Metro's practice of skipping stations when trains are running late is sometimes a justifiable way for the operator to improve its on-time performance, Victoria's Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said.
Metro met its monthly punctuality target for a record 25th consecutive month in May, prompting Mr Mulder to boast that Melbourne's trains are vastly more reliable now than they were under the former Labor government.
A total of 92.7 per cent of Metro's trains ran on time in May, an improvement of 10 percentage points on the May 2010 figure of 82.7 per cent. Metro is contractually obliged to run 88 per cent of trains on time each month, or be financially penalised. It receives bonuses for meeting its targets.
Mr Mulder said Melbourne's trains were not yet as punctual as they should be, because the public invested huge sums of money in public transport and deserved a "dividend". He would now push Metro to run 95 per cent of trains on time.
"We don't accept that 88 per cent, which is the benchmark for Metro, we think that they should do better," Mr Mulder said.
"Public Transport Victoria are pushing them to do better. We think it should be closer to 95 per cent and all of the work and all of the investment that we're making, we're going to push them as hard as we can to get that improved punctuality," he said.
Yet Metro's strong punctuality performance over the past two years is driven in part by its practice of skipping stations when trains fall behind time. Mr Mulder said the practice was rare, but a necessary strategy to ensure delays on one line did not spread across the network.
"Skipping is monitored closely by PTV," he said. "You will get incidents on the network that will mean you've got five or six trains that are held up on the network. Under those sorts of circumstances, rather than have five or six trains slowly make their way along that particular line, there will be a decision made in the best interests of the entire network, to perhaps skip a station, but I point out the number of occasions in which that occurs are very small indeed."
The Napthine government on Friday released punctuality figures for select railway lines in Melbourne, compared with results from four years ago. There has been consistent improvement. Lines that have experienced the greatest jump include Frankston, which rose from 62.6 to 90.7 per cent; Pakenham, 65.6 to 85.2 per cent; and Werribee, 75.7 to 90.2 per cent.
A train is considered "on time" if it arrives at its destination less than five minutes late or one minute early, under the terms of Metro's franchise agreement with the state.