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(AUS)Frustrated commuters to travel free after Metro rail meltdown

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From The Age:

Metro rail debacle 'will cost state at least $12 million'


July 27, 2010 - 3:21PM

Commuters will travel for free on Friday after today’s transport chaos, the state government announced this afternoon.


The free travel will apply to train, tram and bus commuters, Transport Minister Martin Pakula said moments ago. More on this soon.


The free travel will apply to train, tram and bus commuters, Transport Minister Martin Pakula said moments ago. More on this soon.


The announcement comes as a finance expert estimated this morning’s rail meltdown would cost Victoria’s economy at least $12 million in lost productivity after the travel plans of 400,000 peak-hour commuters were thrown into chaos.


University of Melbourne finance professor Kevin Davis said the rail disruptions would also cut into the leisure time of many Melburnians later today as they stayed at work late to make up for time lost during this morning’s frustrating commute


This afternoon, rail operator Metro Trains said all lines were back on schedule and ready for the afternoon peak, although commuters should check online updates before leaving work.


‘‘Everything’s running as it should,’’ Chris Whitefield told The Age.


That will come as reassuring news for many thousands of passengers left standing on platforms and stranded on trains for hours after an overhead wire snapped in the Melbourne rail yard, near Southern Cross Station, just before 5am, causing a massive power failure.


The Craigeburn, Upfield, Sydenham, Williamstown and Werribee lines were the worst hit, but the power outage had far-reaching effects across the network and affected almost every train in the state.


Transport Minister Martin Pakula said all of Melbourne’s 400,000 train commuters today would be been affected, as Metro reported delays of more than an hour on 15 of the city’s 16 train lines during peak hour.


Based on those figures, and on the average hourly wage of $30, Professor Davis estimated the cost to the economy at $12 million.


‘‘The issue there is that probably a lot of people will spend an extra hour travelling and spend the same amount of time in at work,’’ said Professor Davis, who is also research director of the Australian Centre for Financial Studies.


‘‘I think what you will find is a large amount of people will end up working later today to meet their work commitments, so the cost actually falls more on their leisure time than on their employers' and, of course, if it falls in the leisure time, it doesn’t show up in the national accounting figures.’’


The Age received hundreds of emails from workers saying they had been held up far longer than an hour, suggesting the $12 million was a conservative estimate.


The revelation came as Mr Pakula - forced, with tens of thousands of others, to drive to work today, adding to long traffic delays - apologised to commuters and said he would meet the board of Metro tonight to discuss the disruptions.


‘‘It’s obviously been a very disruptive start for commuters, both people trying to get to work and students trying to get to school,’’ he said.


‘‘We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused.’’


One of the biggest complaints from commuters was that Metro failed to keep them informed of the situation, while the ‘‘live services update’’ on Metro’s website was at times incorrect.


Some trains also ground to a halt for up to an hour in the City Loop.


At 10am today, Metro’s website was still reporting ‘‘major delays’’ of more than an hour on 15 of the city’s 16 train lines.


All trains began running to scheduled timetables about 12.10pm today, despite three cancellations on the Werribee, Frankston and Craigieburn lines still plaguing the system.


Commuters will not be offered any special compensation for today’s dismal performance, Metro has revealed.


Passengers will have to wait until Metro’s monthly punctuality results are released early next month and, if it fails its overall punctuality benchmark, customers with a monthly, six-monthly or yearly Metcard or myki card can apply for compensation, as is the usual process.


V/Line passengers heading into Melbourne were also hit hard today, with some trains terminating on the outskirts of Melbourne and others crawling into the city.


"There probably won’t be a train in Victoria unaffected this morning. Everything pretty much goes through that section of track,’’ V/Line spokesman Daniel Moloney said.


Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said today’s disruptions on the the rail network were the equivalent of ‘‘shutting down every city freeway in terms of the number of people affected’’.


‘‘In terms of the scope of the disruption, it’s about as bad as it gets,’’ he said.


