More than 2000 people boarded 50 replacement buses at Newport train station on Monday night, adding to the commuter chaos that followed an incident where 200 people became stuck on a train outside of Laverton for about three hours.
It is believed the Werribee-bound train brought down overhead cables just before 4pm, causing the train to come to a complete stop on the tracks, with Metro Trains unable to make on-board announcements due to a loss of overhead power to the train.
The front and side windows of the first carriage of the train were damaged during the incident, though no one was injured. A number of passengers on-board chose to exit the train without assistance and before the electrical environment was deemed safe.
Speaking to Willy and Hobby after the incident, State Member for Williamstown and Transport Minister Melissa Horne said that the safest place that anyone could have been was on the train.
“Getting off in a live environment was incredibly worrying. Whilst I understand how frustrating that must have been for people to be stuck on a tram, being on that train was the safest place to be,” Ms Horne said.
“I’ve been advised that there were three substations in the area. We needed to isolate the power. That will take time. If people were getting down onto a live environment that hadn’t been secured by emergency services, that’s a dangerous thing to do.”
The Minister has called for an independent investigation into the incident to identity any improvements to communications, safety and maintenance. The first initial results from the review are expected within the next two weeks.
“Everything we can learn from the review will be implemented and making sure that we have got a network that is resilient and recovers as soon as possible from unplanned disruptions is absolutely my top priority,” Ms Horne said.
The Minister described the works that are required to assess the damaged infrastructure and repair the overhead cable as ‘significant’ and confirmed Metro Trains would be working throughout the night in order to complete the works.
“Metro will do that work tonight and tomorrow night which will result some impact on services. Trains will run although there will be bus services through the Altona Loop. There will be a slight reduction on services, but the vast majority will run,” Ms Horne said.
In a statement to Willy and Hobby, Metro Trains said its overhead crews were working throughout the night to repair the damaged infrastructure, also confirming that their own investigation into the incident is underway.
“This was a very serious and unfortunate incident, and we sincerely apologise to passengers for the disruptions to their service. A limited service is running this morning as well as extra buses to get passengers where they need to go,” a Metro spokesperson said.
Opposition Transport Spokesman David Davis described the situation as ‘a complete and utter shambles’ and ‘third world conditions’ before accusing Premier Daniel Andrews and Transport Minister Melissa Horne of going into ‘witness protection’.
“It’s a complete and utter shambles. It’s clear that a line coming down like that, people being stranded for hours at a time, people being forced to get off the train and go along the track, none of this is acceptable,” Mr Davis said.
“It’s third world conditions. It’s completely and utterly unacceptable and I notice that Daniel Andrews and Melissa Horne are in witness protection it seems and won’t come out and explain.”
The incident is one of many events in recent times that have continued to affect overall performance, with multiple major road and rail projects also impacting and providing plenty of challenges for the transport network.
Trains and trams have not met punctuality targets for three consecutive months. Metro Trains’ April performance was 91.4%, missing its on-time target of 92%. Yarra Trams’ April performance was 81.8%, also missing its on-time target of 82%.
Opposition Transport Spokesman David Davis believes the public transport system has been run ‘into the ground’ and suggests more maintenance works are required to ensure track and equipment are up to scratch.
“I don’t think it’s good enough to point at the officials, the bureaucrats or Metro alone. The fact is they’ve done works on part of that area down there, the Kororoit Creek and Altona duplication there,” Mr Davis said.
“Since that opened in July, and that has a material affect you would think on this line, we’ve actually seen more than 600 cancellations on the Werribee line and almost 1300 cancellations, bypasses and skips.”
“Labor have been in power for 16 of the last 20 years and they have run our public transport system into the ground. They have not done the basic maintenance and they have not made sure that our track and equipment is up to scratch.”
Mobile myki technology, 100 new locally built buses, 90 new E-class trams and 65 new high capacity trains have, however, provided some positive talking points. VicRoads, PTV and Transport for Victoria are currently merging into the Department of Transport.