The VLine Conspiracy (an actual thing, probably)

VLine, Victoria’s regional rail network, is currently running trains. Hooray! Those trains are super all over the place, though, so travel is free until the end of the month, to make up for the disaster that is our regional rail network right now. So we’re going to talk about a) why this disaster is happening, and b) trains in general. HOORAY.

VLine trains have been suffering from a “mysterious wheel fault.” AMAZING. Conspiracy? VLine discovered an exceptional wear and tear on the wheels of the Bombadier trains made in Dandenong.

THE CONSPIRACY THEORY: There’s a portion of the Regional Rail Link between Southern Cross and Geelong which was a last minute money-saving addition with a sharp turn. Maybe too sharp?

A rail flyover between Southern Cross Station and North Melbourne has been pinpointed as a potential source of the excessive wear. The flyover has tight curves that could place pressure on the inner wheel, called the flange.

The flyover was not part of the original design for the Regional Rail Link but was introduced to save money.


An inner part of the wheel called the flange is wearing away at an unusually rapid rate, thinning out the wheel profile and creating the risk that a train could slip off the tracks if left unrepaired. Images of metal filings on V/Line tracks seen by The Age illustrate how quickly the wheel is wearing away.

Oh my potato, how many of you don’t know what a flange is? Well, now you do.

The wear and tear is specifically obvious on the new trains; but the older trains are also suddenly showing it. Only since July, when the Rail Link opened. COINCIDENCE?


THE CONSPIRACY THEORY: Last week, Metro banned VLine trains from running on Metro track. Ostensibly it’s because a VLine train failed to trigger a boomgate and zoomed through an intersection(!!!) in Dandenong. DANDENONG. Part of a wider Metro conspiracy? A Dandy conspiracy?

The shorter trains are more likely not to trigger the boom gates, which is hilarious as, due to the mysterious wheel faults VLine is breaking up many of the trains into shorter trains to help ameliorate demand.

THE CONSPIRACY THEORY: The boom gate issue has been known since 2011, but we all know Coalition governments hate public transport, so probably were ignoring it in the hopes that someone would have an accident and then they’d be able to ban all trains and go forward with the EWLink.

Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said problems with boom gates were identified in 2011 and a report was prepared for the former government in 2013.

“That report wasn’t actioned,” she said.

YOU SEE? Liberal Party conspiracy. (Reminder to foreign readers that our Liberal Party is in fact our conservatives.)


Other train business:

An opinion on infrastructure stuff: How decades of neglect ran the V/Line network off the rails (at the SMH I’m sorry~); and related: Almost half of Melbourne’s morning peak trains were overcrowded last year.

The tube at a standstill: why TfL stopped people walking up the escalators

This social science (and fluid dynamics) is super relevant to Australian trains, especially as basically every metropolitan train line in Australia is oversubscribed by passengers. (In Perth, you often can’t get on a peak hour train.)  Also, apparently we are outliers in expecting pedestrians to walk on the left instead of the right. OUTRAGE, obviously we are correct and everyone else is wrong.


OUTRAGE but also excellence, I’m into this science.

Hard though it might be, changing how commuters behave is an ever more important part of a barrage of efforts to increase the capacity of the Tube, efforts that draw in equal parts on social psychology and fluid dynamics: the best model for the movement of a crowd through a warren of tunnels is the movement of a torrent of water through pipes.

You can also play ableism/fatphobia bingo with the comments, or, for a more productive use of your time, spend 20 minutes staring at the results from an image search on “happy penguins”.

One thought on “The VLine Conspiracy (an actual thing, probably)

  1. That is a much better article than the one I read about escalators.

    NO, IT DOESN’T GET INDIVIDUALS TO THEIR DESTINATION FASTER. It improves the volume of people moved.

    Also, it requires stationary people to share a stair. Are Aussies ready for this invasion of their personal space?

    I have so many applied-science feelings.

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