu government had not yet accepted its proposal to run off-peak Melbourne-Geelong trains every 20 minutes.”

The bottom line is, even if the number of operating services increases to compensate for the loss of carriages – (and therefore seats) – on individual services, the loss of two-carriage V’Locity sets also decreases the flexibility of the fleet.

Two-carriage consists, and five-carriage consists will also no longer be possible.

It means that services that might previously have run with a single two-carriage set will now have to run with three-carriages – which will increase fuel usage by 50% for those services.

Previous five-carriage services either have to decrease to three carriages – (a service reduction) – or increase to six carriages – (extra fuel usage) – to operate.

This just doesn’t seem all that well thought out.

If they went for 42 new carriages instead of 40, we could have 14 more three-carriage sets – (instead of just seven) – and we could maintain the flexibility of having two-car sets in the fleet.

They could also run even more extra services, because instead of 58 V/Locity sets they will end up with after this new order, they would have 65 sets.

Extra carriages are great – (and welcome) – but every silver lining has its very own grey cloud.