I wrote a thing at CityMetric on the Melbourne rail-fail yesterday – go and read it. It turns out that 40-year-old state-of-the-art technology doesn’t age super-well if you don’t upgrade it, and that only having one train line through your city isn’t a great idea either.

Disappointingly, they rejected my suggested song-based title, so I’m using it here.

There’s also a whole other mini-saga that I didn’t have the space to cover in the piece: how Melbourne’s botched initial rail privatisation in the late 1990s also helped delay and/or stuff the Metrol signalling upgrades.

For frankly bizarre reasons, the Kennett government split the network in half for PPP purposes, including track maintenance as well as train operations, despite the fact that the city loop was clearly shared infrastructure. This combined all of the problems of rail franchising in Great Britain with all the problems of the PPP on the London Underground, except slightly worse.

As a result, the Metrol system ended up remaining in state hands and being largely ignored by everyone.

The incredibly stupid overall situation was significantly improved after one of the two operators went bust and the other one’s contract was extended to the whole network, but Metrol continued to languish with nobody having clear responsibility for its future.

Metro Trains runs signalling and track operations, and the Victorian Government via Public Transport Victoria owns all the infrastructure. But is a computer program an operation or a piece of equipment? Nobody seems to know, and very certainly nobody wants to pay. Which is another stuff-up again.

Also thanks to Anthony for helping to explain some of the IT stuff (all errors are mine).

Image: Frame from Dumb Ways To Die – Metro Trains Melbourne / McCann Australia

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