Oh, and spot the reporter who carnt speek Englishe goode... "A rail system source said cars were forced to break..."
Stephen Moynihan, Transport Reporter
November 16, 2006
Some of Melbourne's newest passenger trains have had to be withdrawn from service after a spate of braking failures.
Connex, the operator of the suburban rail network, has reported 15 incidents involving trains overshooting platforms since Monday and is at a loss to explain the problem.
The most serious incident occurred on Tuesday night when a train failed to stop at Brighton Beach station and travelled into the level crossing at South Road.
The boom gates still had not been lowered as the train came to rest in the middle of the intersection. A rail system source said cars were forced to break to avoid colliding with the train.
The problems involve a fleet of 72 German-built trains that were introduced to the suburban network in 2003.
Fourteen three-carriage trains have been removed from service following emergency talks between Connex and the trains manufacturer, Siemens.
The withdrawal of the trains is expected to cause some disruption to services, particularly on the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines, until the problems can be fixed.
The source said the problems were connected to the trains' computerised braking system. In several incidents, drivers were forced to apply emergency brakes, push emergency stop buttons and activate handbrakes to bring the trains to a halt.
But even after activation of all manual braking systems, some trains continued moving. One incident occurred while a driver was undergoing assessment by a transport official.
Connex chairman Bob Annells last night confirmed that some Siemens trains had been removed from service and said it was unlikely the incidents were caused by driver error.
"It does seem clear from our analysis it is most likely a software issue in the computer-assisted braking system," Mr Annells said.
But a spokesman for Siemens denied the trains were at fault. "There is nothing wrong with the brakes," he said.
Mr Annells said passenger and driver safety was Connex's main concern and his company was working with Siemens staff to find the cause. "We haven't had a problem with these trains for over a year," Mr Annells said.
But he conceded there had been issues in the past. "(They) have experienced overshoots and modifications were made to correct the matter. It seemed that those changes had been successful. Obviously this has not fully addressed the issue."
Since its introduction in April 2003, the Siemens fleet has been plagued with controversy. The trains were initially too wide for suburban tracks and have recently been repaired to fix faulty wiring. They have also been criticised for having only two sets of doors on each side of each carriage, causing bottlenecks for passengers.
In 2004, after a train failed to stop at Williamstown station, the Rail Tram and Bus Union won a fight for an improved braking system to be installed in all Siemens trains.
Mr Annells said Connex had briefed the transport safety regulator and the union to alert them to the faults and to outline plans to fix the trains.
"Maintenance logs and operational records are being checked and each train will be given a full running brake test before being returned to service," Mr Annells said.
He said Connex was made aware of the problem earlier in the week. He denied the company was covering it up in the lead-up to the state election.
A Siemens spokesman denied the company was playing down the issue and said it was a matter for Connex.
In May, the State Government announced it would spend $800 million on new trains. Siemens is believed to be lobbying hard to snare the contract.
Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the Government was responsible for all matters of train safety. "Irrespective of the political embarrassment and inconvenience, the fleet of Siemens trains must be withdrawn and the braking fault identified and rectified," Mr Mulder said.
A spokesman for Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said Connex was monitoring the trains and defective trains would be removed from service
Siemens trains make up just under a quarter of the 328 trains in Melbourne's suburban fleet.