PASSENGER demand for the Warrnambool train service is not strong enough for extra services, according to Transport Minister Terry Mulder.
A concerted push by south-west mayors to have more frequent services was launched last week but Mr Mulder said the state government did not want to operate “costly empty passenger trains”.
Mr Mulder indicated the state government was open to discussions on the matter but there needed to be further passenger demand for extra services.
A spokeswoman for the Transport Minister said the $10 million Warncoort passing loop had provided greater operational capacity along the Warrnambool line but the need for extra services still needed to be justified.
“The government will further discuss this important matter, but we do not want to be operating costly empty passenger trains along the Warrnambool line,” the spokeswoman said.
“It is essential that before any additional trains are introduced there is evidence that they will be well patronised.”
Figures released by V/Line reveal the early morning service from Warrnambool to Melbourne had the strongest patronage of the six weekday services, with carriages 69 per cent full on average.
However, two weekday services operate at less than half-full. The Monday to Friday 5.15pm Warrnambool-Melbourne connection and the 7.20am Melbourne-Warrnambool link have a 35 per cent average patronage.
A regular sell-out, the 11.40am Saturday Warrnam-bool-Melbourne service, was the line’s most popular with a 101 per cent patronage rate.
The 7.10am Sunday Warrnambool-Melbourne connection was also close to capacity at a 96 per cent, meaning only 15 seats were usually spare.
Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor said it was not unusual for seating shortages on the service, especially for south-west passengers taking day trips to Melbourne.
“There’s no doubt the train service is far more popular than it was 10 or so years ago,” Cr O’Connor said.
“That’s led to a few services here and there being booked out. The demand is only going to continue to grow.”
Moyne Shire mayor James Purcell said the morning train service to Melbourne was particularly popular with day trippers and shoppers.
“There’s certainly increasing demand for the Warrnambool service and that has to be matched with extra services,” Cr Purcell said.
“If you have regular services at reasonable times, the passengers will vote with their feet and support those services.”
Warrnambool line services generally have 330 seats depending on the number of carriages and the data showed services on average had at least 100 seats available.
V/Line often commissions additional carriages when major events are taking place in Warrnambool, Geelong or the state capital, such as during the Royal Melbourne Show and the May Racing Carnival.