Former operator of private railway service slams V/Line's track record on the Warrnambool line

'Disgusting': A former director of the privately-run West Coast railway director Michael Menzies has spoken out about the treatment passengers have had to endure since the service went back into public ownership in 2004.
'Disgusting': A former director of the privately-run West Coast railway director Michael Menzies has spoken out about the treatment passengers have had to endure since the service went back into public ownership in 2004.

Warrnambool’s passenger train service has been labelled “pathetic” by a former director of West Coast Railways which ran a privatised service on the line for 11 years from 1993.

With the reliability of the Melbourne to Warrnambool service constantly coming under fire, West Coast Railways director Michael Menzies said some of the excuses “trotted out by V/Line are pretty disingenuous”.

“Particularly the last couple of years,” he said. 

“It’s disgusting what’s been done to the Warrnambool service over the last two years and I can’t believe that the Warrnambool community down there just sit back and accept it.

“There’s that many suburban passengers travelling on the Warrnambool train which shouldn’t be there.

“They’ve basically just turned the Warrnambool train into a suburban train service and lengthened the journey times by quarter of an hour and no one seems to be fussed about it.

“I don’t think anyone else in regional Victoria would have stood for it.”

Mr Menzies said the reliability of West Coast Railways regularly met the reliability targets – far greater than under V/Lline - during much of the decade-long privatised service which saw passenger number rise by 20 per cent. 

I don’t think anyone else in regional Victoria would have stood for it

Michael Menzies

“There was only a couple of occasions where we didn’t operate a train,” he said.

“If there was a railway crossing accident or if they’d shut the railway down between Melbourne and Geelong for a weekend we’d still run trains between Warrnambool and Geelong.

“We hardly ever cancelled the train.”

He said West Coast Railways had plenty of external issues affecting it, just as V/Line does, but they still managed to keep punctuality high – especially compared to V/Line. “We put quite an effort into running a punctual service, a clean service and a reliable service because we hoped that if we did that we’d be rewarded with good patronage,” Mr Menzies said.

 “We’d go broke because people wouldn’t use it if they didn’t do that.”

While April’s figures show that Warrnambool had its most punctual trains in six-and-a-half years, since the figures were released last week a number of trains have been cancelled because of breakdowns or line faults. 

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