With the new timetable, V/Line will run 80% of its train services radiating from Melbourne with buses replacing trains which are unable to run. By comparison, in the last week of January, V/Line was only able to run 30% of trains. Additional trains will be introduced on February 15, and further improvements are expected in mid-March, but a full rail service is not expected to resume until June. Passengers have been offered free travel in compensation for the disruption, but will have to start paying again on February 8 when they are able to use the trains.
The problems started in January when excessive wear was discovered on the wheels of V/Line's VLocity DMUs. Monash University is investigating the cause of the problem while V/Line is taking measures to reduce the rate of wear. Meanwhile the 1376 VLocity DMU wheels are being assessed to see whether they need to be reprofiled or replaced, and an accelerated wheel maintenance regime has been introduced.
Disruption was exacerbated in January when a VLocity train failed to activate a level crossing barrier in time on the Cranbourne – Packenham line. The National Safety Regulator has requested safety checks on all 21 level crossings on the line during the next six weeks. As a result VLocity trains are banned from the Melbourne – Traralgon line with buses replacing trains. On January 20, the Victorian government instructed Public Transport Victoria to accelerate the roll-out of axle counters on lines used by V/Line services. This should be completed by mid-March.
V/Line told the government during the third week of January that the problems had been identified and the vast majority of services would be running again by the end of the week. "This advice from V/Line was wrong and this unacceptable situation has caused the government to lose confidence in the leadership of V/Line," says Victoria's minister for public transport, Ms Jacinta Allan. "The CEO [Mr Theo Taifalos] has resigned effective immediately. Mr Gary Liddle will be the interim CEO of V/Line. Liddle is currently CEO of Public Transport Victoria and is the former CEO of VicRoads. He will be an experienced and steady hand to guide V/Line through this difficult period."
A parliamentary committee will question Liddle together with Mr Andrew Lezala, head of Metro Trains and the operator's director of engineering on February 9, to try to establish what went wrong.