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Metro's thumping, 200-page audit of Melbourne's ailing railway network reveals more gory detail than ever about just how broken the train system is, but it is difficult to know just who to blame for breaking it.
The company bears the brunt of public anger each time there is a train meltdown and deserves some of the blame as rail operator, but it is painfully obvious that it inherited a crumbling wreck when it took over the running of the system six years ago.
Governments of previous generations let Melbourne's once glorious rail network deteriorate for decades, chiefly because the public had abandoned public transport in favour of their cars, but then got caught napping when people started marching back to the trains in the early 1990s.
The revival hasn't slowed – patronage has jumped 316 per cent since 1993-94 – and successive governments have simply failed to keep pace with the growing demand ever since.
The former Baillieu/Napthine government committed almost a billion dollars towards maintenance in its four years in office, yet the lengthy shopping list of chronic faults and worn-out equipment in Metro's audit reveals it was barely enough to make a start on dragging Melbourne's rail network out of the early 20th century and into the 21st.
In many respects, Metro's warts-and-all audit is a good thing: they have done the work to pinpoint every bit of the network that is failing and propose solutions.
But were any state government to take the operator up on its advice to replace every clapped out signal, every overloaded substation and rotting wooden sleeper on the city's 900-kilometre network, it would likely be a major project to rival the East West Link or Melbourne Metro tunnel in scale and cost.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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