V/Line chief executive Theo Taifalos has resigned, and the state government is furious after wheel wear issues and a level crossing incident continued to disrupt Victoria’s regional rail service in the last week of January.
Following roughly a fortnight of service disruptions as a result of faster-than-normal wheel wear on V/Line’s VLocity fleet and a boom-gate fault, public transport minister Jacina Allan labelled the situation “totally unacceptable” on January 28.
“Last week, the Government was told the problems had been identified and the vast majority of services would be up and running by the end of the week,” a statement from Allan’s office said on Thursday.
“This advice from V/Line was wrong and this unacceptable situation has caused the Government to lose confidence in the leadership of V/Line.”
Allan’s strong statement came roughly a week after the minister put the disruptions down to V/Line’s “failure to adequately prepare for increased regional services”.
Public Transport Victoria chief executive Gary Liddle will take over as interim CEO of V/Line.
“V/Line passengers are furious – and so is the government,” Allan said on Thursday.
“What has happened is not good enough.”
Updating its prior guidance, V/Line now expects services on the Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong lines to steadily improve from mid-February, “but it will be months before normal services resume in full,” Allan warned.
“V/Line is taking steps to reduce the rate of wheel wear but extensive testing is still underway to determine the exact cause of the problem.
“This is absolutely vital work to ensure the safety of passengers on all our rail networks.”
The boom-gate fault – which saw a VLocity train reportedly pass through a Dandenong level crossing without triggering the boom gates – has not been linked to the wheel wear issue by the government or by V/Line.
The National Safety Regulator has advised the state government that safety measures must be carried out on all 21 “affected” crossings on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, Allan said.
“While this work is undertaken over the next six weeks, VLocity trains cannot run between Traralgon and Melbourne and will be replaced by coaches,” Allan said. The government is also investigating using other train models to boost services.
“The government has already ordered a review of V/Line operations, and the technical investigations into the wheel wear and boom-gate issues are continuing.
“A Cabinet Committee will be overseeing this issue until it is resolved.”