‘‘We can’t keep having this sort of disruption. Melbourne relies on having a public transport network that it can depend on and these sorts of major disruptions have to be prevented.’’


As commuters straggled into work late today, Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala repeatedly apologised to them for the inconvenience.

‘‘You’ve had a very bad morning, and we’re very sorry,’’ he said.


He said the power outage was caused by ‘‘fatigue failure’’ in an overhead wire in the Melbourne train yard, just south of Southern Cross Station, at 4.55am. Up to 20 passengers who were on the train at the time had to get off, he said.


"We did our best to communicate the situation to all of our stations, and (ticket inspectors) were deployed to help manage crowds on stations as well,’’ he said.


As the peak-hour crisis mounted this morning, Premier John Brumby defended the train operator, saying Metro had had an ‘‘ordinary’’ start to the year but continued to improve.

‘‘Obviously there has been a major inconvenience to commuters but the system is now back up and running,’’ he told ABC Melbourne.


‘‘In terms of Metro’s performance, they’re obviously here for the long haul. They’re continuing to improve their performance and we look to them to do that.


‘‘They are very good transport operators, I have seen what they do in Hong Kong and they’re here for the long haul and they will continue to improve.


‘‘The improvements are occurring but they’re slow and obviously, there has been an ordinary start, if I can describe it that way, to the first half of the year.’’


Mr Moloney said V/Line services heading towards Melbourne from Gippsland were terminating at Dandenong, where passengers were being urged to join Metro services.


Other services on the Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Seymour lines were being held up when they reached the city, with trains reduced to a crawl.


Many passengers simply abandoned public transport and drove into the city, clogging the city’s roads.


A VicRoads spokeswoman said traffic on the Monash and Tullamarine freeways was heavier than usual this morning.


"On the Monash delays are starting to build up around EastLink all the way to the city,’’ she said.


"The Tullamarine is a little bit heavier than normal from Bell Street to the Bolte Bridge.’’


Yarra Trams spokesman Colin Tyrus said extra services had been added to route 8, 19 and 59 tram lines to cope with the influx of extra passengers.


‘‘We’re running as many as we can. I think a lot of people have taken to their cars as well, so we are experiencing some delays on the road,’’ Mr Tyrus said.

‘‘Other services are running to schedule, but there may be some delays because of the extra traffic on the roads."




It was an absloute mess. Proberly one of the worst days since the 2009 Heatwave. 46.4 degrees(115.5 F). Train A/Cs were dropping like flies.

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We have learned today that the wire the snapped has been up there for 20 odd years.

From The Age:

Stranded by a wire


July 28, 2010


A SINGLE piece of snapped overhead wire that brought chaos to Melbourne's train system yesterday - delaying more than 400,000 passengers for at least an hour - had been inspected for faults only 35 days earlier.


The 20-year-old wire, which Metro chief Andrew Lezala said had snapped because of ''fatigue failure'', was inspected by engineers on June 22.


The state government has offered free travel on suburban trains on Friday, and a free daily ticket for many V/Line commuters, to compensate for yesterday's delays.


The break occurred between Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations, highlighting the vulnerability of the entire system to glitches in key locations.


As the chaos unfolded, it became clear neither Metro nor the Department of Transport had an effective plan to deal with it. ''In terms of the scope of the disruption, this was about as bad as it gets,'' Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said.


The opposition blamed Premier John Brumby for under-investment in the rail system over the past 11 years, while the Greens demanded the government sack much of its Transport Department and create a new public transport authority to run the city's trains.


The problem began at 4.55am, when a cable holding up the wire from which trains draw their power snapped, causing the power lines on one set of tracks between Southern Cross and Flinders Street to droop.


To fix the snapped cable, repair crews were forced to shut power on all six rail lines running between the city's two busiest stations, grinding all trains in the CBD to a halt for more than an hour.


