AN 80-year-old Tongala pensioner is in an uphill battle against V/Line in his attempts to use the public transport service.
In an open letter to newspapers and the local government, Graeme Wilson expressed his frustration with issues regarding the services.
“I am an 80-year-old pensioner in fair health, however I find it difficult to do much walking either in Echuca or my home town of Tongala,” he wrote.
“Lately I have experienced quite a lot of expense when I go from Tongala to Echuca, which is once a week.
“As a single pensioner and not having a vehicle of my own, I rely heavily on public transport to use services in other towns.
“The trouble is when I go on the bus to Echuca and it has its drop-off point at the Echuca railway station, I then need to go to the op shops on the Murray Valley Highway or to Bunnings and it’s too far for me to walk.
“So I have to catch a taxi, which is $10-12 each trip. A single day trip can cost up to $110.
“As a sensible solution to this – and as I am unable to drive a car – I have resorted to an electric bicycle.”
Graeme describes the electric bike as a wonderful solution to his transport dilemma. The bike gives the pensioner the freedom to move around to shops and services without any great cost and allows him to be more flexible with his time in Echuca.
“However, I am not allowed to carry my bicycle on a V/Line bus, even though it will be stored out of the way in the underneath storage compartment. In fact, I am not allowed to carry it on any of the buses, full stop!
‘‘These same buses carry four- and three-wheel electric scooters.
According to the V/Line guidelines about carrying bicycles on their transport services, bicycles are allowed if they:
■Do not exceed the dimensions of 82cm long x 69cm high x 39cm wide.
■Have wheel rims no more than 20 inches (51 cm) in diameter.
■Can be folded up and stored inside a bag or cover before boarding.
“My bike weighs a total of 23kg, which is under the maximum 30kg as well as the two items per person,” he said.
It is also well under the V/Line measurement requirements.”
While his bike does not have a cover, it could easily be fitted with one if needed. However, a cover would further hinder his mobility.
‘‘It looks like they don’t want to go out of their way to help people in my situation,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s absolutely no need for a cover.
‘‘Here I am with a bike which is under the maximum weight and I can’t use the bus, yet they’re putting scooters on there.
A V/Line spokesperson said: “We’re concerned to hear about the passenger’s experience and we have contacted the coach operator to remind them of their requirement to carry folding bicycles if they meet the criteria.
“We encourage the passenger to lodge a feedback case by calling us on 1800800007 and we will look into the matter further and discuss it with him.”
For Graeme, who has repeatedly contacted V/Line, these comments are evidence of the transport network’s failure to assist the community.