V/Line beats Metro for frequent trains in Melbourne’s west

With a name like ‘Metro’ one would think that trains in suburban Melbourne run more frequently than trains to ‘country’ Victoria. But in Melbourne’s west you’d be wrong – V/Line services run more frequently!

Three of the next four departures from Sunshine station are V/Line services

V/Line to Deer Park

Welcome to Deer Park station, located 17 kilometres west from Southern Cross Station.

VLocity VL62 and classmate run express through Deer Park on the up

With nothing of note other than car parks and suburban houses.

Gravel car park on the south side of Deer Park station full of cars

In peak many trains run express through the station.

Citybound VLocity train runs express through Deer Park station

And the trains that do stop are already full of passengers from Geelong and Ballarat.

Full VLocity train at Deer Park heads for the city in morning peak

And Ardeer

Even more forgettable is Ardeer station.

VLocity VL65 runs express through Ardeer station on the up

Only 15 kilometres from Southern Cross.

A66 leads the down Bacchus Marsh service out of Ardeer

Yet still had a gravel platform as late as 2014.

Ardeer station now hidden on both sides by steel noise walls

In 2015 Regional Rail Link transformed the level of service to both stations – going from a train every two hours to a train around every 20 minutes, split between the Ballarat and Geelong lines.

Dedicated V/Line timetable for Deer Park and Ardeer passengers at Sunshine station

But from 31 January 2021 the service levels have doubled again – off peak, Deer Park now sees six trains per hour, with every second train stopping at Ardeer as well.

Meanwhile riding Metro Trains Melbourne to Sunshine

Sunshine station was rebuilt as part of the Regional Rail Link project in 2014, and is located 12 kilometres from Southern Cross.

Siemens 769M arrives into Sunshine station on the up

With four platforms, served by V/Line and Metro trains.

VLocity VL54 on an up Wendouree service parallels Siemens 820M at Sunshine

It is also a major transport hub for connecting buses.

Transdev bus #380 4084AO on route 220 along Devonshire Road, Sunshine

With the area around the station a service and shopping hub for the surrounding suburbs.

Transdev bus #438 9038AO on route 220 heads along a redeveloped Hampshire Road in Sunshine

But how many trains stop there off peak? Half that of Deer Park – just three trains an hour!

So how to fix it?

Off peak trains run every 10 minutes between the City and Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston despite little promotion, with plans for a wider rollout promised in 2014 but never went anywhere.

A train every 10 minutes to Dandenong and Frankston, yet they leave Caulfield for the city at the same time

But what about the Metro Tunnel, which will allow ‘More Trains More Often’ between Sunbury and the city once it is completed in 2025?

'High capacity signalling is coming to Melbourne' banner around the Sunshine signal control centre site

Hahaha!

The original Metro Tunnel business plan from 2016 delivered nothing to the Sunbury line, with millions spent on an extra platform at West Footscray so that trains from the city would not have to continue west to Sunshine and Sunbury!

EDI Comeng 318M arrives into the new West Footscray platform 1

The only bright spot on the horizon – the upcoming Melbourne Airport Rail Link will run via Sunshine, which will hopefully double the number of trains serving this growing suburban hub.

Footnote: V/Line trains and suburban passengers

For many years V/Line trains stopping at suburban stations have been advertised as ‘Not taking suburban passengers’.

Southern Cross trains showing as 'No Suburban Passengers' at Sunshine station

And for a while enforcing it was pretty simple – V/Line had their own system of paper tickets, so conductors could check to see where someone boarded.

But the 2014 introduction of Myki to V/Line removed this distinction, so a new rule was added to the Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual.

V/Line pick-up and set-down restrictions

For the purposes of the Conditions under this heading, in following three paragraphs, ‘metropolitan railway station’ means a railway station shown on the Melbourne Train Network Map in Figure A of Schedule 2 to these Conditions, other than Ardeer, Caroline Springs, Deer Park, Rockbank, Melton, Sunbury and Pakenham railway stations.

A customer may only board a V/Line train at a metropolitan railway station if the V/Line train service ends at a railway station that is not a metropolitan railway station.

A customer may only alight from a V/Line train at a metropolitan railway station if the V/Line train service ends at a railway station that is a metropolitan railway station or with the permission of an authorised person.

If a customer boards, or alights from, a V/Line train at a metropolitan railway station in contravention of either of the two immediately preceding paragraphs, any ticket held by the customer is not, or ceases to be, valid for the customer’s journey that consists of, or includes, the customer’s travel in that V/Line train or for any entry to a compulsory ticket area associated with that journey.

Basically the new rule renders your valid ticket invalid for travel if you use on a V/Line train at a station with set-down and pick-up restrictions – allowing them to fine you for fare evasion.

Footnote: level crossings at Deer Park

During the construction of Regional Rail Link, residents of Ardeer were worried that level crossings would spend more time closed than open.

Posters from the 'Fix the Links' Residents Rail Action Group at the Fitzgerald Road level crossing

And they were surprisingly accurate – the gates down for up to 40 minutes at a time!

CDC Melbourne bus on route 400 stuck at the level crossing in Deer Park

At least that problem is about to be solved – the level crossings at Mt Derrimut Road and Robinsons Road in Deer Park, and Fitzgerald Road in Ardeer are about to be grade separated.

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One Response to “V/Line beats Metro for frequent trains in Melbourne’s west”

  1. […] in 1976, in addition to the rebuilt Ardeer station, but no extra services were provided – something not addressed until the opening of Regional Rail Link in 2015, and the opening of Caroline Springs station in […]

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