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Peak-hour train services were thrown into chaos across Victoria this morning after a massive power failure near Southern Cross Station brought the rail system to a halt.
Melbourne rail passengers are being warned that while trains are now back up and running, the backlog of services will take until at least lunchtime today to clear.
About 400,000 passengers were caught up in the chaos during peak-hour, with the Sydenham, Upfield and Werribee lines the worst hit.
But the power outage, caused when an overhead wire failed in the Melbourne train yard, had a flow-on effect across the network, with 12 of the Metro’s 16 train lines experiencing major delays of more than an hour about 7am.
Regional passengers heading into Melbourne on V/Line services were also hit hard, with some trains terminating on the outskirts of Melbourne and others crawling into the city.
"There probably won’t be a train in Victoria unaffected this morning. Everything pretty much goes through that section of track,’’ V/Line spokesman Daniel Moloney said.
Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala apologised directly to frustrated passengers for the inconvenience.
‘‘You’ve had a very bad morning, and we’re very sorry,’’ he said.
Metro monitor: live service updates
He said the power outage was caused by ‘‘fatigue failure’’ in an overhead wire in the Melbourne train yard at 4.55am. Up to 20 passengers who were on the train at the time had to get off, he said.
"We did our best to communicate the situation to all of our stations, and (ticket inspectors) were deployed to help manage crowds on stations as well
Frustrated peak-hour commuters were left stranded on train platforms, while some trains ground to a halt for up to an hour in the City Loop.
‘‘A colleague has just arrived at work saying her train had stopped in the City Loop for 45 minutes,’’ Don Beckley told The Age.
‘‘When it finally did pull into Flinders Street Station, the passengers rushed to their platforms to get connecting trains only to find out that there were none running. The driver had not made any announcements and there were no Metro staff anywhere to be found.’’
Another commuter said it was ‘‘by far the worst train travel experience ever’’.
‘‘Why can't we get this right for once? Give me Connex any time over Metro,’’ Vineet Mehta said.
‘‘It’s a new low for the trains in Melbourne. Bravo on this achievement.’’
Many said they were frustrated by the lack of information from Metro about the situation.
Premier John Brumby defended the embattled train operator today, saying Metro had had an ‘‘ordinary’’ start to the year but continued to improve.
He said train services were running again at 7.45am - however delays were expected to drag on until mid-morning as the network dealt with the backlog.
"There was an entanglement early this morning, so that did bring down some of the systems, he told ABC Melbourne.
‘‘Obviously there has been a major inconvenience to commuters but the system is now back up and running.
‘‘In terms of Metro’s performance, they’re obviously here for the long haul. They’re continuing to improve their performance and we look to them to do that.
‘‘They are very good transport operators, I have seen what they do in Hong Kong and they’re here for the long haul and they will continue to improve.’’
‘‘The improvements are occurring but they’re slow and obviously, there has been an ordinary start, if I can describe it that way, to the first half of the year.’’
During peak-hour, passengers were experiencing delays of more than an hour on the Alamein, Belgrave, Cranbourne, Epping, Frankston, Glen Waverley, Hurstbridge, Pakenham, Sandringham, Sydenham lines, while services on the Upfield and Werribee were suspended.
Metro spokeswoman Geraldine Mitchell said an entire section of track between the city’s busiest stations, Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross Station, were blacked out at 4.55am.
Power was restored to Flinders Street Station about 7am, however only part of the system is back on-line in other parts of the city.
One train driver who called Radio 3AW before 7am said there was chaos on the network, which could take up to four hours to clear.
Ms Mitchell said the Northern Group of trains would be most affected - including Craigieburn, Upfield, Sydenham, Werribee and Williamstown lines.
"Those trains will run through the loop but at the moment we’re experiencing severe delays,’’ Ms Mitchell said.
She said the Caulfield group of trains - the Frankston, Pakenham, Sandringham and Cranbourne lines - would run direct to Flinders Street Station, and were also experiencing delays due to a backlog on the network.
Mr Moloney said V/Line services heading towards Melbourne from Gippsland were terminating at Dandenong, where passengers were being urged to join Metro services.
Other services on the Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Seymour lines were being held up when they reached the city, with trains reduced to a crawl.
"It’s affecting not on the the city but also the regional lines,’’ he said.
"We’re warning passengers to allow an extra 30 to 60 minutes travel time depending on where they’re coming from.
"The trains are still moving but it will take a couple of hours to fully catch the timetable up. It might be mid-morning before its fully up to speed.’’
Many passengers simply abandoned public transport and drove into the city, and as a result were experiencing delays on the city’s roads.
A VicRoads spokeswoman said traffic on the Monash and Tullamarine freeways was heavier than usual this morning.
"On the Monash delays are starting to build up around EastLink all the way to the city,’’ she said.
"The Tullamarine is a little bit heavier than normal from Bell Street to the Bolte Bridge.’’
Yarra Trams spokesman Colin Tyrus said extra services had been added to route 8, 19 and 59 tram lines to cope with the influx of extra passengers.
‘‘We’re running as many as we can. I think a lot of people have taken to their cars as well, so we are experiencing some delays on the road,’’ Mr Tyrus said.
‘‘Other services are running to schedule, but there may be some delays because of the extra traffic on the roads.’’
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