Warrnambool train line passengers have struggled through V/Line’s worst performance month for the year.
Latest figures for June revealed 71.3 per cent of Warrnambool trains arrived on time, falling more than 20 per cent short of V/Line’s punctuality target of 92 per cent.
The result comes two months after the line recorded its best performance since October 2011.
V/Line chief executive James Pinder said the operator was working through one if its largest capital investment programs and delays on the line were to be expected.
“Last month as a result of engineering works we had to introduce some temporary speed restrictions,” he said.
“We don’t like to provide poor performance to our passengers and we apologise for that, but we have now lifted those speed restrictions as that infrastructure has settled down.
“This is something we can expect will be a challenge for us as we work our way through this huge capital investment program, in particular the Regional Revival Program. It’s never going to be easy to continue to operate while you’ve got infrastructure works going on but we are doing everything that we can.”
The Warrnambool line has exceeded it’s punctuality target 11 times in the past decade.
Mr Pinder said performance on the line had improved after a total of 22 level crossings between Geelong and Warrnambool had been upgraded as part of the $50 million Safer Country Crossings Program.
“Performance figures were previously down to 20 per cent and we knew we needed to upgrade all of those level crossings, which we did,” he said.
“Earlier this year we received 92 per cent (for punctuality) and in the meantime we’ve done more work, which does regrettably disrupt operations, but I expect (this month’s) performance to get back to those figures we saw at the beginning of the year.”
But passengers have already endured several delays and cancellations this month, with all four services cancelled on Monday due to a level crossing fault at Allansford, and an additional fifth service was cancelled due to a shortage of carriages caused by a train fault in Melbourne.
Mr Pinder said V/Line still had the rest of July to deliver a better performance outcome.
“Over the weekend we had one level crossing and one signal issue. We unfortunately also had a tresspass issue, where someone managed to get on the line and cause disruption on the line, which was frustrating, but we’ve now fixed those issues and I don’t see any reason why we can’t see a much better outcome.”
Liberal member for south-west coast Roma Britnell said the state government was “all talk when it comes to improving regional rail”.
“Jacinta Allan (Minister for Public Transport) keeps moving the goal posts,” she said.
“First she said things would improve when level crossings upgrades were completed at the end of the last year, now she’s saying it won’t be until the whole line is upgraded.”
The line’s punctuality record has continually frustrated passengers and been used to push the case for new rolling stock.
The state government allocated $114m in last year’s budget to fund track works and new VLocity trains on the line. But no timeline for the introduction of the new trains has been given.