OUT IN THE COLD: Catching the V/Line bus in the early hours of the morning at Mildura Station isn’t the most pleasant of experiences for Heather and Doug Worboys and their fellow travellers, who are forced to brave the elements while they wait for the coach to depart. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

WAITING to board a bus in the wee hours, exposed to the elements on a cold, wet wintery morning sounds like an unpleasant experience, and for passengers travelling to Swan Hill on V/Line’s 3.45am service from Mildura, that’s exactly what they often have to endure.

For Mildura’s Doug Worboys and his wife, Heather this reality has become too much to bear, and Doug’s had enough.

“I’ve been concerned about this for some time, but haven’t done anything about it until now. It’s been a bee-in-my-bonnet for a while and now I’m on the war path,” he said.

Mr Worboys is far from being an aggressive fellow, but the situation his wife and fellow bus travellers are faced with when they wait for the early morning service at V/Line’s Seventh Street station seems archaic and unacceptable.

“The issue is that when you arrive at the station at 3.15am to get the quarter to four bus, there isn’t any security, no toilets, or reception areas open, and if you needed to purchase a ticket you can’t,” Mr Worboys said.

“My wife always gets her tickets beforehand, but there are a lot of backpackers and other people who just arrive and expect to be able to get on the bus.”

Mr Worboys said inadequate lighting is another issue. 

“It’s extremely poor. One morning recently, my wife was waiting for the Swan Hill bus and another bus, the Cootamundra service, was also at the station parked in an area that is better lit,” he said.

“Then the Swan Hill bus arrived, and it had to park in an unlit area, leaving the driver in the dark, having to resort to using a torch, while he tried to read the passenger manifest to get everyone ticked off.”

Mrs Worboys said it was often very cold, and that the wait to board the bus can be more than half-an-hour.

“It’s bitterly cold out in the open, and they want you down here at 3.15am to catch the 3.45am bus, they have now changed that waiting time, and it’s a little bit less, but it’s still an ordeal,” she said.

Mr Worboys said that he often laughs at the calls to have the passenger rail service returned to Mildura, which he sees as “cries in the dark.”

“We can’t even open the station at night. I’m 78, if I live for another 20 years, I don’t think I’ll see the train service back here, I hope I’m wrong, but you have to be realistic about these things,” he said.

“The cost is enormous, we can’t even get the rail line fixed so we can get our freight running efficiently.

“So that aside, my point is that we need something done in regard to the station – the bus terminal and the lighting and security and it also needs some decent cover put up.

“There is a little sail-cloth shade area that comes out from the building, but that doesn’t provide any protection at night, and when you get windy, wet weather, everybody gets wet including the driver, whose out in it doing his job.”

Mr Worboys said the situation in Swan Hill and Bendigo is much better.

“We are at the end of the line, and like the poor cousin that we are, we are left out in the cold, literally,” he said. “There is another bus that arrives from Melbourne at two in the morning and they’re in the same boat. 

“You hop on the train at 6.30pm in Melbourne and you arrive here at 2am on the bus.

“You can’t get a taxi easily at that time, and if you are waiting for someone to pick you up, you can imagine how uncomfortable it is and you are left in this area where there is no security whatsoever.”

While there are other bus services which depart at more civilised times when the station is open, Mrs Worboys, like many others, choose the early service because of appointments in Melbourne with doctors, or other commitments.

Mr Worboys has made representation to Member for Mildura Ali Cupper’s office in the hope that she may be able to do something, and he also intends to contact Mildura Rural City Council and the NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton in the hope that he may enlist their support.

In response to Mr Worboys’ complaint, a spokesperson for V/Line said that their staff play an important role in providing customer service for coach departures and arrivals at Mildura Station.

“For the safety and convenience of passengers, we require staff to be at the station when the waiting room is open,” V/Line said.

“We’re currently exploring options to improve the experience for passengers boarding our early morning coach from Mildura to Swan Hill, and reviewing the feasibility of extending the opening hours to allow the station to be opened for the 3.45am departure.”