Warrnambool line passengers will travel to and from Melbourne for a fraction of the price in just nine days, but a public transport expert has questioned whether the state government will "live to regret it".
Travel will cost $9.20 on weekdays and $6.70 on weekends, with concession fares half that, from March 31, under a Daniel Andrews election promise to bring regional public transport fares in line with those in metropolitan areas.
The state government last month confirmed the fare cap would be permanent, covering all state government run public transport including trains, regional and town buses and V/Line coaches.
But issues have been raised about whether there'll be enough seats if patronage increases as a result of the drastic cap.
The current rolling fleet have more than 400 seats available but The Standard has previously reported the VLocity trains, which are hoped to run on the line in 2024, could offer just 222 seats.
Once introduced, the VLocity trains will run as either a three or six-carriage train, providing either 222 or 444 seats for passengers.
John Hearsch, the president of independent transport think tank Rail Futures Institute (RIF), said there were questions about whether the state had enough rolling fleet to cater for the demand of transport once the fare drops.
He said RIF wasn't against a fare reduction but "this one has gone overboard and they may live to regret it".
Mr Hearsch said fortunately the majority of VLocity services ran with a "double", six-carriage train.
But, he said V/Line would have to anticipate patronage "sufficiently", particularly for the morning and evening services to and from Warrnambool.
"If they're going to try and cater for demand, and it may well be a very substantial demand, they'll be faced with even more significant capital expenditure," he said.
"They'll need to buy more trains or in some cases, have to amplify the infrastructure in order to be able to accommodate more trains on a given corridor."
Mr Hearsch said the Warrnambool train line works were designed to have five trains "each way, a day".
"If (V/Line) ever found themselves in a position they have to run more than that, they're probably going to have to build more crossing loops and they don't come cheaply. There's also a lot of time spent designing and building them."
Mr Hearsch said increased patronage would also have a flow-on effect, including at train station car parks and with road coach connections.
"This effects the coaches you've got out of Warrnambool, going to Portland and Mount Gambier, they're also included in that reduction and the implications will also flow on to those coach companies," he said.
"The same will also happen on those occasions where trains need to be replaced with coaches, which happens because of maintenance works and things like that. It could overwhelm everything."
Mr Hearsch said it could be a general problem across the state, not just on the Warrnambool line.
"Whether they will have enough rolling stock to cater with the demand, only time will tell," he said.
"The reductions (in fares) are startling, I must say. They're unprecedented."
On Tuesday Premier Mr Andrews and V/Line chief executive Matt Carrick spoke on concerns raised about increasing pressure on the regional network.
Mr Carrick said the state government had scenario tested where they believe demand will be highest across the network, and were confident the current train fleet had capacity to meet any potential influx post March 31.
"We are confident we have the capacity, as the minister and premier have said, since 2019 a couple of extra services have been added, 25 extra trains have been added to the network and there is more to come," he said.
However, Mr Carrick said overcrowding may still be an issue on some lines, with the government taking a "wait-and-see" approach on where to fix the most pressure.
V/Line has been contacted for comment.
IN OTHER NEWS
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.