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The extensive delays to the city's rail network on Thursday were due to a combination of a "tragic" fatality and three separate signal failures in key parts of the network, which caused a "bottleneck", Sydney Trains says.
The death occurred at Burwood just before lunchtime, while the three unrelated signal issues in Strathfield, Summer Hill and Petersham shortly afterwards compounded the delays for the evening peak and beyond.
"It was a very difficult situation yesterday. We are sorry that there were delays," a Sydney Trains spokesman told Fairfax Media.
He explained how the four separate incidents culminated in a knock-on effect, which created a ripple across the system.
"It's an old interconnected network. Trains get stuck like a traffic jam, and all the drivers are out of position. It's like a massive chess board," the spokesman said.
The last signal failure was only fixed at 4.30pm, which caused a significant backlog to the afternoon and evening peak. Commuters were affected until after midnight.
Sydney Trains denied the issue was linked to the new timetable and driver shortage that triggered major disruptions earlier this year.
The delays created a "backlog" that affected the network until after midnight.
Photo: Ryan Stuart
"This wasn't a train driver issue, this wasn't a shortage issue," the spokesman said.
"If you look at where it happened, it was a key arterial part of the network - it creates a backlog and a ripple effect.
"There would've been pretty much the same result with the last timetable as with this timetable."
The spokesman said Sydney Trains staff did "everything possible" to manage the situation to affect the least number of people.
"Our guys worked extremely hard yesterday. This was a difficult, difficult situation. It was a very sad situation.
"We threw everything at this. Ultimately there was a regular service going through the city - not a regular timetable, but trains coming at regular periods."
"It's a big busy network. We're transporting so many people with such high frequency - when there's an issue it has a high knock-on effect."
The spokesman compared the situation to the Harbour Bridge traffic chaos earlier this week.
"You have a couple of lanes closed for a while and look at the flow on that had for such a long period of time," he said.
"Train lines, when you have an important part of that network closed down, it's the same thing. Traffic jams will dissipate quicker because you have individuals driving. We have humans who can only work a period of time and when that time is up they have to be relieved."
While the disruptions occurred until after midnight, that was to move trains into place to ensure the network was ready to run in the morning peaks, the spokesman said.
"To get everything ready for this morning's peak we had to cancel some services last night. We want to assure everyone that we did everything possible to minimise the impacts."
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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