Five-hour train delay on Melbourne to Warrnambool line

WEARY train passengers faced a five-hour delay without toilets on the Melbourne to Warrnambool service on Monday night (November 19).

In one of the latest arrivals in recent memory, passengers finally reached the Warrnambool station at 3am after two buses were called in for the last part of the journey.

The train left Southern Cross at 6.39pm and was due to arrive in Warrnambool at 10.07pm.

V/Line said the delay occurred due to a "mechanical issue" with the locomotive which broke down between Camperdown and Terang about 9pm.

"We were unable to get the 95 passengers off the train safely due to the uneven terrain and darkness, so waited on a loco to come from Geelong to push the train back to Camperdown where we got everyone on buses," communications adviser Clare Steele said.

She said the buses arrived in Warrnambool about 3am.

"Very late, very inconvenient, but I understand our customers were very good about it," Ms Steele said.

"We opened up the buffet car to people, our conductors offered mobile phones for people to call home and ensured everyone was attended to."

One man who spent the night waiting for his wife, a passenger on the train, has now demanded answers from Transport Minister Terry Mulder.

He told The Standard there was a male passenger with mental health issues who continually threatened other passengers and staff.

"My wife can handle that sort of thing but a fair few people on the train were distressed about it. Many of them were quite elderly.

"It was a serious situation." His wife said airconditioners and lights on the disabled train were operating but the toilets would not flush and the waste quickly built up.

"When (staff) discovered it was 1am and the other train still hadn't arrived they opened the kiosk up and said it had to be emptied.

"It was all free but you had to be careful you didn't drink too much because the toilets were totally out.

"All these people wanted to have a smoke. They were the ones who were really stressing out and screaming.

"The man who was in the worst situation had mental health problems, which is not his fault, but his language was really appalling.

"There was a young boy who kept watching him and I felt really sad for him. The conductor eventually came and took the distressed man away."

The passenger's husband questioned why V/Line used the oldest engines in its fleet for the late night trains and urged the rail company to improve its communication systems so alternative transport arrangements could be put into action much sooner.

Ms Steele said the onboard staff was responsible for the well-being of V/Line's passengers, although decisions around the best way to get the train moving were made by senior management in consultation with the driver.

"The decision to delay people and keep them on board was not taken lightly, but with the nearest road at least one kilometre away and inaccessible by bus, it was decided it was safer to keep people on the train and wait, rather than take a risk with injury by walking in the dark, he said.

"We're asking all customers who were on Monday night's service to call us so we can provide compensation."

The delay came the same night as V/Line took out the major tour and transport operator title at the annual RACV Victorian tourism awards.

V/Line's acting CEO Ross Pedley said the award was "not just about tourism, but ticking the boxes on all the vital criteria that make a successful and professional business from environmental initiatives to managing risks and staff well-being."

Tuesday's 5.33am train service from Warrnambool to Melbourne was also cancelled.

malexander@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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