About two weeks ago, Metro staff were distributing pamphlets at the Westona Train Station, informing passengers of new peak hour services stopping all stations and terminating at Laverton Station. Yesterday is the first time I boarded a Laverton-bound train from North Melbourne Station at 6.05 p.m. The train carriages were practically empty, with many vacant seats to choose from. This is unlike previous Werribee trains which are often packed with people at this time. After I settled into a seat, one man across the aisle and one man behind started talking to me. I attributed the vacant train to the Melbourne Cup public holiday next Tuesday, with many passengers taking long holiday over the weekend. The man sitting behind from Yarraville said that this new service usually carries few passengers as there is a Williamstown train 5 minutes earlier. He finds this new service useful for he can still catch this train if he misses the earlier Williamstown train.
In the past, Werribee trains always run through the City Loop. To “untangle” the network, Werribee trains were changed to run direct to and from Flinders Street during peak hours two years ago. This resulted in inconvenience to the City Loop passengers as they will need to change to a connecting train. The change benefited others such as the Sydenham passengers as well as those Werribee-bound passengers working near Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations. I would consider myself a benefactor. I take a shuttle bus from the University of Melbourne to North Melbourne station after work everyday. When the Werribee trains were running through the City Loop, they would have already picked up most passengers from the City Loop stations. Williamstown trains do not run through the City Loop so many Williamstown-bound passengers also board the Werribee trains and change trains at Newport. Consequently, Werribee trains are always full by the time they reach North Melbourne and I was never able to get a seat. However, when Werribee trains run direct from Flinders Street, I find that I am able to get a seat 90% of the time.
One disadvantage of living in Altona is that the train operator (Connex or Metro) tends to sacrifice Altona passengers by running Altona Loop trains express between Newport and Laverton, whenever there are train cancellations or delays. This may be an unannounced policy, aimed at mitigating train delays at most stations on the Werribee Line. Altona passengers have the most to lose. Not only are Altona Loop trains run at half the frequency, they are also the first to be cancelled in the event of a breakdown in services. Hence, Altona passengers may be the last to reach home or arrive at their offices compared to other passengers on the Werribee Line. I hope the new Laverton services will help to redress the inequity.
I do notice that the train services have improved visibly over the past 2-3 weeks. Whereas my morning train service from Westona had always been late for 5-15 minutes, I am pleasantly surprised to find that its punctuality has improved markedly in recent days. I do not know whether Metro has found the panacea or whether this has anything to do with the impending State Election, of which public transport is a hot item on the agenda. I am just hoping this improvement is sustainable and not a flash in the pan.