The tragic train derailment that killed two drivers near Wallan Station on Thursday evening could have been avoided if the locomotive had been operating under the Victorian guidelines instead of the national rules.
According to the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, the rules put in place by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) removed the vehicle’s first line of defence in an emergency situation. The union asserts that this defence could have prevented the fatal accident that took place on Thursday evening.
All V/Line and Victorian Metro Trains are required to follow a speed restriction of 25km/hr in areas that require maintenance, or need the driver to be navigated by a pilot or co-driver. However, interstate trains, which operate under the ARTC are not required to follow these speed restrictions.
The signal box near Wallan station was damaged by fire in early February, meaning it was unable to deliver signals to drivers to warn them to slow down during the dangerous stretch of track.
According to RTBU Victoria secretary Luba Grigorovitch, “the incident may have been avoided” if the same speed restrictions were required for ARTC trains.
ARTC trains were redirected through Wallan from their usual route from Sydney to Melbourne, requiring them to pass through the 15km/hr loop line on Thursday when the derailment occurred. However, the Sydney-Melbourne XPT train was not required to abide by the 25km/hr speed restriction along that stretch of the track.
The Victorian Rail, Tram and Bus Union did acknowledge that other factors such as human error could have played a part in Thursday’s tragedy, but the union remains adamant that the Victorian train legislations could have prevented the incident.
The ARTC is yet to comment on the union’s claim, advising that they need more time to investigate the situation, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
“The site is being carefully controlled to ensure the safety of all those who are now involved in the site recovery and repair,” an ARTC spokesperson said in a statement. “We acknowledge that the community wants to understand what caused the accident. We are providing full support to the ongoing investigation which will look at all potential factors.”
54-year-old train driver John Kennedy and his pilot, a 49-year-old Victorian man died at the scene on Thursday, while an additional 11 people were treated for injuries.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned that future disruptions are to be expected in the immediate aftermath of the crash as a full and thorough investigation takes place.
“There will be a full, frank, proper inquiry. They’ll investigate everything that’s gone on here, all the issues related and when we provide their report, we will respond to that in due course,” he said.
“There will be significant disruptions for obvious reasons on that particular line, to ARTC services and V Line services, as we clean up the site and make any repairs.”