Being a Spark Driver from 1990 to 2013, I can comment on the air conditioner problems from
In 1990, Comeng air-conds would regulary fail during the summer months, with an air cond
fault light in the cab alerting the driver. The driver would report it to Metrol, and on
arrival at Flinders St, the fitters would inspect it and reset the defective unit,
which (as we would joke), that it will last until 'over the viaduct'.
The air cond now worked, it was fixed, and the train kept going....but usually by
Richmond , you would get the air cond light again, which you would report, the fitter
would meet you at Flinders St and reset it......all over again.
This happened days/weeks/years on end.
Likewise some older commuters might remember on arrival at a destination, the driver
would drop the pantographs, essentially the same as resetting the circuit breaker (c/b),
and by the time he changed ends, the aircond would come good, for 5-10-15 minutes then
You then reported it, the fitter met you at Flinder St...etc etc ...and the trains kept
running for years doing this procedure.
During the mid 90s, the resetting of the c/b was disconnected ??, and the practice no
longer worked. If a fault came up, the fitters had to actually fix it in the yards,
thus we had the summers of about 96/97 where, by a summers evening, just about every
Comeng had been shunted out with air cond faults, and the evening services were run by
the ever reliable and non air cond Hitachis.
The Comengs would be shutdown, then restarted by the fitters at midnite, by which time it
was a lot cooler obviously, no fault lites, air cond worked well, and the fault was
"checked ok no fault found"
Next afternoon on a 38c day, it would fail, shunt and all of the above would occur.
This also went on for years......
Every distastrous summer, Management promised to service the air conds before summertime
sometimes successfully, othertimes not so. Excuses of lack of maintanance, no
maintenance, dirty filters, lack of parts etc....but every year, Drivers hoped it would
be a good summer and not one of putting up with, booking, arguing, complaining of faulty
The Fault Management Protocol(FMP) then came in, listing faults and their deferment
before things had to be fixed. Air conds over the years have gone from Finish Run (shunt
out on arrival) to 1 Peak and 2 peak faults.
The great thing about the FMP was you could look up the history of faults....so you could
look up to find 89M, which you were sweet talked to run, had in fact had its air cond
booked every day for the last 2 weeks......but, "just one more run driver."
Metrol would always try to get another run out of defective airconds and driver apathy
also made passengers suffer badly.
Travelling in from Glen Waverley one stinking hot day, the driver had lost both air conds
on an Xcrapper, the poor passsengers would have been roasting. The driver was reluctant
to report it, as it would cancel the train......and he hoped going over the tramway
squares at Gardiner or Kooyong would reset it (no chance).
Passengers were pressing the emergency button to report it, many got off the train.
The driver finally reported it at Burnley, Metrol made it a finish run fault, and it
formed an Epping train on arrival, with passengers in the evening peak.
They essentially got 2 more trips out of it, and there was no saying they tried to sweet
talk the driver at Epping to run it back in !
Talking about that, Management would actually bribe us with an icy pole and a can of
drink to take trains with defective air conds ! The Principal Driver would tell you the
sob story that they were very short of trains, they would say that you were going home
anyway, they would give you a can of coke or an icy pole and hopefully you would say you
would run it, in a cab with a temp of 50c. Of course the passengers were made to suffer,
but they didn't care about them, only if the driver was happy.
This practice also went on for years, in Government hands during the old Met days
as well as Hillside and Connex and Bayside. Metro never bribed us with icy poles and
drinks, they'd just put you on a code of conduct for refusing to run it !!
Which brings us to the almighty Xcrapper !!
The Xcrapper cab airconds were very poor at first, but only a handful of Drivers bothered
to report them. At one stage all Xcrappers had thermometers on the cab wall so you could
actually include the temperature in the booking, "Air cond, very poor air flow, currently
45c in cab"
I've got a photo of one showing 50c. Unfortunately, most were souveniered by my fellow
workmates (they were stuck on with velcro) and were not replaced.
Xcraps have 2 HVAC units (Heating Ventalition And Cooling), operating down either side of
the carriage.From day one, the air cond acted strangely, in the cab the left vent would
blow hot air and the right vent would blow cold air......you would report it, but it was
Likewise in the saloon the similar would occur.
