Melbourne’s peak hour train meltdown was “completely unacceptable” and could result in fines for Metro Trains, Victoria’s Public Transport Minister has said, as commuters criticise transport app Uber for “taking advantage” of the chaos.
A computer glitch shut down the entire train network about 4pm on Thursday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
Uber prices skyrocketed at the height of the chaos, with a five-minute trip – which could usually cost about $8 to $10 – escalating to about $43.
Metro Trains has not yet disclosed the specific cause of the computer outage, but the result was that screens in its central control room went blank suddenly.
Chief executive Mike Houghton said the problem was not the result of hacking.
“We are confident there is no hacking or cyber risk with our system,” Mr Houghton told ABC Radio on Friday.
Unable to know where trains were, controllers had no choice but to shut down the entire 869-kilometre network rather than risk a potentially catastrophic collision.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allen told ABC radio on Friday the situation was unacceptable and said the contract with Metro Trains allowed for penalties to be applied.
”The government has made its position crystal clear… we expect a higher performance standard under the next round of contracts for Metropolitan trains and trams,” Ms Allen said.
Ms Allen also slammed Uber for implementing surge pricing – an automatic feature of the app that increases prices based on demand in the area.
“I think their [Uber’s] behaviour yesterday exposed their approach to people,” Ms Allen said.
“Taking advantage of people in a difficult circumstance is not how to operate a business,” she said.
Thanks to the uber driver quoting $300 for a $50 trip after the trains ground to a halt in Melbourne tonight, that's the spirit!
— Christine Craik (@christine_craik) July 13, 2017
The fault left people stuck on trains between stations – with some trapped underground in the City Loop for up to two hours and others even forced open doors to climb down onto the tracks and escape.
On Thursday night, Metro Trains announced commuters caught up in the peak hour rail meltdown could make an application for compensation.
“We urge anyone who was impacted by the delays to please contact us and we will consider their claims individually,” spokesman Marcus Williams said.
The peak-hour failure shut down all the city’s train lines just as the evening rush was getting started.
Some stalled travellers spent almost two hours in crowded carriages in the CBD’s underground loop.
Metro Trains told passengers to seek alternative ways home late on Thursday afternoon after reporting that every line was experiencing “major delays”.
Services were resumed when the network-wide technical glitch was rectified about an hour after the stoppage began.
However, not all trains re-commenced their journeys at the same time, meaning some commuters were immobile for several hours.
The crowd at Southern Cross station was so severe security guards stopped down-bound escalator traffic because the crush of humanity on the platform made movement almost impossible.
The meltdown comes as the state government of Premier Daniel Andrews was poised to extend Metro’s contract for another seven years.
Fairfax Media reports that the announcement will likely be delayed until memories and commuters’ tempers cool down.
– with AAP