Can you believe the lack of luck? Yesterday morning the train signalling system died just down from the junction of three of Melbourne busiest train lines. Actually this is a reasonably common occurrence; a small inconvenience that takes a few hours to fix and it’s fine by the following peak.
Not this time. Trips that took 2 to 3 times the usual were frustrating commuters all over Melbourne’s east so far for two days! Why? This was not a normal signal failure due to poorly maintained equipment, this was caused by a cute and not-so-innocent little fruit bat flying into the power supply lines of the system, shorting out and blowing up a control box. The bat did not survive. Obviously.
So what are their contingency plans? Let the trains go through all the red lights, of course! But carefully.
With all the control equipment and cabling fried to a crisp, the signals can’t communicate with each other so they default to red and their emergency brake tripping gear is activated, stopping any train that attempts to pass.
There are two type of signals in Melbourne (and Victoria, but these are different to other states on the same landmass because some short-sighted bureaucrat 150 years ago made that stupid decision, nearly as bad as having different gauge tracks, but I digress.).
Automatic Signals – Will be red if the next section contains a train. When another train approaches a red auto signal it must stop for one minute and if still red after 1 minute it may proceed at no more than 25 km/h provided it can stop within half its seeing distance. The red signal’s brake trip will stop the train after which it may proceed at slow speed. Repeat for next signal. If it sees the train ahead, obviously don’t ram the back of it. Wait patiently.
Home signals – Thou shalt not proceed through a red home signal under any circumstances or driver shall search for another job. Unless he received permission from signalman then it’s okay. Signalman at this end must talk to signalman at the other end to ensure line is clear before handing out permission to run the red or signalman shall search for another job.
It’s a long slow process getting everyone to work by say 10 or 11 AM. Today they even disabled the brake tripping and ran trains Home to Home one at a time at 25 km/h for the evening peak. Not sure how that went because I caught a tram. Still ended up on my usually train for the last half of the journey. 2, 3, 3, 2.5 hour trips since yesterday morning. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow has to offer.