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Yesterday's tram derailments in central Melbourne have prompted
claims from the tram drivers' union that it is only a matter of
time before there are serious injuries from what it says is an
unacceptable number of derailments.
An ambulance was called to the second morning peak-hour incident
at the corner of Spencer and Latrobe streets and a passenger was
treated at the scene for a neck injury.
Yarra Trams says 56 trams derailed in Melbourne during the 12
months to July.
But it says most incidents were minor and did not represent an
increase from the previous year.
But Lou DiGregorio, secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union,
said he had no doubt that derailments had increased in recent
"Something has to be done very quickly," he said. "While they
talk about these derailments as not being major incidents, the fact
is derailed trams can hit people crossing the road or cars. Sooner
or later, we are going to have serious injuries."
Many derailments are due to wear and tear of tracks caused by
heavy car and truck traffic, but Yarra Trams says its track
maintenance and renewal programs are functioning well.
The union is not so sure, calling for a comprehensive audit of
Melbourne's 248 kilometres of track. Union officials met Yarra
Trams management yesterday but later said their concerns were not
being taken seriously.
In the first of yesterday's incidents, a city-bound tram from St
Kilda derailed as it turned onto Bourke Street from Spencer Street.
Tracks were blocked for for 75 minutes and services were delayed or
A second W-Class tram derailed on the city circle line at the
intersection of Spencer and Latrobe streets.
Yarra Trams spokesman Colin Tyrus said the company introduced a
track renewal program when it took over running of the full tram
network in April. Kewand Balaclava junctions are two of the larger
sites where tracks have been replaced this year.
"Just about every weekend you'll find a track renewal program
under way somewhere in Melbourne and when there is an issue, we
also have mobile crews that can respond and fix track straight
away," Mr Tyrus said.
The oldest track in Melbourne, on parts of Queensberry Street,
dates back to 1935, while track on Bourke Street was installed in
1954. Both are due for replacement this year. But Mr Tyrus said
that all track across the city was well maintained and safe.
"Nothing would be allowed to operate in Melbourne on an unsafe
track," he said.
But Mr DiGregorio said the company had failed to explain why the
number of derailments could not be reduced. "We're not happy about
it and we've been telling them for months," he said. "We are
driving modern trams these days, not the old ones. These are $3.5
million trams and they shouldn't be derailing all the time."
The incidents came as Yarra Trams chief executive Hubert Guyot
announced he was leaving Melbourne to take a job in the Italian
city of Genoa. He will be replaced by current deputy Dennis Cliche.
Mr Guyot's parting words in a media statement were unfortunate,
given the morning's events. "My feeling is that everything is on
track," he said. "And I am confident that Dennis and his team will
be able to continue the process of modernising and upgrading
Melbourne's unique tram system."
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