Confused sports fans shut down a rail network

One would think that shutting down an entire city’s rail network would be difficult – but unfortunately Metro Trains Melbourne proved that a few confused sports fans can do just that. So how the hell did they do it?

All trains between Richmond and Flinders Street stopped due to a trespasser on the tracks

Back on March 29 the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosted the final of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. The game finished well into the evening, so many in the crowd of over 90,000 people headed towards Richmond station to catch a train.

At 10:27 PM Metro Trains posted the following tweets.

Tim Malone posted this photo of Flinders Street Station platform 14 to Twitter a few minutes later:

And followed it up with this report from the scene.

So how did thousands of people end up walking down the train tracks?

In my attempts to find the above tweets, I found a very interesting thread on /r/Cricket

Walking back from the MCG last night on the train tracks?
March 30, 2015

So I must admit, I was pretty wasted after the game last night. I was in a group of 4 people who looked at the crazy busy bridge back in to the city and thought “nah, let’s find another way”. We ended up walking just to the side of the bridge and all of a sudden we were walking right beside all the flinders street train lines, with nothing resembling a fence in the way! Hundreds of people kept walking and eventually we ended up in the train station.

Is this is common shortcut used regularly? I’ve only been in Melbourne 3 years and I’ve never seen it before.

There were only two comments – the first pretty useless:

Shhhh

And the second very illuminating:

Haha we got caught up in the herd as well. Funny stuff. I had my 2 month old strapped to my chest and was getting increasingly anxious. Thankfully the metro staff came along, opened the gate and saved the day.

Still trying to convince the missus it was quicker than the bridge.

Doing some digging

The bridge referred to in the Reddit thread was the William Barak Bridge – one of many pedestrian bridges that cross the railway tracks between Richmond and Flinders Street Station, this one links the western side of the MGC to Birrarung Marr and Federation Square.

William Barak Bridge looking south-east

And the “walking to the side of the bridge” referred to was Jolimont Street.

Jolimont Street beside the William Barak Bridge

The street ends at a T intersection, with the north leg forming Jolimont Road towards Wellington Parade, and the south leg following the railway tracks as Brunton Avenue.

There is also a gate on the other side that Metro Trains Melbourne uses to access the rail corridor.

Cars exit the rail access gate - May 2014

This gravel tracks runs beside the tracks towards the city.

Access track linking Flinders Street 'A' box at Jolimont Road to the traction substation next to the Clifton Hill Group tracks

With it ending at a number of railway related buildings located next to Wellington Parade.

Apartment complex on Wellington Parade South curves around the footprint of the Burnley and Caulfield Loop tunnels

So what actually happened?

I wasn’t there on March 29, but this is what I think happened.

  • One sports fan decided to dodge the crowds heading over the William Barak Bridge, and opted to take Jolimont Street instead.
  • At the T junction with Brunton Avenue, they hit a dead end.
  • In front of them they saw a gravel path and no gate blocking their way – with the CBD skyline in front of them, the path looks like the best option.
  • Next thing they knew, they were walking beside the railway tracks.
  • Other sports fans leaving the MCG saw other people taking a short cut, so decided to follow them.

Next thing you know, you have a few hundred people walking beside the tracks, who eventually get spotted by a train driver, who reports the incident to train control who stop the trains.

How do you end up on an access track?

In theory a railway access track should never be used as a shortcut – fences are designed to keep out the general public! However in the case the gate leading to the tracks between Richmond and Flinders Street, the gate is never locked, as these Google Street View images show…

November 2007.

Open rail access gate - November 2007

December 2009.

Open rail access gate - December 2009

March 2014.

Open rail access gate - March 2014

May 2014.

Open rail access gate - May 2014

September 2014.

Open rail access gate - September 2014

November 2014.

Open rail access gate - November 2014

December 2014.

Open rail access gate - December 2014

Not to mention that a few years ago I spotted an open gate on the opposite side of the tracks.

Open gate - great security...

Who wants to buy Metro Trains a “Shut the damn gate” sign?

'Danger Rail Corridor' sign on a locked gate

On the subject of security

Remember back in September 2014 how rubbish bins were removed from Melbourne’s railway stations due to security concerns?

PTV said in a statement operators were undertaking “a range” of precautionary security measures across the network, including the removal of rubbish bins at key locations.

“This is in line with the general increase in the security alert, not specifically because of any threat to public transport,” PTV said.

Letting any Tom, Dick and Harry wander along the tracks and beneath Federation Square sounds like a bigger security risk that a few rubbish bins!

Footnote

On the evening April 25 the spots precinct again played host to a major sporting event – and trains were again shut down between Richmond and Flinders Street due to trespassers on the track. Initially I thought it was an example of lost sporting fans ending up on the tracks, but I was later informed that the cause of the disruption was someone threatening self harm.

Liked it? Take a second to support Marcus Wong on Patreon!
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Confused sports fans shut down a rail network”

  1. Dave says:

    Good followup on the incident. Seems a pretty clear case of a minor infrastructure change being required. Assume that Metro will be penalised for late running for the cancellation/delays given this would appear to have been within their control. Should also provide the incentive to fix it.
    Have you sent this to PTV and Metro?

  2. Julian Calaby says:

    There’s a lot of places around the network where the barriers between people and the track are minimal and a lot of unlocked gates.

    A few years ago, I was poking around Victoria Park station and found that the track access to the points in front of the well locked stabling yards didn’t even have a gate.

    There’s also a few places on the north side of Tottenham yard where there are gaps in the fence where there could be a gate, but there isn’t.

    There’s a building right in the corner where the lines south-east of Richmond station branch apart which appears to be used for rail stuff. The fencing around there has gates, but I’ve never seen them closed or locked.

    And I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’m talking inner suburbs, not the outer suburbs where knee high track fencing is the norm.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I’ve always got my eye open for (legal!) places I can take photos of trains from, and it ridiculous how open the rail corridors of Melbourne are.

      Compare it to Brisbane and Sydney, where the inner city tracks are surrounded by prison-style welded mesh fences.

  3. […] year I wrote about how confused sports fans shut down Melbourne’s rail network thanks to an unlocked gate – since then a ‘keep gates locked’ sign has […]

Leave a Reply