V/Line is a government-owned corporation that operates regional passenger train and coach services in Victoria, Australia. It provides passenger train services on 5 commuter lines and 8 long-distance routes from its major hub at Southern Cross railway station in Melbourne, as well as bus services across Victoria and into New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia. In addition, V/Line is responsible for the maintenance of much of the Victorian freight and passenger rail network, outside of the areas managed by Metro Trains Melbourne and Australian Rail Track Corporation.
The V/Line brand was introduced after the split-up of VicRail in 1983, and has been used by all successive government and private operators of the state’s regional public transport. Until 1999, when its freight operations were privatised, V/Line Freight was also a monopoly government provider of the state’s rail freight services. Since 2004, V/Line Pty Ltd, the main operating rail company, has been owned by the V/Line Corporation, a Victorian State Government statutory authority. In 2016, V/Line Corporation became a subsidiary agency of Transport for Victoria.
In the 2016–17 financial year, V/Line carried 19.3 million passengers, mostly on its commuter rail lines, which have experienced massive patronage growth since 2005 due to improved services and population increases. V/Line’s operations, particularly those on long-distance routes, remain heavily subsidised by the Victorian Government.
On 1 July 1983, the State Transport Authority and a range of other transport bodies were created, when the Transport Act 1983 came into effect. The new authority replaced VicRail, and established the V/Line operating brand for both country passenger and freight. The VicRail orange and silver ‘teacup’ livery used on passenger rolling stock was replaced in August 1983 by an orange and grey livery. The white and green V/Line logo was launched on 14 August 1983 by Transport Minister Steve Crabb, at Spencer Street station, with special trains running to Essendon to mark the occasion.
This was altered when on 1 July 1989 the Transport (Amendment) Act took effect, merging the State Transport Authority with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to form the Public Transport Corporation (PTC). The relationship between the country V/Line and suburban ‘The Met’ brands was blurred, with the Sprinter trains delivered in the 1993-1995 period appearing in PTC colours but with both PTC and V/Line logos.
On 1 July 1994, the operation of some of V/Line’s regional passenger services was contracted out to the private sector. Hoys Roadlines took over the Melbourne to Cobram service with trains operated under contract by V/Line to Shepparton with Hoys operating a road coach service beyond. The service from Melbourne to Warrnambool was operated by West Coast Railway who operated their own trains throughout. Both of these returned to being operated by V/Line in 2004.
In 1995, the freight and passenger rail divisions of V/Line were divided, with a new red, blue and white V/Line Passenger livery unveiled. This split was finalised on 1 July 1997 when separate management was brought in. On 1 July 1998, operation of the Stony Point line passed to Bayside Trains. V/Line continues to hire rolling stock to Metro Trains Melbourne to operate the service.
V/Line Freight was sold to a consortium of RailAmerica, Fluor Daniel, Macquarie Bank and A Goninan & Co and rebranded as Freight Victoria effective from 1 May 1999. The sale included a 45-year lease of most regional track (passenger and freight), with responsibilities for track, signalling and level crossings, with access to passenger sections of track granted to V/Line Passenger. The state government had not wanted to sell rights to the track infrastructure, but was persuaded by bids by three primarily American consortia which argued greater efficiencies could be accomplished by vertical integration.
On 29 August 1999, National Express took control of V/Line Passenger having won a 10-year concession, in competition with FirstGroup, Freight Victoria, GB Railways, Prism Rail and Stagecoach. National Express also operated the M>Tram and M>Train franchises in Melbourne. It included all country rail operations in Victoria, with the exception of the Shepparton and Warrnambool services previously franchised in 1993.
National Express inherited a fleet of A, N, P and Y class locomotives, H, N, S and Z type carriages and Sprinter diesel multiple units. As a franchise commitment, 29 two-car Vlocitys were ordered from Bombardier Transportation.
In December 2002, National Express handed in its Victorian rail and tram franchises having been unable to renegotiate financial terms with the State Government. KPMG were appointed to operate the business on behalf of the State Government.
As a statutory corporation
Full control of V/Line was taken on 1 October 2003 by changing the shareholding of V/Line, making the government the sole shareholder via a recently created statutory corporation, V/Line Passenger Corporation. V/Line operates under a franchise agreement entered into with the Director of Public Transport. The Director also sub leases tracks and other infrastructure which the Director holds under lease from VicTrack, the agency which owns Victoria’s rail-related land and infrastructure.
In 2000, the Regional Fast Rail project was launched to upgrade the tracks linking Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and the Latrobe Valley to Melbourne. The project, which also included an extra 10 Vlocitys and an expanded timetable of rail services, commenced full operations from December 2005.
The services to Bairnsdale and Ararat were restored in May and July 2004 respectively. In December 2008, as part of the Victorian Transport Plan, the state government announced that V/Line rail passenger services would be extended from Ballarat to Maryborough at a cost of $50 million, commencing in July 2010. The first passenger train in 15 years arrived at Maryborough on 24 July 2010. V/Line also resumed operating the Shepparton and Warrnambool services in 2004 when contacts with Hoys Roadliners and West Coast Railway expired.
In November 2006 Pacific National, who had purchased Freight Australia, entered into an agreement to sell the remainder of its Victorian rail lease of the network back to VicTrack. The sale was completed on 7 May 2007, with V/Line becoming the track manager of the Victorian intrastate network.
In May 2008 it was announced that part of the V/Line fleet would be converted to standard gauge to operate an upgraded Albury line service. In December 2008 V/Line ended the sale of alcoholic beverages aboard long-distance trains, after almost a century of the practice.
In 2015/16, the subsidy per passenger trip was $22.12.
The Transport Integration Act 2010 renamed the V/Line Passenger Corporation as V/Line Corporation. The Act also gave V/Line a new statutory charter. As part of these changes, the corporation’s responsibilities were explicitly expanded to cover both rail passenger and rail freight services. The Act received the Royal assent on 2 March 2010 and came into effect on 1 July 2010.
In January 2016, V/Line’s VLocity rolling stock was identified as suffering from abnormal wheel wear. The fleet was also banned from the metropolitan track lease by the suburban rail operator, Metro Trains Melbourne, after a V/Line train failed to activate a level crossing in Dandenong. The two problems caused as many as 70 services a day to be cancelled. They also led to the resignation of then CEO Theo Taifalos, sixteen days free travel being provided to passengers, and an independent inquiry being ordered by Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan into the operational capacity of V/Line.
V/Line operates rail services to the regional cities of Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Seymour and Traralgon as well as Ararat, Maryborough, Echuca, Swan Hill, Albury, Bairnsdale, Warrnambool and Shepparton. In addition, V/Line road coaches connect with many rail services at major stations to serve towns away from the main rail network operating as far as Adelaide and Canberra.
Rail services are grouped into two types. As part of the introduction of the Myki smartcard in 2013, and to provide consistent communication to both staff and customers, what were formerly called “Interurban” services became “Commuter” services, and what were formerly called “Intercity” services became “Long Distance” services. Commuter services operate over shorter distances and more frequently than Long Distance services, and the latter usually provide some first-class accommodation, as well as snack bar facilities.
- South West Region or Geelong Line which continues as the Warrnambool Line
- Western Region or Ballarat Line which continues as the Ararat Line and the Maryborough Line
- Northern Region or Bendigo Line which extends as the Swan Hill Line and the Echuca Line
- North East Region or Seymour Line which extends as the Shepparton Line and the Albury Line
- Eastern Region or Traralgon Line which continues as the Bairnsdale Line
V/line also runs numerous intrastate and interstate road coach services that may run wholly as a coach service or operate as a coach connecting with a rail service.
Interstate road coach service operated by V/line are:
- Canberra Link – Melbourne (Southern Cross) – Canberra via Wodonga, runs as a train to Albury and then a coach to Canberra
- Capital Link – Melbourne (Southern Cross) – Canberra via Bairnsdale, runs as a train to Bairnsdale and then a coach to Canberra
- Daylink – Melbourne (Southern Cross) – Adelaide via Bendigo, runs as a train to Bendigo and then a coach to Adelaide
- Sapphire Coast Link – Melbourne (Southern Cross) – Batemans Bay via Bairnsdale, runs as a train to Bairnsdale and then a coach to Batemans Bay
- Speedlink – Sydney – Adelaide via Albury. This operates as the NSW TrainLink XPT train from Sydney to Albury with a V/Line coach operating from Albury to Adelaide.
- Murraylink – Mildura – Albury, does not travel to Melbourne and operates entirely as a coach.
V/Line currently uses the myki ticketing system on short-distance train services, in addition to machine printed paper tickets, issued from staffed V/Line stations, selected Metro suburban premium stations, V/Line ticket agents, online or by phone. Passengers boarding services at unmanned stations or roadside coach stops can purchase tickets from the train conductor or coach driver.
Tickets have the origin and destination printed upon them, making them point to point, but the fare itself is based on charging zones. Changes were made to the fare system, to integrate it with the suburban Metcard system in preparation for the introduction of the Myki smartcard system to cover the entire state.
Ticket types available include single, return, and a range of periodical tickets. Services are classified as peak and off-peak, with discounts available for tickets valid in off-peak times only. V/Line operates a limited number of trains with first class seating which requires the payment of an upgrade fee on top of the standard economy fare. From June 2013 the Myki smartcard system began to be rolled out on the V/Line network.
Most V/Line services operate on a non-allocated seating basis, but all intercity (long-distance) rail services, and some coach services, require seat reservations.
