Heat wave, industrial action cripples Melbourne railways

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Commuters in Melbourne, Australia, faced chaos today as a summer heatwave and alleged industrial action by staff caused 200 trains to be cancelled. The light rail system was also disrupted by a broken down tram.

Track buckled between Jolimont and Flinders Street stations on the Melbourne loop as temperatures peaked at 43.2 degrees Celsius (109.7°F), causing local train operator Connex to send track workers out to hose rails down. The delays and cancellations caused high demand on the Connex website, which crashed under the pressure. V/Line regional train services were also affected, with coaches replacing some trains and other services working with reduced line-speeds.

An X'Trapolis train operated by Connex pulls into Melbourne's Glenferrie railway station
Image: Simon East.

Connex has blamed the Australian Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union for 80% of the cancellations, saying the drivers are running an "over-zealous, fault-finding protocol" leading to serviceable trains becoming unavailable. The company and the union have been having "protracted" negotiations over the method of drivers reporting train failures, according to the ABC.

Public transport in Melbourne will run free of charge tomorrow as a gesture of goodwill.