JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

City Loop safety slammed

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

City Loop's damning report

Despite reported concerns about the City Loop's safety, little has been done to improve conditions for over a decade, according to 3AW reporter Heidi Murphy.

PT0M0S 620 349

Melbourne’s underground rail Loop is a disaster waiting to happen and the city’s busiest railway station had no effective fire plan until very recently, the state’s public sector watchdog has said.

In a report that has harshly criticised the Department of Transport for failing to act after years of warnings, acting Ombudsman John Taylor wrote that the department took ‘‘little effective action’’ to fix a host of safety problems in the Loop, despite receiving seven detailed engineering reports between 2001 and 2011.

Problems identified in the Ombudsman’s investigation, which was tabled in State Parliament today, include:

Disaster waiting to happen ... An insider's view of the City Loop tunnel system.

Disaster waiting to happen ... An insider's view of the City Loop tunnel system. Photo: Craig Abraham

  • corrosion and cracking of concrete plinths supporting rail tracks
  • poor condition of the emergency walkways
  • corroded fire services, pipes and no smoke alarms
  • significant deficiencies in the ventilation systems
  • problems with driver-only communication in the event of a disaster or the driver being incapacitated.

In response, Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder today accepted ‘‘each and every one of the recommendations’’ the report contains on fixing the problems.

Mr Mulder also attempted to reassure people that the City Loop is safe for travel, saying works to improve safety would be completed next year.

Light at the end of the tunnel? .... Inside the City Loop.

Light at the end of the tunnel? .... Inside the City Loop. Photo: Craig Abraham

‘‘Yes it is safe but there are safety enhancements that should have taken place in the past and those safety enhancements weren’t taking place,’’ Mr Mulder said.

He blamed the former Labor government for failing to act on the multiple safety reports, and said that when he came to power he identified an unhealthy culture within the Department of Transport that sought to avoid responsibility. But he said that culture was changing.

‘‘A line in the sand has been drawn with the establishment of Public Transport Victoria ... We now have in place a board who are responsible and you’ll see a complete and total change in the way that we administer the contracts, the way we analyse where money should be spent, so can I assure you of one thing, safety will not be compromised,’’ Mr Mulder said.

Severe leached rust water on a walkway in the Burnley Loop.

Severe leached rust water on a walkway in the Burnley Loop.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that important safety infrastructure inside the Loop had not been properly maintained or renewed in the past decade, potentially putting many thousands of passengers at risk in the event of a disaster such as a fire.

‘‘This investigation found that the [Loop] had not attracted the priority or the investment necessary to maintain its assets at a level reflecting its importance to the network and at a standard that would ensure the safety of staff and the public in an emergency,’’ Mr Taylor said.

‘‘It was only after the commencement of this investigation that a comprehensive program of works was put in place to address the problems identified ... over the last decade.’’

Burnley Loop again - high wall cracking and leaching of concrete.

Burnley Loop again - high wall cracking and leaching of concrete.

The Ombudsman’s report follows an investigation by The Age last year into the City Loop’s safety. The Age revealed that serious structural problems in the Loop — including cracking tunnel walls, concrete corrosion and poor emergency systems — had been ignored by successive state governments and train operators, despite repeated warnings.

In response to The Age’s investigation, Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said he was satisfied with two recent reports that found the tunnel to be safe.

However, the Ombudsman noted today that a briefing the department provided to Mr Mulder in September last year in response to The Age’s reports ‘‘omitted  important information and contained wrong information’’.

Severe corrosion and leaching in the Northern Loop..

Severe corrosion and leaching in the Northern Loop..

On being misled, Mr Mulder said it was ‘‘disappointing and it’s wrong that a minister is not fully informed in terms of an exact situation’’, but would not say whether any departmental staff would be dismissed.

Safety concerns about the City Loop and Flinders Street Station had been raised for years groups including Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and the managers of the Melbourne Central shopping complex, who all expressed fears to the department that they could not adequately respond to a disaster.

Delays in responding to recommendations to improve fire safety at Flinders Street Station were in part caused by an inability between the department and Metro to agree on who was responsible for doing the work.

The Ombudsman found that official recommendations to boost fire protection had not been acted on six years after they were made.