Class Image Type Gauge Top speed
Built Number Notes VLocity Diesel multiple unit Broad 160 2003–present 228 76 3-car sets, 12 sets under construction N class Diesel electric locomotive Broad, Standard 130 1985-1987 25 Sprinter Diesel multiple unit Broad 130 1993-1995 21 A class Diesel electric locomotive Broad 133 1984-1985 4 4 stored P class Diesel electric locomotive Broad, Standard 100 1984-1985 8 4 stored and 4 stored but operational and not running revenue services Y class Diesel electric locomotive Broad 65 1965-1968 4 Shunters at Southern Cross, Geelong and Newport Workshops H type carriages Passenger carriage Broad 115 1984-1990 51 13 sets, 1 car stored N type carriages Passenger carriage Broad, Standard 115 1981-1984 56 19 sets, 1 car stored (accident damage) Z type carriages Passenger carriage Broad 115 1957-1966 20 Incorporated into N sets, 1 stored (accident damage) D van Parcels/luggage van Broad 115 1983 7 no longer in operation PCJ van Head end power/luggage van Standard 115 1970 3 PH van Head end power van Broad 115 1984, 2009 4
Road coaches are provided by 23 private companies including BusBiz, Dineen Group, Donric Group, Dysons, Firefly Express, Panorama Coaches and Ventura Bus Lines, which are contracted by Public Transport Victoria to operate services for V/Line. These coaches are painted in V/Line livery.
V/Line also manages and maintains all non-interstate rural rail track in Victoria, including lines that do not see passenger services. The lease was previously held by Pacific National, which agreed to sell it back to the Victorian Government in November 2006. The sale was completed in May 2007, and V/Line was appointed to manage it.
The initial V/Line visual identity was unveiled in August 1983, with an orange and grey livery for locomotives and passenger rolling stock, along with a white and green V/Line logo with a “stylised capital lettered logo with the V and the L split by a deep slashing stroke”. Work on the initial V/Line identity started in May 1983, with freight wagons being released without logos pending the launch. Before that time, a stylised VR logo was carried by rolling stock that had been received the orange and silver VicRail ‘teacup’ livery since 1981. Carriages in the ‘teacup’ livery later had the logos removed and replaced by V/Line ones.
This remained until 1993 when the Sprinter trains were delivered in the teal and yellow suburban ‘The Met‘ brand colours, but with both The Met and V/Line logos. In 1995, the freight and passenger rail divisions of V/Line were divided, with locomotives in the freight fleet retaining the orange and grey livery with ‘V/Line Freight’ logos, while passenger carriages and locomotive received the red blue and white ‘V/Line Passenger’ livery which remains on some of the fleet today. It was also at that time that the V/Line logo was altered, with serifs added to the lettering, and the “deep slashing stroke” was altered to a curved blue line. After National Express took over V/Line, the logo was again altered in 2000, with mixed-case lettering and a curving blue line underneath. In 2006, it was again altered, with the removal of the blue line underneath and addition of a purple line.
The VLocity railcars were delivered from 2005 in a new livery of stainless steel with purple and green highlights. In 2007, a new livery was unveiled, consisting of a grey carbody with red, white and purple stripes. Rolling stock in different variants of the livery was released throughout that year, with a consistent version not appearing until 2008, along with a number of repainted locomotives.
In 2013, a Public Transport Victoria (PTV) livery of purple and white diamonds was adopted, and was progressively applied to V/Locitys and road coaches. This livery matches the geometric designs seen on other PTV services, and uses purple in keeping with the designation of regional services with purple branding. In early 2017, locomotive N457 was re-painted with a version of the PTV livery, and Set SN 8 was re-painted to match the new livery of the V/Locity fleet.
Since 2004, V/Line has been the naming rights sponsor of the Australian Football League‘s Victorian country competition for junior players. The V/Line Cup is played over several days in September and includes two boys’ divisions and one girls’ division.
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- Annual Report for year ended 30 June 2004 V/Line
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- “V/Line chief Theo Taifalos resigns after long delays, free travel extended into February”. ABC News. 2016-01-28. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- Timetables V/Line
- Speedlink V/Line 27 August 2017
- remove outdated Metlink info
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- myki to start on V/Line commuter services Public Transport Victoria 11 June 2013
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- Coach call V/Line 23 November 2015
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- “V/LineCars.com – Carriage and Sprinter Refurbishment Program & New V/Line Livery – Ministerial & Media Launch”. www.vlinecars.com. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
- “V/Line Cup”. AFL Victoria. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
- Media related to V/Line at Wikimedia Commons
- V/LineCars.com – Comprehensive V/Line Carriages Information & Enthusiast website
- Vicsig.net – Victorian passenger rolling stock
- PROV VA 1038 – Agency record at Public Records Office Victoria
Country rail in Victoria
1983 – present