This caused a cascading effect across the entire network which delayed all lines for at least one hour, forcing many commuters on to already overcrowded trams and buses.


Many abandoned public transport and drove into the city, badly clogging the city's busy roads. V/Line services from Gippsland terminated at Dandenong, while the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines were reduced to a crawl behind suburban trains.


Many passengers were stranded without any information about when trains would come.


And as commuters endured the worst of the delays, Premier John Brumby went on ABC radio and said the system was ''now back up and running''.


Mr Brumby also said Metro was continuing to improve its performance. ''They are very good transport operators. I have seen what they do in Hong Kong and they are here for the long haul. They will continue to improve,'' he said.


Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula - who yesterday declared he had full confidence in the secretary of his transport department - last night offered passengers free travel on Melbourne's metropolitan train system. Passengers using Metcard should not validate their ticket on Friday, and those using their myki card should not touch on or off when travelling.




Melbourne University finance professor Kevin Davis yesterday estimated the rail meltdown had cost Victoria's economy more than $12 million in lost productivity. It took until just after midday yesterday before Metro recovered its train schedule.


Last night, at a meeting of Metro's board members that had been organised before yesterday's chaos, Mr Pakula was expected to demand Metro lift its performance.


Under its eight-year, $8 billion contract with Metro, the government has boosted dramatically funding for maintenance, giving the operator $365 million over a 19-month period for repairs.


Until yesterday, Metro was close to meeting its on-time performance targets for the first time since taking over from Connex in December. It is likely to face the eighth $1 million fine from the government in a row - although it will hardly make a dent in the $50-60 million it gets paid each month.


Greens MP Greg Barber said the key issue was not spending on infrastructure. ''The root cause of this problem is rail privatisation,'' he said.


''Under the current system we have got a bunch of cardigan-wearing bureaucrats on one side and a bunch of greedy profit-seekers on the other. Responsibility for actually running the trains falls in the gap,'' he said.


■ Peak-hour traffic was thrown into chaos for the second time after a truck hit power lines and tram lines in Flemington. Traffic and trams were brought to a halt about 6pm as lines were cleared and power turned off.



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Apprantly those working on the wires were at risk.

From the Herald Sun:

Blunder by Metro put overhead lines live as electricians worked on them

Ashley Gardiner From: Herald Sun July 31, 2010 12:00AM


A POTENTIALLY deadly blunder by Metro resulted in overhead lines going live while electricians tried to repair the crippled rail system.


Metro is investigating the incident in which a train strayed into the "dead" area under repair.


The train's entry into this area effectively re-electrified wires being worked on.


Metro last night admitted the incident occurred and that WorkSafe had not been notified.


Electrical Trades Union state secretary Dean Mighell said the consequences of the incident could have been catastrophic.


"We could have had dead linesmen. The company has got some serious safety issues to resolve," Mr Mighell said. "To say we're unhappy campers is an understatement. Our boys were actually on the job fixing the fault. They got it going as quickly as they could."


Mr Mighell said rumours in the railway industry that the ETU took strike action after the incident were not true.


Metro spokesman Chris Whitefield confirmed that one train had entered an area "that was fully protected by earthing straps".


"All staff working on the day were employees of Metro. No external contractors were involved. There were no injuries to any staff," Mr Whitefield said. "Our safety division is currently conducting an investigation and we will know more details, as to what exactly happened and why, once that is finished."


The report, which is due within a month, will examine how well safety rules were followed that morning.


"We did not contact Work Safe as no injuries were sustained. Transport Safety Victoria were briefed and updated, and this will continue," Mr Whitefield said.


"Safety on the network is our priority. This includes running safe train services, as well as the personal safety of our passengers and staff, on trains, at stations and across the network."


Mr Whitefield said rumours that power was switched on too early at Tuesday morning's repairs were not true.





I very much doubt anyone was at any risk. Contact to rail Earthing devices would of been inplace in both sides of where they work was taking place.

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