V/Line Bans Local Tour Operator From Parking Outside Warrnambool Station | The standard

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Local tour operator Fiona Van Kempen has been banned by V/Line from parking her bus outside Warrnambool station since March 2020, apparently without justification. South West Coast MP Roma Britnell raised the issue in parliament last week, asking the transport minister to explain the reasoning behind the decision. “I urge the minister to go to Warrnambool…and see how simple this is to solve and how absurd it is that it hasn’t been solved yet,” Ms Britnell told parliament. Ms Van Kempen said the decision to ban her bus from the designated coach area at the front of the station had created significant continuing difficulties for her tourism business and even caused her to lose business, the groups of tourists canceling reservations. She said as tourist travel peaked in the summer coinciding with the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, she feared losing more trade than ever. Ms Van Kempen launched her business Warrnambool Tours in December 2018 with the aim of transforming Warrnambool into a major tourist destination. “At the time, Warrnambool was an overnight or driving destination. The plan was to make it a place that people would use as a base for day trips,” she said. Train travel was an essential part of the advertising and commercial strategy. “We marketed it very heavily with V/Line. All the promotions were ‘get off the train’. “The idea was that people would get off the train and then stay in Warrnambool and do tours. It was a win-win,” she said. Warrnambool Tours was the only full-time tour operator in Warrnambool to encourage rail travel. For the first 18 months of operation, she parked her bus in the bus and coach bays just outside. Warrnambool station. “We never had a single problem,” she said. Then one day, the station master asked Mrs. Van Kempen to move her bus when several coaches arrived at the station. She said she immediately moved to a much further bay in the public car park, but was then told she had to park there from then on. “There have been occasions when I have had to drop off an elderly lady in the pouring rain while carrying all her luggage through the parking lot.” Ms Van Kempen asked the station master and regional manager of V/Line to reconsider the decision, but was rebuffed each time. Ms Britnell has also tried several times over the past 18 months to get a vindication from V/Line and the Minister for Transport, but has yet to receive a response. The AV/Line spokesman said “we continue to work with the tour operator to support their services operating within the station grounds”. Ms. Van Kempen disputed this. “I just stopped dropping off and picking up at the station,” she said. V/Line said it was not possible to make any of the station’s seven coach bays available to another tour operator, saying coaches could be prevented from parking. Ms Van Kempen said that would never happen. “I’m always with my bus, so if a number of coaches arrived, I could just move around. Also, I never get off at the station when there’s a rail replacement (when coaches replace trains ).”