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Melbourne commuters bemoan train delays caused by signal faults and overhead power issues.
But sometimes there are far more endearing reasons for disruptions to your journey.
Over the past year, Melbourne trains have been stopped in their tracks by families of ducks, beloved pet dogs that have wandered onto the line and even swarming bees.
While it is relatively uncommon, it is not unheard of for Melbourne trains to be delayed because of animals.
Figures compiled by Metro Trains show there were 66 cases last year of animals causing disruptions to the network.
Runaway dogs were by far the most common animals found straying onto tracks (35 cases), followed by kangaroos (18), sheep (four) and goats (three).
There were two occasions last year in which ducks were responsible for delays. In one of these, station staff stepped in to help a mother duck and her ducklings that were attempting to cross the tracks between Flinders Street Station and Jolimont, Metro Trains executive director Raymond O’Flaherty said.
“This is a particularly busy part of the network so it’s not something we’d recommend to other ducks,” he said.
Mr O’Flaherty said cockatoos caused delays when a flock of about 200 birds decided to gather on the tracks near Box Hill station, halting trains for four minutes.
He said the disruptions caused in these situations were usually minor. “Our passengers are understanding – no one wants to see animals harmed,” he said.
Station staff caught in such situations tend to go above and beyond to make sure the animals aren’t harmed and that passengers are not greatly inconvenienced.
Train station attendant Regina Murcia didn’t hesitate last month when she heard a dog was wandering on the tracks between Windsor and Balaclava stations, causing delays in both directions.
She rushed over to the edge of the platform at Balaclava Station and pulled the Staffordshire bull terrier puppy away from the tracks so it would not get run over.
After the pup had been safely lifted onto the platform, she looked after it at the station office until the dog’s relieved owner arrived.
The dog was put to work at the station office until its owner arrived to collect it.
Photo: Craig ButtBut while this story had a happy ending, Mr O’Flaherty warned dog owners not to run onto train tracks to retrieve a runaway pet and to, instead, contact Metro staff.
Here are some other notable cases of animals causing train delays across the network:
BeesIn January, a swarm of bees amassed on Ringwood’s platform one while beleaugered station staff kindly persuaded the insects to buzz off. Trains had to be diverted away from the platform to make sure passengers weren’t stung by something other than an awaiting ticket inspector.
PossumsThink of it as a local version of the butterfly effect - when a possum gets electrocuted in Newport it can cause the Werribee and Williamstown lines to be suspended.
The unlucky possum came to grief when it skittered across power lines in a residential part of Newport in 2011, leading to widespread outages in Melbourne’s west that affected more than 400 homes and forced the cancellation of the morning’s nearby train services.
BatsA bat suffered a similar fate at Camberwell Station in 2013 and caused delays of 45 minutes on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines.
RatsIn 2014, rats were blamed for chewing through ageing heavy-duty cabling near Richmond station and exposing high-voltage wires. The result was a fire that caused days of delays while crews worked to replace the damaged wiring.
BullsThis is a much older example. Back in 1974, a large black bull wandered onto the single gauge line between Newport and Altona, and trains couldn't get past until it decided to move on.
An article from the railways' staff magazine at the time notes that it took "a few blasts of the (train) whistle" before the animal could be convinced to let the train through.
This article first appeared on www.watoday.com.au
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