The Sunday Age has exposed the extent of the State Government’s neglect of Melbourne’s rail network, over the failure to replace the aging Metrol communication system with a system that can ensure safe and efficient movement of Melbourne’s trains.
MELBOURNE’S rail operator Connex can pinpoint the location of trains on as little as 10 per cent of its network, The Sunday Age has found.
The 25 year old Metrol system, provides visibility for little more than Melbourne’s city loop, meaning that the rest of Melbourne’s rail network is dependent on even older and less-efficient signalling and radio technologies.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) called for an overhaul of the suburban rail system after a passenger train crashed into a stationary V/Line train at the then Spencer Street Station in February 2003.
The former Minister for Transport Peter Batchelor scrapped an promised upgrade of Metrol in 2003, only to relaunch the promise of an upgrade last year.
Commuter groups say an upgrade could double the number of suburban trains using city stations in peak hours. The failure to do so slows trains on a network that averages 87 delays a day, they say.
A comprehensive and holistic signalling and communications upgrade through the replacement of Metrol with a metropolitan wide system would provide an instant capacity boost along Melbourne’s rail network, without the need for costly infrastructure such as the proposed third track to Dandenong.
Public Transport Users Association spokesman Alex Makin said the current “archaic” system “can’t track where most of the trains go”. Now, suburban trains needed two to three minutes “headway”. With a fully computerised and integrated system, Mr Makin said, “you would be able to operate with a 60-second headway like what generally happens in Perth and Sydney. This would effectively allow twice as many trains during peak hour”.
While the Victorian State Government would rather mismanage public transport projects, ALP Government’s in both Western Australia and New South Wales have dramatically upgraded their metropolitan rail signalling systems.
The fact that Melbourne is still reliant of a 25 year old communications system is further evidence that the former Minister for Transport did little other than neglect the public transport portfolio. The State Government is running of out of excuses to rectify these mistakes.