‘‘For at least 11 years the department and its franchisees [Connex and Metro] were advised about problems with key emergency systems in the [Loop]. Engineering and other reports repeatedly highlighted the poor condition of evacuation walkways and fire services pipes and questioned the smoke extraction capacities of the ventilation system. Concerns have also been raised by emergency services and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union,’’ Mr Taylor said.

‘‘For the past six years, Victorian Managed Insurance Authority reports have highlighted deficiencies with fire protection systems at Flinders Street Station that put the historic building at risk in the event of a fire.

‘‘I am concerned that the department did not ensure that action was taken to address these problems in a timely manner. While action is now being taken, this does not excuse the delays identified by this investigation.’’

Metro took up to two years to finalise its emergency management plans for the network, using out of date plans in that time, and the department failed to ensure it complied with the timelines set out in its contract, he said.

The Ombudsman identified a number of  incidents where poor driver safety skills had put people at risk, including an incident in 2010 when a Metro train crashed into the rear of a freight train on the Craigieburn line after the driver had sped past two stop signals. Passengers were hospitalised and both trains were badly damaged.

In 2009 a driver taking an empty train from Flinders Street Station to the Epping railyards ended up on the wrong track after passing a stop signal, and continued towards Jolimont until coming to a stop just 46 metres away from a facing train.

Each weekday, more than 700 trains travel through the Loop and an estimated 130,000 people use its three stations. About 180,000 people pass through Flinders Street Station each weekday.

41 comments

  • Victoria,
    This is nothing new. What are you going to do about it?
    I know! Let's commission another report

    Commenter
    Pat
    Date and time
    October 25, 2012, 1:17PM
    • Yes, and draw a line in the sand!

      Commenter
      Riddley Walker
      Location
      Inland
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 1:38PM
    • Or maybe a study of a study of a report so that it can be buried in red tape and various consulting firms will make a killing out of it and still nothing gets done!

      Commenter
      Ryan
      Location
      Holmes
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 1:46PM
    • Where is the Opposition leader on this? Daniel Andrews is normally both boots in on this sort of stuff, yet has gone into hiding when his own government's record is so starkly exposed.

      Commenter
      Shawry
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 2:06PM
    • Definitely a report yes. I mean they will give it the most serious and urgent consideration, and insist on a thorough and rigorous examination of all the proposals, allied to a detailed feasibility study and budget analysis before producing a consultative document for consideration by all interested bodies and seeking comments and recommendations to be included in a brief for a series of working parties who will produce individual studies which will provide the background for a more wide-ranging document considering whether or not the proposal should be taken forward to the next stage.

      Commenter
      Sir Humphrey says...
      Location
      CBD
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 2:22PM
    • Completely agree...a report is what's needed.

      A report and perhaps a few walking shots of the the head of the PTU on some nightly news grabs.

      Commenter
      Alex
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 2:57PM
    • You're right. They'll probably burn through $20 million commissioning some stupid feasibility study which will end up being mothballed anyway because some interest group opposed it. They should make a law that sees MP's pay docked for every study that isn't acted on without proper justification.

      Commenter
      Kev
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 4:19PM
  • We all know there has been massive underinvestment in all our railway infrastructure since the completion the City Loop 30 years ago and that its straining and breaking down under the hugely increased usage since then by a much bigger Melbourne, But the dangerous, neglected state it's in is a shocking indictment of all our state governments since the early 1980s.

    Commenter
    Melbourne -
    Location
    first world pretensions and third world infrastructure
    Date and time
    October 25, 2012, 1:26PM
    • We haven't got money for essential works but every year millions of our taxes are wasted subsidising a, disruptive road race around Albert Park.

      Commenter
      Jim
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 1:30PM
      • Yes Jim - A race that generates millions of dollars in revenue more than it costs but much more than what Bracks/Brumby obviously invested into the loop infrastructure during their reigns of incomptatant management.

        Commenter
        Petrol Head
        Location
        Albert Park Lake
        Date and time
        October 25, 2012, 2:12PM

    More comments

    Comments are now closed

    Related Coverage

    Featured advertisers

    Special offers

    Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo