Report finds speed a factor in train derailment

The XPT train was travellling from Sydney to Melbourne when it derailed just north of Wallan East. ​

By Steph McNicol

A PRELIMINARY report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau revealed the Melbourne-bound XPT train was travelling at more than 100km/h in a 15km/h zone when it derailed near Wallan on February 20.

The bureau detailed its understanding of the events leading up to the derailment which killed two people, seriously injured three passengers and left 36 with minor injuries.

The report was released on Friday containing information in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act, 2003, detailing the facts of the initial investigation – no analysis or findings.

On the morning of February 20, the Melbourne-bound train departed Central Station in Sydney close to its schedule time of 7.40am, with planned stops at Junee, Albury and Wallan on its journey to Southern Cross Station, Melbourne, at 6.30pm.

Travelling south, the train reached Junee, southern NSW, at 2.45pm, about 85 minutes behind schedule, before continuing south arriving at Albury at 4.37pm, still close to 85 minutes behind schedule.

The train came to a stand at Kilmore East at ‘Intermediate Home’ signal KME28 – an intermediate location along the passing lane – where the driver contacted Network Control at about 7.04pm to inquire when he had permission to proceed.

Soon after 7.25pm the XPT received permission to proceed to ‘Home Departure’ signal KME16 – a signal protecting the turnout at the end of the passing lane.

Due to damaged signalling equipment by a fire on February 3, a 24km stretch from Kilmore East signal KME16 to Donnybrook was being managed using an alternative safe-working system – permitting only one train in the section at any one time.

As part of the alternative safe-working system, an accompanying qualified worker boarded the lead carriage at Kilmore East for the 24km stretch to Donnybrook, and a signaller also boarded the train.

The XPT departed signal KME16 entering the 130km/h section of the single-line towards Wallan as the speed of the train increased to reach the line speed.

A job of the accompanying qualified worker was to ensure that level-crossing protection was in place at Wallan-Whittlesea Road for the passage of the train – the Level Crossing Keeper reported receiving the call and activating the boom-gates and lights.

A patient triage was set up at the Wallan BP service station on the Hume Freeway just north of the train crash.

Earlier that afternoon, the points at either end of the Wallan loop were changed from their normal position to their reverse position – meaning rail traffic travelling in both directions would be diverted from the main line, straight, to the loop track.

A Train Notice, information issued by the Rail Infrastructure manager, reflected this change and also indicated a 15km/h speed limit into the loop and a 35km/h limit for exiting the loop.

The preliminary report states that at about 7.43pm, the XPT approached Wallan at close to the track’s line speed, and recordings from the train indicate application of the emergency brake a short distance before reaching the turnout.

This slowed the train a small amount, however it entered the loop track at an excess of 100km/h and derailed all vehicles except the rear power car.

As a result of the derailment, the lead power car landed onto its left side and killed both the XPT driver and AQW.

The report states there will be further investigation into all factors of the investigation, including derailment sequence, track condition, rolling stock condition, crew and passenger survivability, train operation, management of train operations and other areas.

Member for Euroa, and Victorian shadow minister for regional transport, Steph Ryan welcomed the report and the bureau’s commitment to notifying operators, regulators and the public should it become aware of critical safety concerns during the course of its investigation.

“I hope this report can help bring closure to the families of the two men who tragically lost their lives and the passengers who were on board the train that day,” she said.