Mulder Has No Interest In Where The Buck Stops

Late on April 30th, I finally received a response from my March 8th complaint direct to the Victorian Minister for Public Transport, Terry Mulder, about the state of infrastructure at Newport station.

I wrote about this complaint a few days later on the 14th, after failures at Newport on both days.

I might add, his response arrived just a few hours after I released another article which took a broad swipe at the minister, in which I complained about the lack of response to my initial complaint.

Coincidence much? Mind you, it’s dated six days before I received it. But anyhow.

Here is Mulder’s mostly canned response:

“Metro is currently delivering a project to increase the amount of train stabling sidings at Newport. Part of the project involves changing the junction between sidings and the main line. Work on this project can affect the reliability of signalling equipment at Newport. Metro expects to complete this project by mid 2012.”

Really? The bottom line is, this is mostly bullshit.

The project to install new stabling sidings at Newport has been going on for quite some time, and actually, appears to have been completed for some time.

Courtesy of the awesome NearMap, which records mapping and aerial photography over time, letting you go back and look at old imagery, lets see how much derp is in Mulder’s statement.

Here is the work site as it appeared on January 7th, 2010 – clearly work had not started:

Here is the work site as it appeared on February 20th, 2010 – work had started, though had not progressed very far:

Here is the work site as it appeared on April 16th, 2010 – work is moving along, mainly on the more southern of the two new stabling yards:

Here is the work site as it appeared on October 20th, 2010 – work is progressing well, and in fact, the more southern of the two new stabling yards is apparently complete, with a train shown in one of the stabling roads:

Here is the work site as it appeared on November 17th, 2011 – both the new northern and southern stabling yards are complete, with trains stabled in each:

So as of no later than November 17th, 2011 – (and earlier photos show the site apparently complete in mid-October 2011, though no trains are seen using the northern sidings until November 17th) – the project to add new sidings was complete.

Yet Mulder is saying they won’t be done until “mid-2012”. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve not seen any workmen in the area for months. The “mid-2012” statement seems more than a stretch to me.

Also, as of January 7th, 2010, the project hadn’t started. Once again, I don’t know about anyone else, but the problems at Newport have been going on for a lot longer than this. Blaming Metro for the problems with respect to the new stabling sidings seems one hell of a cop out.

Even if the stabling project was the problem, how much confidence should we gain from the fact that six months after its completion, it is still causing major problems at this location?

Not much from me.

“To address some of the delays that affect V/Line trains in the metropolitan network, the Coalition Government is proceeding with the Regional Rail Link (RRL) project. RRL is a major new rail line that will provide capacity for enough extra trains to carry thousands more passengers across the rail network in peak periods.”

RRL is a fantastic idea, but the Coalition did not initiate it. It was one of the very few decent transport infrastructure projects initiated by the previous government. It also won’t be ready until at least late-2014, with some estimates putting it as late as early-2016.

What do we do in the interstitial four years? Just put up with all the failures? It’s not just V/Line customers getting shafted here, it is Werribee and Williamstown line Metro customers as well.

Newport NEEDS to be fixed.

Moreover, if “work on this project can affect the reliability of signalling equipment at Newport”, I would suggest that the entire stabling siding project was utterly mismanaged, and reasonable risk mitigation techniques were not used. Reasonable risk management in this instance, would ensure that this work did not affect main line operations.

So I fear for the delivery of RRL too. After all, the same people are likely involved.

“RRL will separate regional trains from metropolitan trains, giving Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat trains their own dedicated track through the suburban system from Sunshine to Southern Cross. The project will deliver improved reliability for V/Line trains on the Geelong line.”

But do nothing to help in the meantime.

Some of the management issues with the Newport project might be attributable to the previous government who initiated it – but Mulder recently stated “the buck stops with me”.

Yet here, in his weak response to a simple question, he passes the buck straight onto Metro.

You fail Terry. You fail hard.

I will be making a formal response to his feeble attempt to respond to my initial complaint – and I shall be sharing it with you all!