Kaos due to Eastlink running late with bridge works.

What happened?

Just what I predicted.

Also, as I predicted: chaos!

Never seen it this bad before it Ringwood station though.

On the plus side:

  • information due to delays due to the EastLink construction was well posted at all stations.
  • Queue of trains (well almost) waiting to take passengers from Blackburn station.
  • Train service from Blackburn to City seemed very fast and efficient. Never been on a train that raced through that stretch so rapidly for years (maybe because the train wasn't as full as normal? - yes that right - approx 10:00 - there were seats for everybody - at least in the front carriage).
  • Only delayed 1:15 minutes, unlike last time at Bayswater station.
  • Unlike other times, the bus drivers seemed to know what was going on, and didn't need directions from passengers.

On the downside:

  • PA systems at certain train stations are often hard to hear and understand. This happened before.
  • Information on trains cancelled not posted. Some trains were cancelled.
  • No information posted on www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au what so ever.
  • Organisation of queues at Ringwood station hopeless. No room for people going to Belgrave to get past queue in other direction, in many places. Further on, I accidently jumped a significant part of the queue without realizing (why is the lane moving but the other lane stationary?). The queue for me extended one hour 15 minutes, and started from platform 2, extending all the way across the bridge, down along side the station, where we did a U-Turn and went back again to the bus stop.
  • People catching trains from the Lilydale line, arrived at Platform 3, and joined the queue a considerable distance after it had started. Hopeless! I very much suspect passengers from Belgrave received lower priority and had to wait longer.
  • I suspect EastLink won't provide any compensation for rail travellers. We will have to pay to use the tollway, so isn't it fair that they pay for delays they cause rail commuters?
  • Radio said no trains between Ringwood and Box Hill (wrong - Ringwood to Blackburn - although I might have Misremembered) until 10am. At Blackburn at 10am there were no signs of the trains service reopening.
  • It wouldn't surprise me if the potential for the construction project to run late was anticipated beforehand, but no information was passed to commuters. Perhaps even Connex was left in the dark.

On the curious side:

  • Media turned up at Ringwood station, with cameras, asking commuters how long they had been waiting, etc. Never before seen such media attention before to a train delay.
  • Bus driver referred to media as "cockroaches" and "feasting off human misery".
  • There was a man stationed at Ringwood station whose job was to monitor the red flags over the train line to ensure trains didn't go on the closed train track. Same at Blackburn station. Must be a boring job...
  • No doubt Connex will get blamed for the delays, but it seems like it wasn't their fault.
  • Numerous "special" trains travelling from Ringwood towards Belgrave, express past the stations with people waiting to travel in that direction.

What went wrong?

On the 20-21 the Eastlink bridge was moved into place (see VicSig article by “Chris Gordon”, 2007-01-30).

  • Eastlink bridge works (reference) (weekend), buses replaced trains (reference). Metlink posted an official bulletin. Several level crossings were also closed.

  • The Eastlink works didn’t end until midday, resulting in chaos as the train line was closed during peak hour (reference).
  • Connex will receive compensation, but it won’t be passed on to commuters (reference).

Soft ground was blamed for the delays:

Soft ground unable to hold a giant crane called “Snow White” was the cause of passengers being delayed more than two hours.


“Unfortunately the ground conditions below the existing rail line embankment proved to be unstable for the set up of our 500-tonne crane,” said Thiess spokesman Anthony Havers.

“Our construction team had to remove this soft earth and replace it with crushed rock.

Compo for Connex, not commuters, Liam Houlihan and Jane Metlikovec, The Herald Sun, 2006-08-29

Connex also responded:

Connex first learnt around midday on Sunday, 27 August that works being undertaken by the Eastlink project at Heatherdale station might ‘run late’. Connex had no control over these works.

The detailed program that had been shown to us by Eastlink indicated there was plenty of margin to have the works delayed but to avoid any impact on our trains. In fact, there was around 10 hours ‘contingency time’.

At that stage, it appeared the impact on services the next day (Monday) would be minimal. Based on the estimated completion time given to Connex, we believed trains would be able to run through the works area from around 6.00am.

This meant that buses would only need to replace trains from the first train of the day (4.30am) until 6.00am.

We activated our contingency plans, and we put as many buses as we could find on stand-by and alerted staff.

It was not until the early hours of Monday morning, after midnight, that we were told works would not finish before 6am and trains would not be able to go through Heatherdale until 10am at the earliest.

This made it necessary to run buses from Ringwood to Blackburn for whole morning peak, rather than just until 6am as we first believed.

Connex Media started ringing radio stations at 5.30am so the information could be covered in news bulletins from 6am.

At that time, the estimated delay was put at ‘more than 30 minutes’. This proved incorrect, partly due to the time buses would take to complete the trip from Ringwood to Blackburn in peak hour traffic and the number of buses available.

We would stress that Connex obtained as many buses as possible to provide the replacement service from Ringwood to Blackburn.

On a weekday morning, bus companies have commitments to provide regular scheduled services and school runs. Few buses are available for other purposes.

In the end, we managed to obtain 30 buses but would have hired many more if it had been possible to obtain them.

We fully appreciate the frustration our customers experienced due to delays. Many were delayed by up to two hours (or even more). We regret our customers could not to be alerted earlier to the disruption and the delays they faced.


Buses replaced trains between Ringwood and Blackburn, Connex, 2006-08-21