EXCLUSIVE

Train driver's view of the platform at Laverton station.

Train driver's view of the platform at Laverton station. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

The $4.8 billion regional rail link will provide just two years' breathing space for commuters on one of Melbourne's busiest train lines when it opens in 2015 before rapid population growth in the outer west sparks a new peak-hour crush.

Metro warned the state government almost two years ago that the state's biggest infrastructure project would bring only short-term relief to the Werribee line before congestion begins to bite again in 2017.

In a five-year strategic operations plan from 2012, obtained by Fairfax Media through freedom of information, the rail operator said a mix of longer nine-car and seven-car trains would be needed within five years to handle passenger growth on the Werribee line, and that would involve lengthening railway station platforms to 200 metres.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Nine-car trains have previously been proposed along the Pakenham and Sunbury lines as part of the stalled Melbourne Metro rail project, which has failed to attract funding from the federal government.

Two new stations have opened since Metro delivered its plan, one at Williams Landing on the Werribee line and another at West Footscray on the Sunbury line, but neither have platforms long enough for nine-carriage trains.

Metro's plan also proposed investing in new signalling that would enable trains to run closer together so more trains could service Melbourne's south-western growth areas.

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''We believe this strategy to be a viable option to cater for demand given the loading profile in the corridor,'' Metro wrote.

A Metro graph forecasting passenger loading for 2017 on a city-bound Werribee train indicates all available seating would be filled after two stops, leaving many passengers to stand for more than half an hour.

The Werribee line regularly experiences the highest level of overcrowding on the network in Public Transport Victoria's twice-yearly passenger load surveys.

The last published survey, from May, counted 12 peak services that breached the load standard, with 40 per cent of peak-hour passengers travelling on overloaded trains.

There are currently six peak-hour Werribee trains and three from Laverton via the Altona Loop, but Metro cannot add more because it shares the corridor with V/Line's Geelong trains. This situation will change in 2015 when the regional rail link opens and the four peak-hour Geelong slots will be freed up.

Initiated by the former Brumby government, the regional rail link will give V/Line trains on the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines their own dedicated tracks, removing bottlenecks and creating the capacity to run more Metro trains.

However, the anticipated passenger growth for Werribee is so great that that capacity is expected to be absorbed by 2017.

Similar problems are expected on other near-capacity lines, including Dandenong, Sunbury and Craigieburn.

Wyndham City Council's acting chief executive, Bill Forrest, said about 10,000 people a year were moving into the municipality around Werribee, which was due to grow from 187,000 to 230,000 by 2017, and ultimately to 400,000.

A recent VicHealth survey found Wyndham had the highest percentage of residents in the state who commute more than two hours a day - 26.2 per cent, more than double the state average of 11.6 per cent.

''One in four are spending more than two hours a day commuting,'' Mr Forrest said.

He said the state government should press the federal government harder for funding for the multibillion-dollar Melbourne Metro rail tunnel.

Labor deputy leader James Merlino said the Napthine government's focus on building the east-west link had come at the expense of public transport improvements.

''Three years of inaction by the Napthine government has created Victoria's public transport crisis and instead of building the infrastructure and train capacity to improve public transport on the Werribee line, Denis Napthine is spending $8 billion on a dud tunnel which will not improve public transport at all,'' Mr Merlino said.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the government had added 1078 train trips a week to the timetable, and was planning to buy new higher-capacity trains, in addition to 15 new trains it had already ordered, seven of which are in service.