Overheard near Nagambie, about travelling to Melbourne:
“A lot of people go to Seymour to catch the train. There’s one once an hour from there.”
At stations beyond Seymour, where the Shepparton and the Albury line branch off, there’s usually only about 3 trains each way per day.
But at Seymour, there are 20 to Melbourne on weekdays, and 13 on Saturdays and on Sundays. The more services, the more options, more freedom.
Some people will drive to Seymour to get that… just as in the past some people would drive to junction stations like Caulfield — I suspect this happens less now that the Frankston and Dandenong both run every 10-15 minutes, 7 days-a-week (at least in the daytime).
Last night on the TV news they seemed to be struggling for an accurate figure of how many were affected by the closure of the Geelong line. One said “hundreds”, another said “up to a thousand”.
Figures on V/Line’s web site, which summarise the number of people on each train so you can plan your trip to avoid the packed ones, indicate that about three thousand catch the Geelong line each peak hour.
The figures appear to show 100% when the services are over-capacity — eg when people end up standing or sitting in aisles on the trip.
Looking at all the lines, the figures (into Melbourne before 9am; out of Melbourne between 4pm and 6:30pm) are:
I knew they’d grown strongly since the Regional Fast Rail upgrades were completed mid last decade, and the 2007 price cut, but I’m almost surprised to see the Bendigo and Ballarat lines up within about 10-15% of the Geelong figures. This probably emphasises why V/Line and the Department of Transport have been so keen on the Regional Rail Link project, to get all the busiest lines on their own tracks within the suburban area.
The Bendigo figures are likely to drop when Sunbury and Diggers Rest stations join the electrified Metro network later this year. This will also free up some carriages to run on other lines.
Obviously off-peak passengers are also affected by line closures, and we don’t have figures for them. To a greater extent than Melbourne suburban services, V/Line services are very concentrated in the peak (trains every few minutes in some cases), but quieter outside it (mostly hourly). Something they could/should do to help spread the peak load is upgrade off-peak frequencies.
PS: I see some real figures have made it into an Age Online story this morning.