Time For Transparency On V/Line Punctuality

With the federal election approaching, the continuing Regional Rail Link (RRL) project in Victoria is likely to be in the news more and more, particularly since such a large slice of the funding comes from federal coffers.

From its own website, RRL is:

“Dedicated regional tracks will be built from West Werribee Junction to Deer Park, then along the existing rail corridor from Sunshine to Southern Cross Station. When complete, passengers on the Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat lines will have a streamlined journey through the metropolitan system.”

Though there are some criticisms – (such as trains no longer stopping at North Melbourne) – the value of the RRL project is quite clear. Separating regional and metropolitan trains will stop each from affecting the punctuality of the other. It is long overdue.

With RRL providing the means to significantly reduce the cause of the majority of V/Line delays, the State Government is already trying to preach that punctuality should improve:

“The State Government expects V/Line to face tighter measures of its punctuality when Victoria’s most expensive infrastructure project comes online.”

“Premier Denis Napthine and Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder, who have electorates on the Warrnambool line, said they were well aware of commuters’ frustration and anguish at poor-performing V/Line services but assured people it would get better.”

“Figures for May show V/Line services on the Geelong line for May were on time only 76.8 per cent of the time the worst result in the past 12 months.”

Seriously, given the cost, there will be some massive questions to answer if RRL doesn’t substantially fix the problem.

When punctuality results are published, all we see for each line is a “reliability” figure – (the percentage of regular scheduled services are actually run), and a “punctuality” figure – (the percentage of services that actually ran that ran “on-time”).

For most services, a train is considered “on-time” if it arrives within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of the scheduled time.

But that’s all we get.

No information about which particular services we’re late or didn’t run at all. Just a simple summary as a percentage.

In terms of punctuality, and the reporting thereof, I believe it is time for something new.


For most people, the simple numbers are enough – but how do we know these figures are correct and aren’t fudged anyway?

V/Line and State Government should make freely available, a full report on which services did and didn’t run, which services were “on-time” or not “on-time”, where problems occur, and the reasons for those problems.

It would be interesting to see if what V/Line tells customers at the time trains are cancelled or are running late, actually marry up to what such a report might contain.

Last night, the regular 4:19pm train from Southern Cross to Geelong was cancelled due to a locomotive failure. Things go wrong from time to time, and that’s okay.

Problems happen.

But how do I know this cancellation will be included in the next monthly “reliability” result?

Of course, I don’t.

In discussions with people I sit with on trains, not everyone is convinced the numbers are ridgey-didge. There often seems to be more cancellations than the number suggests.

It would also be nice to know which individual services are having the most problems and why. The 4:19pm has been regularly delayed this year due to the same faulty door which kept failing on carriage set “N9”, requiring substantial delays while the conductor secured the door.

Such data would allow the public who pay their money to travel to see what they are getting for their money. It would allow them to compare their own observations of the performance of the network, to what we hear officially.

That is, it will provide transparency.

If such data was available with respect to the 4:19 “door issue”, I suspect it would paint a damning picture of the lack of maintenance. I know from a number of conductors that the door problem was repeatedly reported to maintenance teams, but it still took many weeks to have it fixed.

If RRL is going to improve punctuality, lets have the data to prove it.

How about it V/Line?