Sydney’s Light Rail got off to a dreadful start, trapping passengers onboard for more than an hour. Considering Canberra has a similar, albeit older system, could the same happen there?
On January 22 this year, the newly completed Sydney Light Rail broke down due to a mechanical fault, taking a third of the network with it.
As a result, hundreds of passengers were trapped aboard a light rail vehicle in the city for more than an hour, and were only freed after passengers called 000 and were then rescued by the police.
Although nine vehicles in total were affected by the shutdown, only one had doors that remained locked, trapping passengers for 70 minutes with a non-functional emergency call intercom, according to commuters on board.
Canberra has a very similar light rail system that started operation in April of 2019.
The Big Smoke asked Canberra Metro whether the same scenario could happen here.
Specifically, whether passengers could end up trapped on a broken-down vehicle and unable to free themselves and if the emergency intercom system could fail duplication a situation like Sydney.
We also asked about what kind of testing Canberra Metro does to help prevent failures like this from occurring. This is what they had to say in response:
‘Canberra Metro Operations light rail drivers are in constant communications with the Operations Control Centre (OCC) through onboard radio. In the event that a light rail vehicle (LRV) ever loses power, drivers have a handheld radio to maintain communications with the OCC.
In addition, customer safety systems such as help points will continue to operate on battery power. Drivers would also be given authority to leave their cabin and speak directly to customers to keep them informed at all times.’
Regarding the failure of the emergency intercoms specifically, Canberra Metro tells TBS:
‘Every LRV has ten Emergency Help Points (EHP) on board, and every one of those EHPs is tested monthly as part of the regular vehicle maintenance checks. In the event that a fault occurs in one of the Help Points, a continuous alarm will sound alerting both the driver and the OCC.’
As to the question of whether the driver could free any affected passengers or could they free themselves, the answer is: yes.
‘In the event that an LRV is stopped on the network the driver is able to open the doors from their cabin. Even in the case that an LRV does not have power, the doors are able to be released using a mechanical emergency door release handle.’
Lastly, TBS asked Canberra Metro what other systems or procedures they have in place that would prevent a similar scenario in Canberra:
‘The OCC monitors the entire light rail network 24/7 every day of the year through a comprehensive system of CCTV and communication systems. This includes in and around the light rail vehicles, the stops and the tracks.
Every LRV has a service check-up every 24 hours to minimise the possibility of breakdowns and to ensure customer safety and comfort and Canberra Metro Operations has response vehicles and maintenance teams available to respond to any technical breakdown or incident.’
Canberra Metro is confident it wouldn’t suffer the same calamity as Sydney did, it is up to you the reader to decide if you should share that confidence or not.
It is possible that the situation in Sydney was unique to the second vehicle only, as Sydney operates two vehicles joined to each other as a single unit, unlike Canberra. Canberra does have the capacity to do the same but does not do so currently.
Regardless of the exact cause in Sydney, Canberra Metro is now approaching one year of operation of the light rail network in Canberra, with very few incidents to speak of and nothing on the scale of the Sydney shutdown.
It’s possible that Canberra Metro just run a tighter ship than Sydney has thus far, only time will tell if Canberra’s network will spectacularly fail at some stage, and whether Sydney will continue to suffer calamities with their own network.