The Rail-Network has no computer backup system? WTF??

On Monday I jumped on a train from the CBD in Melbourne to go ‘to the end of the line’…about 40km away.

I’d gotten no more than two stations into my journey when the train stopped. And it wasn’t going any further for a while it seemed, and none of the station-workers could enlighten us poor stranded passengers as to exactly WHEN we would be mobile again. All they could tell us was that the signals were down, and that they were as frustrated as us about the whole schemozzle. In the end, I sat on that damned train for two bloody hours before it got going towards my destination.

It turned out that the entire metropolitan rail network had been plunged into disarray when the computer room that controls the rail system got flooded out by a broken water pipe. It wasn’t that the computers were flooded, just that they had to be shut-down to enable the emergency workers to pump the joint out.

But why no back-up system? How on earth can a complex railway network get by without some sort of fucking BACK-UP when things go wonky?

Fucking stupid Met System. I hate you with half the passion of the bloke wandering up and down South Yarra platform 4 screaming obscenities and abuse at youse for delaying his tryst with his girlfriend.


Same as Sydney. All you’ve gotta get is a bomb scare at (a certain place) and the entire network goes down. This one in Victoria was because of an airconditioning malfunction. Hmmm.

Of course, years ago there were little suburban signal boxes everywhere (decentralised) and this wouldn’t have happened.

Another joy is that, if you’re stuck on a stalled train for hours, and you are 100 yards from a station, they used to let you out to walk along the tracks to the station and catch a bus or whatever. These days, the railway’s insurance won’t let them do that. You’re stuck in that train. In Sydney at least, you’re locked in.

And it’s a very pleasurable experience in summer when your train is stopped in one of the City Circle tunnels.

At least we were corralled at a station, so there was no need to trudge along the line. Bugger. I could’ve done a bloody rousing rendition of Blood on the Tracks had I had my guitar in my pack!! :smiley:

I’m more pissed off that they didn’t offer us poor sods some coffee or chips and dimmies to pass away the time. THAT would have been a nice gesture at least.

Who can afford a backup system when all your money is being spent on a fancy wiggly roof at Spencer St?

You mean the boob roof?
I walk past this thing every morning and to me it looks like a whole bunch of boobs being welded onto the top of the supports.

It’s hideous but balances the west end of town against the Fed Square mess.

On the backup of the rail network, I’m not surprised they have no backups. The system is being run on spit and promises due to bad contract negotiations and there will never be enough money to warrant implementing a backup solution.

That’s one of the reasons I add to the traffic problems, I refuse to take public transport due to their unpredictability (and the smelly people).

SYDNEY RAIL: A clasic example of a government-owned disaster.
MELBOURNE RAIL: A classic example of a privatised disaster.
Sure beats the shit outta me…

A ‘backup system’ would be far more than being able to unplug one computer and plug in another. These computers are hardwired to very real machinery and electrical systems They’d need two separate parallel signalling systems - imagine the cost.

Yes. True, that. As an example, upgrading a level (grade) crossing from “stop” signs to lights, bells, and boom gates can cost a quarter of a million Australian dollars. Most of this money is taken up by the failsafe requirements of the system.

Also, even assuming a complete back-up system, this still would have happened. It was a water leak in the signalling centre. Water leak is as water leak does, regardless of the signalling’s redundancy - if it’s all centralised.

After being in Sydney for nearly 3 years, it was such a relief to get back to Adelaide where the public transport system runs mostly on time and doesn’t get shut down with strike action/mechanical failure every week.

A few years ago, San Francisco’s Muni upgraded the subway/streetcar control system to accommodate new lines and the ability to run shorter “headspaces” between trains. I’m not defending the contractor, but it is a complicated system with two types of trains and the somewhat unusual need to keep track of trains both in the subway tunnels but on the streets when they emerge to become streetcars.

Initially, it was, dare I say, a trainwreck. The system kept crashing for weeks and weeks, but at least the trains didn’t crash - they just stopped wherever they were. Passengers were pulling the emergency door releases all over town and walking through the tunnels. It got to the point where the Muni had to put warning labels on all the levers and signs at all the platforms saying that the emergency door releases were to be used only in case of emergency and that there was a stiff fine for improper escape from the trains.

Could be worse. Last I knew, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) was using a VAX to run its controls, and the original faregates and ticket vending machines were built by IBM. IBM may be good at computers, but not so good at faregates. At least these have all been replaced by equipment made by someone who specializes in ticket machines and gates.