THE braking issues with Siemens trains and Melbourne's rail network have continued this year, with up to nine trains having been impounded and taken out of service recently. It has been reported that one Comeng train has also been impounded.
It is the first major issue to face new Minister for Public Transport Martin Pakula, who was sworn in last week after Lynne Kosky's sudden and unexpected resignation.
Mr Pakula has been unable to specify a date when the trains will be able to resume regular service, instead saying "I think it is important that the vehicles undergo proper safety checking and so I think it is unhelpful to put artificial timelines on it."
However, Mr Pakula has admitted that the impounded trains may have an adverse impact on Melbourne's train services. "We know that this is going to be a bigger problem as school kids go back and particularly if the weather heats up, so we are very keen that the trains are back on the network as soon as possible," he said.
The issue is unique to Melbourne's Siemens trains with the brake issues causing trains to overrun train platforms by up to 90 metres. The most recent incident occurred at Carnegie Station on Saturday.
There has been conflicting information regarding the cause of the fault. Siemens has blamed Melbourne's track network, complaining that it is ageing and not maintained adequately. Connex – Melbourne's previous train operator – has blamed Siemens and has commenced court proceedings claiming compensation from Siemens.
Melbourne's current operator, Metro, has blamed slippery tracks for the braking issues. Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala said the trains were probably not to blame: "There is very strong evidence to suggest this is more a rail-related issue than a train-related issue," he said.
A new track adhesive called sandlite is expected to arrive from England this week to fix the problem. "It's basically sand and jelly really, which sticks to the top of the track and increases adhesion," Mr Lezala said.