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AT 4.55AM yesterday a badly worn cable that supported overhead power wires for city trains snapped.
While the failure was a serious one, the cable's location could not have been worse - and as a result Melbourne's entire train system was thrown into disarray.
The broken support cable was at the southern end of platforms 13 and 14 at Southern Cross Station.
Soon after it snapped, a train travelling along this section of track went under the drooping power wire. It became entangled in the cable, shorting out overhead voltage.
The five passengers on the early-morning train had to get out and walk the 200 metres back to Southern Cross Station.
But much worse, as a result of this power failure, the power supply between Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross was immediately shut down and soon after the entire six-track section between the two major stations had to be closed for emergency repairs.
There was massive disruption to trains coming in from the east, which could go no further than Flinders Street, and trains were stopped coming in from the west beyond North Melbourne.
Most lines through the western and north-western suburbs were stopped during the morning.
''We had to suspend services on Upfield, Sydenham and Werribee lines for a short time,'' Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala said.
V/Line trains from Gippsland could not get past stopped suburban trains, and terminated in Dandenong, he said, while in the west trains coming in from Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo slowed to a crawl.
Train controllers in Metro's control centre worked to clear trains away from V/Line trains, which have diesel engines and so had no issues with a lack of electric power.
Power was not fully restored to the suburban train network until 7.55am, meaning many services were delayed by more than an hour. The backlog of services was not cleared until noon yesterday.
Since taking over the city's transport system from Connex on November 30 last year, Metro has replaced 17 kilometres of overhead wires, and plans to replace another 27 kilometres by next June. Melbourne's sprawling 212-station rail system has 800 kilometres of track - and 400 kilometres of overhead wire.
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