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V/Line head resigns as passengers wait for rail ‘debacle’ to be resolved

The Guardian, 29 January 2016
Passengers on Victoria’s troubled regional rail network have been dealt another blow with news that V/Line is still too unstable to resume regular service. The chief executive of V/Line, Theo Taifalos, has also resigned. The Victorian transport minister, Jacinta Allan, said the government was furious but denied Taifalos was sacked or had been asked to leave.

“I and the government did have concerns about the operational capacity of V/Line,” she told reporters on Thursday. “Obviously the CEO has reflected on his position.”

Taifalos said his resignation was for the best after Allan announced that the Public Transport Victoria chief, Gary Liddle, would be the interim CEO of V/Line.

The uncertainty facing V/Line has prompted Allan to delay a scheduled timetable upgrade because the “overall service was not stable or reliable”. Passengers also face long delays as buses continue to replace trains on some lines.

Coaches will replace V-locity services between Traralgon and Melbourne on the Gippsland line for another six weeks due to an interim safety measure linked to a boom gate fault.

Metro banned V/Line trains from coming into Melbourne in mid-January after a regional train failed to trigger a boom gate at a level crossing in Dandenong. The state government had received advice that boom gate measures would be completed by the end of this week but that advice was incorrect.

“I know this is very frustrating and unexpected for passengers and they have every right to be furious,” Allan said. “Regional passengers deserve better.”

As compensation, free travel for regional passengers has been extended for another week until 7 February. Passengers were originally given eight days of free travel beginning on 23 January.

The leader of the Victorian Greens, Greg Barber, was scathing.

“This debacle has dragged on longer than anybody could have expected,” he said.