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Author Topic: Article: Connex to donate $100,000 to charity after Oaks Day rail fiasco  (Read 1074 times)

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Article: Connex to donate $100,000 to charity after Oaks Day rail fiasco

Connex to donate $100,000 to charity after Oaks Day rail fiasco
Article from: Herald Sun

Patrick Horan, Mary Bolling

November 07, 2008 01:05pm

CONNEX will donate $100,000 to charity in lieu of compensation to Oaks Day passengers left stranded or trapped on trains yesterday.

The money will be donated to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

?We can?t target compensation to the people who were affected last night," said Connex spokesman John Rees.

"It?s just not possible to know who they are and to know exactly who was affected.

"What we can do is make a donation to a worthy institution who everyone can support and Peter MacCallum is one we have a long association with.?

The rail operator has blamed an "unheard of" sequence of events that led to services coming to a standstill for three hours.

?We are deeply disappointed and deeply sorry," said Connex executive chairman Jonathan Metcalf.

"It was probably one of those one in two million situations.?

According to a Connex statement, the disruption was sparked by some points failures around 4pm. This caused a train to stop underneath overhead power lines, causing a short circuit and loss of power.
"No trains could run through the section due to the power loss which led to the lost service and the major inconvenience," the statement read.

Mr Metcalfe described the incident as extremely rare and said there had only been one other similar incident in recent memory.

?No matter how rare such an occurrence, it is Connex?s responsibility," said Mr Metcalfe. "We manage the Melbourne rail network and our customers expect a service.

"They did not receive it last night."

Public Transport Minister Kosky said Connex was right to take full responsibility, and said the disaster management effort wasn?t up to scratch.

?It wasn?t a result of the age of the infrastructure ? this is a problem that has occurred with the wiring, we understand it is a maintenance issue,? she said.

?We provide several hundred million dollars for maintenance upgrades... so that is their responsibility, it?s part of the contract, part of the agreement.?

Ms Kosky said it was difficult to reimburse individuals for the inconvenience, and that was why Connex was offering the donation.

?It isn?t ideal, but it?s actually very difficult to do the compensation in retrospect.?

The incident occurred on the Craigieburn line, rather than the occasional-use Flemington spur.

?I?ve been told this is a very very rare occurrence.. (but) there are other instances that have caused disturbances in other years,? said Ms Kosky.

?We need to make sure the communications to the people who are on the trains is actually improved, because I do think that was less than perfect.?

Mr Metcalfe said the damage to the overhead lines had been rectified and would cause no further problems.

Spring Racing organisers were seething at the fiasco, which spoiled the day for many of the 89,000 who attended yesterday.

One patron, Kate, told 3AW radio this morning it took her five hours to get home after leaving at 4.30pm.

"We sat on the train for about an hour in the hot sun," she said. "Luckily our carriage wasn?t too packed. In other carriages people were fainting.

"The doors were closed for the entire hour and people were jumping out between the carriages onto the rocks... it was quite dangerous really."

Eventually the train was stopped at Newmarket station, Kate said, with the doors finally being opened.

"They weren?t telling us anything," she said. "My sister and I said let?s just get off because we didn?t want to be stuck again.

"There was no Plan B. There was nothing."

The Victorian Racing Club said Melbourne's reputation was at stake because of the fiasco.

Police arrested several people as tempers flared on the packed Flemington train station platform, where the last train left at 5pm.

Several punters swam across the Maribyrnong River, while at least one man climbed on to the outside of a tram on Epsom Rd.

The fault also brought road traffic to a standstill and malfunctioning boom gates blocked cars trying to leave the racecourse.

Masses of people poured on to Epsom Rd in search of scarce taxis, while others walked kilometres for buses.

Patrons had already been made to wait up to 20 minutes, with crowds swelling after a signal failure at Kensington about 4pm delayed several Flemington services.

But fury erupted over the next two hours, as regular Connex announcements told passengers to wait patiently.

Finally, replacement buses were ordered at about 6.45pm, but the message that trains weren't coming didn't get to the platform until after 7pm.

Connex workers were abused as they advised waiting and dehydrated patrons to get drinking water from portable bathrooms next to the Flemington station.

As hundreds of punters said they'd never attend Spring Racing Carnival again, the VRC chief Dale Monteith said unreliable train services threatened Melbourne's biggest event of the year.

"What does something like this do in terms of reflecting on Melbourne and Victoria's reputation? It doesn't reflect well," Mr Monteith said.

"Connex are meant to be in charge of the train system, and this is not the first time this has happened ? we lost a number of trains on Derby night, and it's not acceptable.

"All we want is the system to be guaranteed, as it would be for any other similar event around the world," Mr Monteith said.

"The VRC will most certainly be writing to the Premier tomorrow, to get this situation improved."

- with Anthony Dowsley
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