Rail line clash

By Evelyn Leckie

SHADOW Minister for Regional Public Transport Steph Ryan has called for the State Government to fix a broken signalling system between the Seymour and Craigieburn rail service.

Ms Ryan said it had been two and a half years since the ancient double line block system failed.

In Parliament last week, the Nationals politician called out Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne for not being able to explain how the antiquated system works or when it will be fixed.

V/Line trains between Seymour and Craigieburn have been operating on the double line block system, which uses a system of bells and is the only one of its kind left in Australia, since the 1890s.

A signalling system tells drivers which way switches in the tracks would be set where one track diverges into two.

The system failed in October 2017 and is yet to be fixed or scheduled for an upgrade.

“The Minister can’t claim to ‘take safety very seriously’ while failing to understand how the system works or the safety risk to passengers when the signalling is broken,” Ms Ryan said.

“Passengers on the Seymour line deserve to know when this signalling system will be fixed.”

A government spokesperson said V/Line changed its communication system in 2017 so that train controllers use phone calls instead of the bell codes following significant vandalism to the signalling system.

“The government has spent $27 million over the last 12 months upgrading the Seymour and Shepparton line – which included replacing 68,000 railway sleepers,” he said.

The spokesperson said the signalling system used between Seymour and Shepparton had been fully risk assessed as safe for use.

Last month, a NSW XPT train service travelling on a federal track derailed near Wallan, raising concerns about the safety of the V/Line track that ran directly beside it.

Union secretary Luba Grigorovitch said V/Line drivers rightly refused to traverse the section of the track where the XPT train had derailed.

V/Line chief executive James Pinder said the track was a “particularly complicated part of
infrastructure”.