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Hundreds of frustrated V/Line passengers were stranded on board stationary trains for up to five hours last night when an underground fault cut power to the signalling system and brought the Geelong line to a grinding halt.
The rail operator this morning apologised for the ‘‘terrible situation’’ in which about 800 furious passengers who left the city at the start of peak-hour did not reach their destinations until after 10pm.
V-Line chief executive Rob Barnett said a major fault occurred in an underground cable between Little River and Werribee, affecting all trains on the Geelong line.
The high-voltage cable, which supplies power to the signalling system, has been buried for 25 years and appeared to have suffered a break.
That was little comfort for the passengers who were stuck on board the trains without food, unable to get off for hours on end. Thousands of other passengers were affected when trains on the Geelong line were cancelled throughout the evening.
Fairfax BusinessDay journalist Chris Zappone was on board the 5.21pm service from Southern Cross Station, which was due to arrive in Geelong at 6.12pm.
However that train came to a standstill between Werribee and Little River stations, one of six peak-hour trains to do so, and did not pull into the station until about 10pm.
‘‘The sun went down while we were waiting there. It was pitch black and we were just waiting,’’ Mr Zappone said.
‘‘There was an eight-year-old girl sitting next to me who hadn’t had any dinner. People were giving her food. It was bad.
‘‘I was very lucky. I had a book that I had to finish. I just sat there and read it.
‘‘I kept texting my wife, who said in the end ‘I’m going to bed’.’’
Passengers were prohibited from getting off trains that were stranded between stations, meaning they had no choice but to sit-out the delays.
The delays caused an angry backlash on social networking sites including Twitter, where one commuter quipped that it would have been faster to run home.
Others were devising plans to escape.
‘‘The people on my stuck train on the @vline_geelong line are starting to discuss forcing doors open..lol I wanna see this happen!,’’ tweeted Green Lantern 2814.
Another hungry passenger tweeted that she was happy to wait if only the train company would bring her food.
Mr Barnett told radio station 3AW this morning that staff were still investigating how the cable broke.
‘‘[It’s a] terrible situation and we’re really sorry,’’ he said.
‘‘For everyone that was impacted last night on our trains, we’re of course offering compensation for that but we realise that that’s little comfort for the many hours they spent on the train.’’
Mr Barnett said compensation would be a free day’s travel on V/Line services, which could be claimed on the V/Line website.
Mr Barnett said he expected there would be many tired commuters heading to work today.
‘‘Hopefully their bosses are a bit forgiving being late to work or of having the day off,’’ he said.
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