In the cab the air cond might be on heat setting at flinders st, but by the loop the
thing would blow cold air all the way to Glen Waverley.....so i would book it. on arrival
at Glen Waverley you would enter the rear unmanned cab and it would be lovely and warm,
after you just froze all the way home, so cold air in leading cab, warm air in trailing
Meanwhile in the saloons it was freezing, it would be actually warmer outside the
Only a few drivers booked it, and the problem was still occuring in 2013 , 9 years later
and going by the complaints on the Metro twitter feed in 2017, it still occurs.
When the second lot of Xcraps arrived I was fortunate to have a head man from Alstom
ride up front and i asked him. The problem arises because the trains do not need 2 HVACs,
so what happens is, first thing in morning, both HVACs will start up....so nice and
warm/cool, but when it reaches the themostat temp, 1 HVAC will drop out and go into
ventaliation mode, thus cold air in winter, hot air in summer.
so on the left side of the carrage it will be blowing cool (air condioned) air, the
right side will only be in ventation mode, thus just circulate the hot or cold air from
he said they could fix it, but haven't been asked, but this problem seems to be very
common in a lot of multi air cond situations.
Also the air conds are very tempramental on voltage, this explains why a carriage might
be ok one section and not the next, as if the voltage falls, it will shutdown the air
cond to protect it.....then when voltage returns, it will go back on.
This shutting down of the aircond is not displayed as a fault light, as it is assumed
after a few minutes, it will be ok.
Coming in from Glen Waverley on a freezing cold morning, the ol Xcrap would be blowing
warm air leaving Glen Waverley, turn cold climbing hill out of Syndal, past Mount
Waverley substation, then come good by East Malvern sunstation, go cold again at Glen
Iris, heat by Kooyong, cold at Heyington and stay warm from Burnley to Richmond jcn, then
be cold on arrival at Flinders St.
The sad thing was most drivers did not notice it !!, thus didn't complain, thus it was
never fixed !!!!
Passengers suffered for years with no complaints.....when I had to put a wheelchair on,
on a freezing winters day, you would open the saloon door to put the wheelchair ramp
down, and be blasted by the cold air cond from the vents above the door .....many a time
I'd comment to passengers, "its freezing in here, the air conds blowing cold air, why
don't you complain."
(blank stares from the passengers !!)
Changing ends at Lilydale during winter, I would walk thru saloon, shaking my head, as it
would be freezing inside, blasts of artic cold air blowing out the aircond ducts !!
I bought a digital thermometer at one stage and videoed the change in temperature on a
run from Glen Waverley with temps ranging from 12c to 30c in the cab ,depending on
which sub station section it was in.
You could book the defective air cond with a quote of the temperature blasted out the
vents "blowing 9c on a freezing winter morning"
but it was always "checked ok, no fault found" by the fitters !!
I had a cab air cond one freezing winters night that varied from 9c to 40c, you could
either freeze or cook.I reported it, then at Westgarth we had a loss of signal power and
I was stuck there for 2 hours from 11pm to 1am. This is when I had my very first
passenger complaint, as the passengers told me it was freezing in the saloons.....it was
a winters night, i checked and it was 9c in the saloons.....i booked that as well....the
fitters said it was 'checked ok, no fault found'
Another trick that Connex would play was to disconnect the fault lights on Comengs, so
you had no fault light to report. if a passenger complained it was too hot/cold and there
were no fault lites in the drivers cab, you could not report it, as there was no fault
category of 'passengers say air cond not working.'
Likewise on Xcrap, they had a time delayed fault lite, as early on they had a software
update that caused the air conds to fail for approx 5 mins after heavy powering/braking,
especially on a Glen Waverley , so to avoid drivers reporting 'both hvacs out' which
would cancel the train, the fault lites would not display,....and hopefuly after 5
minutes they would reset and be ok, and the driver is none the wiser.
I believe similar with the Siemans trains when they first started, you could have half
the train with no air cond with no fault lites, and at one stage the Union told drivers
to walk thru the cars at terminus's to see if the air conds were working.
By the time I left in August 2013, i think trains could still run with defective airconds
and if the driver arched up, he was taken upstairs to explain his actions....but going by
the number of bookings by the passengers (sad in itself) on the Metro Twitter everyday,
it seems to be getting worse and not better....and some of the excuses by Metro are
Oh, i do not miss the horrible world of Metro !!