A different sort of train delay

A major shutdown of the southern part of the Frankston line for level crossing works started on 31st January, and was meant to finish about a week later at the end of Sunday 7th February.

It was not to be. On Sunday afternoon, a delay was announced. They said works (and buses) would continue until the end of Monday.

On Monday they announced that works would continue until the end of Tuesday:

And on Tuesday afternoon… they announced that works would continue to the end of… Sunday – merging with an already-planned shutdown scheduled for the weekend.

I guess we’ll see in a few days if the works are completed and the trains do indeed come back next Monday – a full week later than first planned.

Repeated problems

This is by no means the first time this has happened.

A few years ago a shutdown at St Albans/Ginifer ran late, with repeated delays.

But more recently in December 2020, a shutdown of the Werribee line also ran well over time. Like the current Frankston line shutdown, it too was originally meant to run for about a week.

An incident on the 4th of December put paid to that: a freight train rolled through the Cherry Street crossing with the boom gates up (open), narrowly missing several cars. It’s being investigated, but it sounds like it was a minor miracle that nobody was hit.

Marcus Wong tracked the ensuing chaos – authorities extended the shutdown for a week… and then for another two weeks, eventually finishing after Christmas. So what should have been a one week shutdown ran for four weeks.

The silver lining is that right now, ridership is low, so fewer people are affected. But that won’t last. Patronage is growing each week.

I’ve mostly quoted Metro’s tweets here, but it’s not actually down to them. These issues are related to infrastructure projects managed by the Level Crossing Removal Program.

Big rail projects like these often involve unexpected issues – be it unmapped infrastructure under the ground. In both these cases it appears to relate to unexpected complexity with replacing (or reinstating) ancient complicated legacy signalling systems.

But repeated shutdowns running a week or more over time seems to indicate they need to do much better at their project resourcing – and their planning.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

8 replies on “A different sort of train delay”

The people who run the PT system and who manage the infrastructure projects don’t actually use PT and think those of us that do should feel lucky we are provided with any service at all.
So we shouldn’t complain if projects are delayed since we should feel damned lucky they are maintaining/upgrading the system anyway

I won’t have it that these are unknown issues. The unknown needs to be investigated beforehand, before a quote or tender or a time estimation and plan is made. Known unknowns need to be be investigated to become known unknowns and then known.

I appreciate with major projects that delays are going to happen, and sometimes unexpected delays are inevitable. Maybe they should add on an extra week to planned occupations just in case, which if the works end up being on time they can cancel the extra week of works. It is better to say the works go for longer than less time for people to plan their journeys.

On the Frankston line, I gather the root cause was unexpected asbestos or something in the staunchion bases around Edithvale/Chelsea? There seemed to be crews in the full bodysuits etc there when I drove past a week or two ago.

Unexpected asbestos in Melbourne seems to be an ongoing problem, I’ve seen a lot of private builds have a temporary halt recently also.

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