Yesterday afternoon, at around 4pm, Melbourne's entire train network ground to a complete halt. Passengers were left trapped in their carriages both above and below ground for up two hours. Commuters lucky enough to have missed the affected trains faced extreme delays once the network did eventually return to service hours later, leading to crowd control measures. So what happened?
Metro Trains has blamed a computer problem that rendered every train invisible to the system's network. This forced the shutdown of the system for safety reasons. The subsequent chaos had wide-ranging effects on Melbourne's city centre, resulting in large crowds and choked bottlenecks, and major delays across tram and bus networks unable to cope with peak-hour demand.
Uber's surge pricing system led to what would usually be an $8 to $10 fare for a five-minute ride, increasing to a $43 fare for an equivalent distance, according to the Herald Sun.
Not surprisingly, Melburnians are furious, with many questioning how this could occur without a backup system in place. Public Transport minister Jacinta Allen told ABC Radio she considered the meltdown to be "completely unacceptable". She said the backup system also failed because of the magnitude of the fault – a total system failure had never happened before.
"I've sought from them (Metro Trains) a comprehensive investigation into what occurred yesterday evening," she said. Metro's contract with the government allows for it to be fined and penalised for the shutdown. She also criticised Uber for its price surge.
Turning to compensation, Allan sought assurances from Metro that "anyone who touched on during that time should receive a refund". Marcus Willis from Metro Trains has asked every passenger wanting compensation to fill out a form. "We assess all requests on a case-by-case basis,” he says.
It remains to be seen whether those refunds will extend to costs incurred for passengers' alternate commute home.