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Rail transport through central Sydney was crippled on Tuesday night because of the failure of a bracket used to hold up power lines between Wynyard and Town Hall.
Two trainloads of passengers needed to be evacuated through underground rail tunnels as a result of the failure, which also affected services on other lines.
The Transport Minister, Andrew Constance, described the events as a "bugger of a situation for everyone", and thanked commuters for their patience.
"I know how frustrating and difficult the situation was for commuters," he said. "We are not sugar-coating it."
The chief executive of Sydney Trains, Howard Collins, attributed the fault to one of tens of thousands of brackets, sometimes called "droppers", which hold the overhead wiring used to power trains.
"For some reason just one of those brackets broke, the wire dropped down, it was actually touching on the top of the train," Mr Collins said.
"This particular bracket had been inspected according to the routine - it was all OK even in the morning," he said.
Mr Collins said overhead power lines were checked every 45 days, and the line between Town Hall and Wynyard had been checked on December 5. In addition, a track patrol vehicle travelled the line on Tuesday morning. After there were reports of a noise on the line on Wednesday afternoon, there was another inspection that did not notice anything unusual.
"Nothing was reported in that area, no drivers reported the wire was lower, hundreds of trains went through there until the peak, and then obviously this occurred," Mr Collins said.
The Transport Minister said commuters in the trains directly affected by the failure could get a refund on their Opal cards by calling "13OPAL". However, the refund is not being extended to all commuters who were delayed on Wednesday night.
"Specifically those who were directly affected, caught on the trains," Mr Constance said.
Mr Collins said there were fewer overhead wiring faults on Sydney's train system than in the past.
"It is a rare occurrence," he said.
"In hot conditions in the past the wires would sag because they expand, we've done a lot of work in that area. I think the last incident was in February this year when we had a problem with a dropper."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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