V/Line trains and door faults

A few weeks ago Melbourne newspaper The Age ran a piece titled “‘Distressed’ V/Line passengers open train doors after becoming trapped in Ballarat-line train” – so what is the story here?

Confused passengers try to board an overcrowded V/Line service at Sunshine in evening peak

The story starts:

Passengers on the 7.48am city-bound service from Melton were forced to break emergency locks on the train’s doors at Deer Park to get air during the incident on Wednesday morning.

One passenger said the train stopped short of the station when the air conditioning went out.

“Once we arrived at the platform people were waiting to get off the train,” she said.

“People were standing at the door inside. The doors wouldn’t open. People became distressed very quickly. People were very upset…. I became distressed very quickly.”

Two men on the carriage broke the emergency door lock after 10 minutes of trying.

V/Line staff eventually opened all the emergency doors, but the backlog of people arriving at the station created chaos.

A V/Line spokeswoman said the problem at Deer Park began at Bacchus Marsh on the 7.39am train to Southern Cross.

She said it took about half an hour to move the train after the fault occurred.

The train in question was operated by a ‘H’ type carriage set.

Y129 shunt a H set from Southern Cross platform 2 to the carriage wash

These carriages entered V/Line service back in the mid-1980s, having been converted from retired ‘Harris’ suburban trains.

VPRS 12800/P4, item RS/1199

As originally converted these carriages were fitted with air operated power doors, remotely closed by the conductor on departure, then remotely released on arrival at stations, allowing them to be manually opened by passengers.

An important distinction here is the power operated doors, and not power locking doors. In normal service, both systems act exactly the same, but in the case of a power failure, only power locking doors stay closed – power operated doors are free to be manually opened.

As the H set carriages aged, the reliability of these door mechanisms began to decline, with door failures becoming increasingly common.

Looking out the open door outside North Melbourne station

Both doors sticking open following station stops.

Investigation after train departs Warragul with doors open
6 July 2013

V/Line is investigating after an on-peak rail service departed Warragul Station with many of its platform-facing doors still open on Wednesday night.

Doors not closing on the Traralgon-bound service, which departs Warragul Station at 7.30pm weekdays, is nothing new – passengers have reported single doors not closing or opening on the service and other services using the same type of carriages for years.

It is however less common for more than one door to remain open on departure.

It is unknown when the doors of the six-carriage service closed on Wednesday, but some remained open as carriages passed the end of the station.

The Warragul Citizen contacted V/Line on Thursday for information on the incident and is awaiting a detailed response.

A spokesperson said the regional rail operator is investigating and will supply more information to TWC when it becomes available.

As well as doors coming open while the train was in motion.

Doors swing open on train travelling at 100km/h
August 6, 2014

The doors of a packed Geelong-bound train swung open while travelling more than 100km/h today.

The doors on the 3.59pm express service worked their way open, leaving passengers in one carriage with nothing between them and the ground.

Train operator V/Line has said the train would have been travelling at speeds of up to 110km/h.

This happened on one of the older H-class carriages, a refurbished version of a train from the 1970s.

Due to the age of the train, it lacked modern passenger intercoms. V/Line only found out about this when a passenger tweeted about it.

Network control then alerted the conductor who attempted to close the door, although passengers say she was unsuccessful.

Passengers said the train left for another station with the doors still open.

V/Line said the train has now been taken out of service while it investigates the cause of this fault, and said it is taking the issue “very seriously”.

As an interim fix, V/Line changed their rules to require conductors to manually check that every door is closed before leaving the platform.

V/Line conductor flicks the switch to close the doors of a H set

Some conductors apologies to passengers for the late running caused.

“I would like to apologise for the late running of this train, it is due to a new company policy. We are running behind schedule and will continue to fall behind due to the new policy that requires us to check that every door on the train is shut before we can exit the station. Unfortunately the only way to do this is to walk along the platform.”

In October 2014 V/Line confirmed the issues to The Age.

V/Line has ordered staff to check carriage doors are secure before departing platforms, amid reports of doors opening while trains are travelling at high speeds.

The regional rail operator confirmed the directive was given to conductors in August following safety concerns after doors opened on three moving trains recently.

Problems with the doors have all affected H-set trains, of which there are nine in V/Line’s fleet that typically run limited services to and from Geelong, Seymour, Kyneton and Bacchus Marsh each day.

V/Line said the door problems were believed to be caused by customers’ “heavy handling” or “forcing”, causing the door to become disengaged from the drive mechanism and stuck in an open position.

But a passenger who commutes from Geelong to Melbourne every day and has seen train doors automatically open in transit three times in the past two months said he believed the problem was related to an electrical fault.

“I’ve seen it happen at high speeds, where the power shuts off and the doors just come open, usually open by about three to six inches,” he said. “There is clearly a failure of power to the entire carriage because the air conditioning and the lights lose power.”

The passenger, who asked not to be named, said on two occasions the train was stopped, but the third train was kept running and passengers advised to stay away from the open door after staff said the problem could not be fixed.

V/Line says there is no correlation between problems with the doors and electrical issues.

But did mention a fix was in progress.

V/Line said it was working on a new modification for the H-set trains aimed at strengthening the door drive mechanism and a function alerting the driver if it was open.

By December 2015 the upgraded door mechanism had been retrofitted to entire H-set fleet, the main spotting feature being a new emergency door release valve beneath each carriage.

New emergency door release valve on the underframe of a BTH carriage

But the main change was inside the train – the conductor can now see from inside the train that all doors have been successfully locked, and if the power supply to the train does drop out, the doors stay locked.

Which leaves us back at the at Deer Park station: the passengers were stuck onboard a failed train behind locked doors, thanks to a system installed after doors on an identical train didn’t stay closed when they were supposed to!

On open doors

Ever through that the ‘good old days’ before locked doors were safer? You’d be wrong.

Sure, there’s nostalgia. But the reality is there were accidents, people were injured or killed, and the quest for better safety is a worthy one.

In 2005 a passenger fell out of the open doors of a V/Line train bound for Warrnambool.

And in 2011 a five-year-old boy fell from an open door onboard the Sunlander train in Queensland.

And leaving broken down trains

Think that just because your train has stopped, you’re safe to open the door and walk down an adjacent track?

The floor of a train is about a metre above the rails, with no ladder to use.

Evacuating passengers from the rear half of the train via the intermediate cab doors

Ballast is a pain in the ankles to walk along.

AN7 pattern concrete sleepers at Mont Albert

And you’re assuming that trains on other tracks have stopped – something you cannot assume even in the suburban area. On some corridors separate tracks are managed by separate rail operators, a contributing factor to the derailment of a V/Line train in 2003.

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7 Responses to “V/Line trains and door faults”

  1. John O'Reilly says:

    Thanks Marcus once again.

  2. Andrew says:

    Interesting post, but if people fall out of open tram or train doors, who do they have to blame? It is not so hard. Hang on if you are near an open door. Of course if you are walking along train tracks you keep a look out for trains. As a teen I used to walk along the train tracks fom Yallourn to Moe. Trains were few, but I kept an ear open. And then there is the illuminated ground pedestrian lights at a city intersection. It is absurd. Talk about catering to those who Darwin should take out.

  3. Rohan says:

    Had no idea some Harris trains were still around – I recall they were all dumped due to asbestos, but apparently still good enough fur V Line ! They’re getting into their 60s now.

  4. mich says:

    “And you’re assuming that trains on other tracks have stopped – something you cannot assume even in the suburban area.”

    I would not assume that.

    I would, however, assume that they are not invisible, soundless, and travelling at 300 km/hr.

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