Geelong commuters would wait until “the middle of the year” before train services returned to normal, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said yesterday.
But a “stable” temporary timetable out Monday would give “greater certainty” about V/Line services operating normally and others replaced with buses over the next five weeks, she said at Geelong Railway Station.
“This plan means people can plan their travel, their appointments and their lives with greater confidence, even if not all services are running as they should.
“On the advice I’ve been given, passengers should expect to see a return to the full service timetable by June.”
Wheel-wear problems have disrupted services over the few weeks and forced many rail commuters onto buses to complete their journeys.
“We’ve seen a decrease in the wheel-wear rate but there’s still a way to go before it’s at a safe, acceptable level,“ Ms Allan said.
But the government’s timeframe for resuming normal services was “not good enough” said Liberal South Barwon MP Andrew Katos.
“We’re talking almost six months. This whole V/Line issue is still completely chaotic,“ Mr Katos said.
“The concept of stability and certainty is completely contradictory.
“It’s causing unacceptable disruptions to people’s daily lives – there’s still no certainty as to what’s going on.
“And the June timeline is on advice from PTV and V/Line. These are the organisations who gave her incorrect advice a month ago.
“I don’t think the public would have much confidence in Jacinta Allan.”
Interim V/Line chief Gary Liddle, who took over less than a week ago, said passengers could expect fewer replacement buses as Velocity trains began returning in April.
A report due mid-March should “isolate the cause of the wheel-wear issues”, he said.
Public Transport Users Association Geelong branch convenor Paul Westcott said commuters had yet to hear from a “key player” in the “fiasco”.
“Bombardier is a French/Canadian manufacturing firm with the contract to maintain the Velocity and holding line fleets for V/Line.
“I haven’t heard a peep of what their role has been in all of this and I’d like to know where they fit in.
“This whole thing is very mysterious. We still don’t know how so quickly one-quarter of the fleet could be withdrawn overnight.”
The Independent was unable to obtain comment from Bombardier before going to press.
Commuters will pay usual fares for regular V/Line and bus services from Monday but travel on replacement coaches will be free until 13 March as compensation for the inconvenience.
Originally published at Geelong Independent.