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Politics reportedly delaying Metro timetable

Melbourne newspaper the Age has claimed the new Metro timetable is being delayed by the Andrews Government’s hesitation to remove peak-hour services from the politically-critical Frankston line.

The government opened the 47.5km Regional Rail Link in June, separating regional Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong services from suburban services. To take advantage of the new capacity, it planned to release a new timetable.

So far no timetable has been released. And according to a Wednesday report in the Age, the delay is due to the government’s desire to maintain current peak services to the Frankston line.

Four election seats – Bentleigh, Carrum, Mordialloc and Frankston – are situated along the Frankston line. Known as the ‘sand-belt’ seats, all four changed hands to the Coalition at the 2010 state election, and all four changed hands again, to Labor, at the 2014 election[note]Frankston was won by Geoff Shaw in 2010, when he was part of the Coalition. He resigned from the Liberal Party in March 2013, becoming an Independent. Labor won the seat in 2014.[/note].

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said in February the timetable would be delayed in line with a delay to the opening of the Regional Rail Link, saying the previous Coalition Government delayed the project when it failed to order V/Line rolling stock in its first two years in power.

“The Liberals and Nationals were going to open Regional Rail Link knowing there was a massive risk of service cancellations and commuter chaos,” Allan claimed.

“The Regional Rail Link was planned and funded under the previous Labor Government,” she said. “All the Coalition had to do was order enough trains but apparently that was too hard.”

At the time, Allan said the delay to the opening of the Regional Rail Link also meant a delay to the implementation of metropolitan train, tram and bus timetable changes.

But according to the Age report, the only thing holding the new timetables back is the Andrews Government “baulking” at changes that would remove some Frankston line trains from the City Loop during peak times.

Changes stalled by the government would also see Glen Waverley line trains, which use the loop in the afternoon, instead terminating at Flinders Street. And like the Frankston line, some peak-hour trains on the Craigieburn line would also miss the City Loop.

It’s all part of the former Coalition Government’s five year plan, which was scheduled to run to 2017, had the Andrews Government not intervened this year.

“The secret Liberal timetable would have come at the expense of thousands of commuters on Frankston, Glen Waverley and Craigieburn lines,” acting public transport minister Luke Donnellan was quoted by the Fairfax paper.

On his personal blog, Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen wrote that he was disappointed the changes were being delayed, but said he hoped they went ahead eventually.

“The Loop changes would be painful for some, but the pay-off (as usual) is more frequent services, roughly a 20% peak boost on some lines, up to 50% in the evenings (from two trains per hour to three) and further moves towards ten minute services all-day everyday,” Bowen wrote.

“You can’t have all the lines converging on the four track City Loop,” he said. “Those tracks are pretty much full. To make better use of the substantial track capacity in the CBD, some lines have to go direct into Flinders Street and Southern Cross.”

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