Freight and passenger services on the Warrnambool train line have been suspended until next week due to malfunctioning level crossing boomgates.
Opposition leader Matthew Guy labelled the state government’s handling of the issue as “incompetent” during a visit to the south-west on Thursday.
“Lines like the Warrnambool line have a huge impact not just in passenger transport but in freight as well,” Mr Guy said.
“This is going to cost the regional economy millions of dollars. That’s jobs (and) that’s investment that is essential to keeping our economy going here in the south-west.
“I’m astounded that the government can’t get at least safety workers standing at those level crossings so that the trains can at least pass – it might be slower but then they can at least pass.”
Mr Guy said the government had a Melbourne-centric focus, spending $7 billion on Melbourne rail and putting a “pittance” back into country areas.
Warrick Loft, owner of Warrnambool-based West Vic Container Export, said he learned on Thursday that the freight services crucial to his business would not be resuming until at least Monday.
Mr Loft said he had not yet calculated the cost of the interruption, but said he was concerned about the impact on his relationship with his customers.
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said it wasn’t good enough that businesses were affected, halting the transport of the region’s produce.
“We have perishable products from our Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory and meat products from our abattoir,” she said.
“And we have aluminium products – all really big industries in our region that can’t get product to market.”
V/Line spokesman Rob Curtain said the lights, bells and boomgate at an unidentified site were operating with a warning of 20 seconds, instead of the required 25 seconds.
In a statement, Mr Curtain said even though there was no danger to the safety of passengers, staff or road users, a full investigation was underway to prevent further risk.
“Any variation to our time frames for activation is taken seriously,” he said.
He said additional inspections, vegetation reduction, and the reconfiguring of frequencies and other settings were currently underway.
“These service changes are in addition to planned works... (enabling) improvements to the stabling facility in Warrnambool in preparation for extra weekday and Sunday services,” he said.
Trains will resume next week with buses running until then.