Train services on the Melbourne-to-Albury line have plummeted to a new low, with the line now one of the worst in the state for punctuality and reliability.
The latest Public Transport Victoria performance results show that from November 2015 to 2016, on-time performance punctuality on the Albury line dropped nearly 40 per cent, from 94.9 per to just 55.2 per cent of trains arriving on time.
V/Line spokesperson Catalina Filip blamed the poor results on the condition of the tracks, which is the responsibility of the Federal body, the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
‘‘While we continue to do everything we can to run services on time, the condition of the track — which is managed by ARTC — means speed restrictions are necessary to ensure the safety of services, customers and staff,’’ Ms Filip said.
‘‘Providing a reliable and punctual train service is top of mind for every member of the V/Line team, however, we will not compromise on safety.’’
Out of the 73 reported delays on the Albury line in November, 47 were a direct result of the speed restrictions on the track.
However, the ARTC denied it was at fault.
In a statement to The Ensign, it said, ‘‘The underlying track condition through North East Victoria is good and remains stable.
‘‘As it was an unusually wet winter and spring period in Victoria, this did contribute to additional temporary speed restrictions (TSRs) being applied.
‘‘Despite this track condition remains good and is at a sustainable level and TSRs remain within a level that allows train services to meet their scheduled running times.’’
Border Rail Action Group’s Bill Traill said the heavy rain was partly to blame, but deterioration of the track was largely due to damage from freight trains.
‘‘This is a result of the modern freight trains that travel along the North Eastern lines, such as the daily steel trains that travel through Benalla and Albury which, due to their size and weight, cause an immense amount of damage to the already imperfect tracks,’’ he said.
Mr Traill said the service would not substantially improve until capital expenditure for V/Line long-haul trains was increased.
‘‘The Victorian Government has been derelict in discharging their responsibilities onto the ARTC in terms of monitoring and refurbishment,’’ Mr Traill said.
Benalla Rural City is one of four councils sharing the cost of a study of passenger rail services on the Melbourne-to-Albury line, so it can lobby governments more effectively for an improvement in services.