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Metro Trains and the state government have refused to reveal details of a meeting just hours after yesterday's power-line failure threw the metropolitan transport system into chaos.
Both Metro and a government official said last night's meeting was confidential, but conceded the events of yesterday, which stranded 400,000 commuters and led to serious delays for tram, bus and road travellers, were on the agenda.
"Yesterday's disruptions were discussed," confirmed a spokesman for Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula, who said the group also considered "Metro's performance and other issues".
But neither party would comment on the detail of the discussions or what "other issues" referred to.
The official stonewalling on the talks came as Metro today defended its maintenance record and Premier John Brumby apologised for yesterday's meltdown.
Yesterday, as commuters endured the crippling delays with little information and no effective alternative plan, Mr Brumby was telling radio listeners Metro was a "very good" rail operator and would "continue to improve"
Today, The Age revealed the faulty overhead wire was inspected on June 22 and not identified as close to "fatigue failure".
"This particular line was inspected recently and at that time there was no visible fault," said Metro spokeswoman Geraldine Mitchell.
"The replacement and maintenance of infrastructure with high volumes of use is an ongoing matter."
Ms Mitchell said since taking control of the network, Metro had replaced 17 kilometres of overhead wire "at critical locations on most train lines, including the Werribee/Williamstown, Sydenham, Craigieburn, Upfield, Epping, Belgrave/Lilydale, Glen Waverley and Frankston lines."
"We will replace another 27 kilometres of overhead wires this financial year as well as 160 gantries," she said. "We're spending more than $2 million each working day on improvements to the network."
The Age understands there are more than 380 kilometres of suburban railway track.
Ms Mitchell said the scale of the disruptions caused by yesterday's overhead line failure was "an unusual occurrence".
"Because it occurred at a critical central location, it had a major impact across the network," she said.
Virtually every train runs through that section of track between Southern Cross Station and Flinders Street Station," she said.
Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said it was not the first the time under-investment in Melbourne's public transport had caused problems with overhead lines.
"In January, there were two instances in a week on the Glen Waverley line, plus a third relating to a tram at a rail crossing," he said. "There was another problem at Croxton on the Epping line in March and then at Diamond Creek on the Hurstbridge line in May 2010."
Late yesterday, the government announced commuters would travel "free" on Friday as compensation for the disruptions. Victorian taxpayers will split the bill for the day's travel with metro.
Ticket inspectors, however, will still be on the job.
"Our Authorised Officers perform a range of roles, not just ticket inspections. They are always deployed to where they are needed the most and their focus is customer service," said Ms Mitchell.
"Ticket checking is secondary to helping customers and keeping the network safe."
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