The Labor Government has done nothing to fix problems with signalling on the Seymour train line more than a month since a near-miss threatened the lives of everyone on-board.
The chilling revelation was revealed at Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) on Thursday.
Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll floundered under questioning at PAEC, claiming the ancient signalling system that caused the near-miss was ‘safe’.
The incident, on May 14 this year, occurred when a V/Line train travelling from Melbourne to Seymour ran through two failed or extinguished signals, narrowly avoiding a head on collision with a passenger train departing Seymour for Melbourne.
This part of the line uses an absolute double-block signalling system from the 1800s that’s not still in use anywhere in Australia.
Asked to explain any upgrades, the Minister said: “We’re working towards a range of investments across that, including the double-blocking that’s served that local community for many years, safely. I’ve inspected it myself, personally, and seen it”.
Passengers weren’t notified there was a safety incident.
When asked about the lengthy delays in service, V/Line’s only comment was: “unfortunately unrelated and unforeseen signalling issues impacted the Seymour and Shepparton lines during this time and delayed this service.”
Meanwhile, documents have revealed that V/Line’s top executives pocketed a bonus of $125,000 while the organisation was in the middle of a corruption scandal and the coronavirus pandemic decimated fare revenue.
The reports come after former chief executive James Pinder’s sacking last October after the anti-corruption watchdog investigated allegations he secured work for mates in return for cash and a house deposit.
Comment attributable to Shadow Minister for Regional Public Transport Steph Ryan
“Two trains almost had a head on collision but the government didn’t tell anyone about it.
“The signalling system failed, endangering the lives of everyone on board.
“This incident had the potential to cost lives, not a single passenger was told the truth, yet Labor’s Minister claims it’s ‘safe’.”Shadow Minister for Regional Public Transport Steph Ryan
“Under the Andrews Labor Government, V/Line’s executives have pocketed thousands of dollars in bonuses despite the organisation’s struggling performance.
“V/Line is losing money hand over first after ticket sales plummeted in 2020.”