The V-Line train service between Ballarat and Melbourne is a bloody disgrace, and something has to be done about – and sooner rather than later.
When Labor was in Opposition they promised us miracles. They jumped up and down, they waved their arms in the air, they frothed at the mouth like rabid dogs, and they beat them gums until they bled – all the while assuring us that, when they won government, they would overhaul the public transport system. It was going to be transport Utopia. I feel such a fool. I believed them! So, what did we get when Labor won power? A new timetable that runs slower than previously, and which causes too many trains to arrive late at Southern Cross station. The degree of difficulty and angst for regular commuters – those who live in Ballarat and work in Melbourne is overwhelming – and, seemingly, no-one cares. Why would they? Politicians use tax-payer funded, government cars. If they are a minister, they have access to a car and a driver. As a matter of interest, all politicians have a badge which allows them free travel on public transport; another of their little perks about which one hears nothing. I do not have a problem with politicians being properly recompensed for their efforts, and legitimate expenses being paid, but I am at a loss to understand why they should have free travel on public transport. The Australian Tax Office does not allow tax payers to claim, as a legitimate deduction, the cost of travelling to and from a place of employment. So why do politicians travel free on public transport? In the unlikely event they do take the train then they should pay like the rest of us.
I have a litany of grievances against V-Line:
Firstly, let me make it clear. My anger is not directed at the front-line staff of V-Line. They do a superb job dealing with some very tricky and dissatisfied customers. We should be careful not to shoot the messenger.
Several weeks ago, I took the train to Melbourne to connect with the airport bus. The train arrived 13-minutes late, causing me to miss the appropriate bus, and forcing me to take a taxi to the airport. V-Line accepts no responsibility.
V-line has a bizarre concept of time. Six-minutes, they argue, is not late; and thirteen-minutes is not deemed late enough to warrant a refund – that requires 20-minutes, or more. In my profession, if I were six-minutes late I would be chastised. If it became a regular habit – as it is with V-Line trains – I would be sacked – without question. The 2.17pm from Melbourne to Ballarat took one-hour and 29-minutes to travel 114-kms. That is an average speed of 76.853928-kms an hour. There are horses that run faster than that! In what could only be described as a moment of delusional hyperbole, the former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, dubbed the service between Ballarat and Melbourne as a ‘very fast train’! Indeed! A very fast train, as they are in Japan, travels at 320-kms an hour. On this same journey, I arrived at the Ballarat station only to discover I had left my Myki card in the pocket of another coat. I was forced – at cost of $3 – to buy another Myki card. I could not purchase a paper ticket even though they are sold at the station. Someone less charitable might classify the ridiculous ruling as a bloody rip-off. Later, I learned that commuters using monthly tickets are forced, should they inadvertently leave their Myki card at home on one morning, to pay the full daily cost of the return trip $38, plus $6 for another Myki card. That is scandalous by any standard.
The Myki card operates on a 24-hour clock. Should you take the last train from Melbourne to Ballarat, which arrives after midnight, then the Myki clock has already ticked over to the next day, and you are, automatically, deemed not to have touched-off, and, accordingly, you are charged the full cost. However, it gets worse. Because it is after midnight when you touch-off the Myki clock reads it as a touch-on which creates all sorts of problems when next you try and take the train. It then requires a lengthy battle with the Myki V-Line office to have your charges refunded. I know it to be so –it happened to me. It was a nightmare.
Ardeer and Deer Park are suburbs of Melbourne, 16 km and 17-kms, respectively, west of the central business district. Both have railway stations on the Melton greatermetropolitan line – which is a euphemism for the Ballarat line. It is beyond comprehension that these two metropolitan stations are serviced by V-Line. In an attempt to appease the justifiably disgruntled residents of these two suburbs, all Ballarat trains –in and out of Melbourne now stop at these two stations. It is preposterous. I have emailed the Minister, Jacinta Allan, outlining my grievances. I shall be interested to see how her office replies, if indeed it does.
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30 with Edwin Cowlishaw.