News : Melbourne City Loop’s Triple-zero Black Spots
Melbourne, Australia, Sept 14, 2015 -- Train passengers stranded in the City Loop during a major attack or accident may be unable to call emergency services for help.
Melbourne's mobile phone networks do not permeate the train tunnels, 20 to 40 metres below ground.
Passengers also lose their emergency connection to triple-zero in some areas, Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton said.
"It's kind of hit and miss," he said.
"There are the blackest of the black spots where you basically lose contact with the outside world."
Train drivers have a direct line of communication with a control centre while travelling through the City Loop, via a digital radio system.
But Mr Morton said it was not good enough to rely on a driver being able to communicate during an emergency.
Victoria's triple-zero call centre, the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, now receives close to 60 per cent of its calls from mobile phones.
"It is an important community safety matter that people have the ability to ring triple-0," an authority spokeswoman said.
It is hoped 3G mobile phone services will be delivered to the loop by November.
Until then, a Public Transport Victoria spokesman said drivers could contact emergency services through their connection with the central control room.
Meanwhile, commuters caught up in a disaster in the City Loop may be left with only one option – to press the red alert button in the train carriage to speak to the driver.
On Monday, a city-based paramedic said there had been occasions where he had been looking after patients at City Loop stations and lost his radio signal.
In those cases he was able to move closer to the exit and get the coverage he needed.
But he said it would be useful to have mobile coverage as a back-up communication option.
"I think it is a necessity for it to be a working spot," he said.
"In the City Loop there are a lot of difficult areas. Being underground, if there was a mass causality event getting people in and out would be more difficult."
Luba Grigorovitch, state secretary of Rail Tram and Bus Union, said the issue of mobile phone coverage in the Loop was one of public safety.
"Authorised officers are unable to make or receive calls in the event of a significant incident, fatality or disruption when on trains in the Loop," she said.
In 2012 the Victorian Ombudsman found that critical safety infrastructure in the City Loop, including emergency walkways, had been neglected for many years.
The investigation was prompted by a whistleblower who said there was no anti-terrorism plan for the City Loop, and no evacuation plan for an incident in the tunnels.
These plans are now in place, according to a Public Transport Victoria spokesman. And emergency services including police and paramedics expressed confidence that they could handle a major incident in the tunnels.
Ambulance Victoria's state health commander, Justin Dunlop, said the authority was part of an emergency management committee for the loop and had taken part in several mock exercises.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Public Transport Users Association:
The Public Transport Users Association is a community-based public transport lobby group in Victoria, Australia, based in Melbourne. It is run entirely by volunteers and has no full-time staff.
Published: Thursday, September 17, 2015