Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Timelapse: Track work on the City Loop

Timelapse of track work being carried out on the City Loop line causing rail delays.

PT0M42S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2bxfa 620 349

AN EPIC 20-kilometre traffic jam choked Melbourne's busiest arterial road on Thursday, as planned maintenance works on the West Gate Bridge slowed traffic to a crawl all the way from West Sunshine to Malvern.

The bridge was reduced from five lanes to two in each direction all morning and for part of the afternoon, backing up city-bound traffic on the West Gate Freeway as far back as the Western Ring Road. At its heaviest, west-bound traffic travelling on CityLink from the eastern suburbs was backed up through the Domain Tunnel and as far east as Toorak Road.

Many motorists were caught out by the closure, despite a VicRoads information campaign, with some reporting delays that pushed their morning commute out to a teeth-grinding two hours or more.

West Gate bridge holiday traffic.

Planned maintenance works on the West Gate Bridge caused a 20-kilometre traffic jam on Thursday. Photo: Ken Irwin

Those traffic delays stand to be repeated today and potentially every working day until January 11 as VicRoads completes asphalt resurfacing work it says is essential to keep the road in good condition.

According to VicRoads, about 180,000 vehicles cross the bridge on an ordinary working day outside of holiday times. Numbers drop to about 150,000 in the Christmas holiday period, making it the quietest time of the year on Melbourne's roads.

VicRoads advises commuters to allow extra travel time or find another way to get across the city between now and January 11.

West Gate bridge holiday traffic.

The bridge was reduced from five lanes to two in each direction all morning and for part of the afternoon. Photo: Ken Irwin

But those who chose to take a train into the city yesterday were not spared their own serving of transport chaos, as Regional Rail Link track works meant trains did not run via the City Loop on most lines, or between Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations.

The situation was compounded by the publication of incorrect timetable information by Public Transport Victoria on its website, smartphone app and at its call centre.

A Public Transport Victoria spokeswoman said it had received an "unprecedented number of timetable changes" from all public transport operators.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

"These include extra services for special events, summer timetables and changes to make way for Regional Rail Link construction works," she said.

"Some of these changes are still coming in and PTV is working full time to get the changes into the system and published as quickly as we can."

Trains were running to a Saturday timetable, with a number of extra peak-hour services. Errors included listing services that stopped at all stations as express services.

The Regional Rail Link works, which are also scheduled to extend into the new year, forced the diversion of all but six metro lines away from the City Loop. However, services on four of those lines were temporarily suspended in the afternoon, because of a track fault near North Melbourne station, causing major delays on the cusp of the evening peak.

On the roads, city worker Janine Doney said it took her two hours and 45 minutes to get from her Point Cook home to her desk at her Exhibition Street office. Her frustration turned to anger at the lack of maintenance workers on the three closed city-bound lanes as she crossed the bridge.

''As I travelled over the bridge this morning, there was no infrastructure or manpower in place to conduct any work inbound, this was all set up on the out-bound side,'' Ms Doney said.

''It is time that VicRoads are held accountable for the chaos they continuously create on the roads each and every day, as any other private organisation would be.''

But VicRoads road operations director, Dean Zabrieszach, said the authority had carefully planned the timing of its works to minimise the impact on motorists and freight operators.

''It's been happening on the West Gate for 20 to 30 years, it's something that has to be done regularly, otherwise the bridge surface will start becoming rougher, and I hesitate to say dangerous, but not the way a bridge of that type should be functioning,'' he said.

Brian Negus, the RACV's head of public policy, said there was ''no ideal time'' to close lanes on the West Gate Bridge but he said that the Christmas period was probably the least-worst time.

He said the huge traffic snarls had again exposed Melbourne's unhealthy reliance on the West Gate Bridge for east-west trips across the city.

''Maintenance works are essential but it does point to the fact that Melbourne is totally reliant on one river crossing east to west,'' Mr Negus said.

The Baillieu government this month declared the proposed east-west tunnel a major project to accelerate early planning for the 18-kilometre arterial, which would extend from the Western Ring Road to the Eastern Freeway via CityLink and provide a second major river crossing.

However, the government has stated its intention to build the eastern section first, which would not include the second river crossing. The opposition says the western section must be built first.