Frustrated: Castlemaine residents, such as Josh Meadows, are upset with changes to rail services. Picture: GLENN DANIELSThe benefits of commuting toMelbourne via rail are becoming harder to keep track of, a number of Bendigo linecommuters say.
Faced with disruptions to timetables andincreased commuting times,some are evenditchingtrain travel altogether andswitching to driving.
The commuters’ frustrationscome afterthe Julyopening of Regional Rail Link’s newdedicated track for Bendigo and Ballarat lines andnew timetable changes cominginto effect from this week.
Bendigo linecommuter Josh Meadows, wholives in Castlemaine butcommutes to Melbourne three times a week, said theoriginalmorning express serviceoncemade his trip to work “viable and easy”.
Mr Meadows said recent changes such asearlierdeparture times, increased stationsstops andslower trains meantthe benefits of theRegional Rail Link were not clear.
He said the newrail link bypass also meantBendigo commuters could no longer stop atNorth Melbourne station to connect with Melbourne’s north.
“Four-and-a-half years ago the morning express got me from Castlemaine to North Melbourne in one hour. Now it takes an hour-and-a-half,” he said.
“I can’t understand how, after all the years of track work and buses every school holidays, the Regional Rail Link has actually made our train trips to the city longer, not shorter.
“The state government should be concerned about this, as slower trains will not encourage more people to live in regional areas and commute to work in Melbourne.”
Castlemaine’sBernadette Ervinsaid she had been using the sameserviceonce a week for about four years,but started driving when the Regional Rail Link work began.
“There’s no real advantage for me catching the train anymore,” she said.
“It’s much easier for me to get in the car, even as one person -which I amphilosophicallyopposed to – than deal with the stress of my train commute now.
“It used to be quite a convenient service but it’s not now. It’s maximum inconvenience for regional commuters.”
She said having to change trains atFootscray rather than North Melbourne meant she hadto “run like mad” to catch the next connecting train to get to work on time.
“What happens is you arrive at Footscray and you get spat out of the station and then have to get back in to the station,” she said.
“Then you miss your connecting train and have to get the later train, so it’s about a 10 minute delay.”
Woodvale resident Bruce Henderson, who works in Collingwood, has beenjumping on themorning expressservice from Bendigoto Melbourne every day for six years.
But he said he was recently inspired to start driving after his two-hour door-to-doorcommute became almost three.
“I’m now going to drive down one day a week every week, just so I can gain three hours of my life back each week,” he said.
A Public Transport Victoria spokesperson said thebenefits of the Regional Rail Linkwould be fullyrealised when construction wascomplete in early 2015.
Bendigo trains began running on dedicated tracks between Sunshine and Southern Cross Station in mid-July.
“Passengers will continue to see changes, including extra services, as further stages of the project are complete,” the spokesmansaid.
Regional Rail LinkAuthority spokesperson BobNeilson said the projectwas a multi-billion investment in better train services for Bendigo.
He saidremoving North Melbourne was about removing one of the “biggestbottlenecks” in the metro system,which wouldincreasereliability and capacity for both regional and metropolitan services.
“While this is a travel change for passengers, the benefit is that trains from Bendigo no longer get stuck behind Metro trains between Sunshine and the city, reducing unscheduled delays and creating space to run more Bendigo services in the future,” he said.
Footscray station wasin the process of being transformed into a modern transport interchangewith capacity to manage thousands of metropolitan and regional customers daily, Mr Neilson said.
Construction of the project is on track to be complete this year, with services due to start running on along the entire alignment in the first half of 2015, he said.
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