V/Line’s newly-appointed chair has declined to comment on his appointment despite claims by the Coalition it is a "secret plan to swallow up country rail services".
Speaking on Tuesday, V/Line board chair Jeroen Weimar, who is also Public Transport Victoria's chief executive, said his priority was to address Gippsland's existing rail services but stopped short of promising a dedicated line to reduce congestion.
His comments coincided with a visit from Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan at Traralgon station to spruik the works being done along the line.
Ms Allan criticised comments made by Nationals candidate for Morwell Sheridan Bond that the party was considering options including a dedicated line, or tunnel between Melbourne and Pakenham to improve punctuality.
"The reason [it cannot be done] is because we can't run the regional diesel trains in a tunnel and that should be well known but it shows that the National Party continue to want to perpetrate a hoax on the Gippsland community," Ms Allan said.
During her visit, a three-carriage V/Line train rolled into the station – the same week as buses replaced trains on the Gippsland line – due to upgrades along the corridor.
An image posted to social media of Ms Allan alongside the train drew criticism, including from Latrobe City councillor Kellie O'Callaghan who said "a train that isn't running is rolled out for a photoshoot to call out a so-called 'hoax'."
Addressing questions about unreliable services on the Gippsland line, Mr Weimar said he was in discussions with Metro Trains to ensure commuters had the best outcome when travelling along the metropolitan section of the line.
"I'm already having early meetings with Metro Trains ... to make sure we get the paths we need and improved reliability and performance and I'm confident we'll get that in the coming months," Mr Weimar said.
"I'm not here to comment on my appointment but ... I'm very proud to be part of the team at V/Line and I'm very proud to be part of a rejuvenation of our regional railways."
Last week the Coalition claimed Mr Weimar's appointment was an orchestrated "takeover" of country rail services, claiming they could be swallowed up by a "city-focused administration".
"We're midway through a huge program of upgrades on the Gippsland line and our regular passengers will know of course from time to time we do have to have to let [the line] out of commission to get this vital work done," Mr Weimar said.
"Just over the past week we have been doing some major work on track and signal upgrades to give us a more reliable and smoother journey but that's just the foretaste of the major works to come.
"Please bear with us, we understand that this work is complicated and frustrating and there are many interruptions to your service but this is all about really doing the fundamental amount ... [to] make up for decades of backlogs in investment."