Passengers want more
Most official reports make for pretty dry reading, but RACV’s On Track survey, which examines the feelings and satisfaction of Victorian rail commuters, paints a vivid picture.
Between the lines, you can almost see the travellers on the Werribee line, hunched and sad. Two of the line’s stations, at Aircraft and Hoppers Crossing, are named among the most disliked in the state.
Meanwhile, in the very next suburb, you can imagine those happy, shiny passengers waiting for the Geelong V/Line train to arrive at Wyndham Vale station with its new, purpose-built facilities, including plenty of parking and decent rest rooms.
Maybe the only reason Wyndham Vale lost any points is that a community campaign to name it Manor Lake failed just before it opened in 2015. But other than that, it’s Victoria’s favourite station.
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For passengers at Aircraft, it probably comes as no surprise that the survey found 17 per cent of train users say they don’t necessarily use the station closest to their home, preferring to travel further for more trains, better connections and easier parking. Like, say, Wyndham Vale.
The RACV On Track survey happens every two years and provides a clear and detailed picture of where the rail system and facilities are working and not working for the people who use them.
More than 17,800 train commuters participated in the 2015 survey, a massive response which has given RACV detailed information and metrics to inform strategy when advocating potential investments in discussions with the State Government.
Questions included asking commuters about their biggest gripe with the system – whether that be personal safety, the number of seats on trains or how annoying they found other passengers. (For the record, metro passengers found fellow passengers more annoying or noisy than did regional travellers.)
Some of the findings won’t be a surprise. The top issues at train stations, for those with an issue, were trouble finding a car park (53 per cent), insufficient or a lack of toilet facilities (33 per cent) and not feeling safe at certain times of the day (30 per cent).
These were also the top three concerns in the 2013 RACV On Track survey. But of particular interest will be the top-ranked issue on trains.
A lack of seating was the new No. 1 as the most common gripe in the 2015 survey, with almost half of respondents (49 per cent) concerned about the lack of somewhere to sit.
In the 2013 survey, this was the fourth most common gripe, and when you add it to 2015’s second-most common complaint, ‘Trains too crowded, 47 per cent’, it’s clear where the problems lie.
Trains running late was the third most common concern.
The survey will also open a debate about how to fix the lack of car parking at many stations. Seventy-two per cent of respondents who drive to the station were against paying for parking, on top of the cost of actually catching the train. But driving to the station remains the most common method of travelling there (42 per cent overall), especially in regional Victoria (51 per cent) – which makes more sense when you read the data that says regional users attempting to catch a bus or coach to the station average a hefty 62 minutes in travelling time. In metro Melbourne, travelling by bus to the station averages only 21 minutes, in comparison.
Walking is another popular option, particularly for Metro users.
The lowest ranking train service in the state was from Wodonga, with complaints of trains running late, if at all, and offering dirty carriages when they did show up. The station’s train service ranked a miserable 3.68 out of 10, compared with Watergardens on the Sunbury line which rated 8.86 out of 10 for satisfied customers.
Three of the five lowest-ranked stations for train service were on the Seymour V/Line route, which should alert policy- makers. Almost a third of unsatisfied passengers say they don’t always feel safe arriving at stations, walking from the car and waiting for trains. Except for the folk of Wyndham Vale, of course.
Thanuja Gunatillake, RACV’s manager of public transport and mobility, says: “The results of the On Track survey will be presented to the State Government and operators to help inform public transport policy.”