VANDALS caused train delays and cancellations of V/Line services between Melbourne and Sydney yesterday after cutting vital signalling equipment.
Several hundred customers were affected by the vandalism of railway communications cables near Wallan.
It comes four weeks after thieves stole 39 kilometres of copper wire between Wodonga and Chiltern.
Police are investigating the incident, which occurred about 5am yesterday, and are appealing for anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers.
V/Line chief executive Theo Taifalos said the deliberate damage was frustrating for customers and V/Line.
The 6.35am Albury to Southern Cross train was delayed by one hour and 40 minutes and the 7.10am train from Southern Cross to Albury was more than two hours late.
“Nobody wants to start their Monday like this, so I really feel the frustration experienced by our customers this morning,” Mr Taifalos said.
The late arrival of the two morning trains meant the lunchtime services from Melbourne and from Albury had to be cancelled and replaced by coaches.
“All acts of vandalism are senseless, but in this case it was also a costly exercise delaying our two morning services and forcing the cancellation of the lunchtime trains in each direction,” Mr Taifalos said.
In addition to penalties under the Crimes Act, offenders are also subject to laws under the Rail Safety Act, which also bears significant penalties.
The evening trains from Albury and Southern Cross operated as normal.
A passenger on yesterday’s Albury-bound XPT Andrew Rechtman, who lives in Melbourne and was travelling to Albury for work, said the disruption was frustrating.
“We overtook V/Line at Benalla, so V/Line was even slower,” he said.
“The V/Line train had an hour and 40 minute head start but the XPT managed to overtake it.
“We left at 8.30am and got to Wallan where we stopped at one of the loops. We were going 25 km/h between Wallan and Kilmore due to lack of signals and got into Albury almost an hour late.”
An Australian Rail Track Corporation spokesman said as with other industries, the rail industry was also targeted by copper wire theft and vandalism.
“It is immensely frustrating and costly to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, causes delays to passenger and freight trains and puts the safety of the vandals themselves at risk by being in the rail corridor,” he said.