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Scores of rail passengers were left stranded in 35-degree temperatures yesterday afternoon at Winchelsea Station after the train to Warrnambool ran out of diesel because no one remembered to refuel it.
The train had just begun its west coast journey from Geelong station when it slowed noticeably and crawled into Winchelsea station - the first past Geelong - about 3pm.
Among the stranded was Melbourne lawyer Phil Kennon who said the scene would have been comical if it wasn't so inconvenient.
Mr Kennon said the mishap was symptomatic of the deterioration of services to "atrocious" levels for country Victorians under privatisation. "You couldn't think of a better example of how things have gone bad. It's comically bad," he said.
"This Government talks about getting the trains back - but if they run like this nobody'll want to go on them."
West Coast Railway director Dale Larkin said he was embarrassed by what occurred, and blamed "one of these human-element things that happen".
"We'll investigate what happened of course."
A change in refuelling arrangements due to the fast rail project may have been part of the problem, he said.
Replacement buses were brought in within the hour and people were given lifts and taxis to connecting services, he said.
The train was expected to be hitched to another last night for the trip back to Warrnambool to be fuelled.
But he rejected the assessment things had worsened under privatisation, citing increasing patronage in the past three months.
"You really don't do that if you're running a shoddy outfit, do you?" he said.
Mr Larkin invited passengers who were inconvenienced to write to the company, which will consider compensation.
By Andrew Heasley
February 6, 2004
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/02/05/1075853999713.html
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