Australia--19 train derailments in the past year : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sydney Morning Herald

(Buried in the article is mention that "the signal system was also changed.")

Saturday, April 8, 2000

Rust blamed for train derailment

By ROBERT WAINWRIGHT, Transport Writer

Senior rail bureaucrats scrambled yesterday to avoid blame for Sydney's 19th derailment in the past year while the State Government moved to head off increasing pressure for a parliamentary inquiry into the rail crisis.

A rusted and poorly maintained rail line and a cracked carriage wheel were at the centre of investigations into Thursday's derailment near Redfern station.

The accident happened just after 10pm when the last five cars of an eight-carriage passenger train left the tracks as it was heading for the overnight holding yard. Only the driver and a guard were on board and neither was injured. The accident caused delays for all peak-hour trains yesterday morning.

Inquiries by the Herald yesterday revealed that the set of points where the derailment happened had been altered three weeks ago to allow trains to use it as an exit from the main line to enter the Eveleigh rail yards.

Rail sources say the change to a "facing crossing" would have placed greater pressure on the track, which had previously been used as a "trailing crossing" to merge trains coming out of the yard onto the main line toward Sydney.

Investigators found that the tip of the "switchblade" - a rail which moves to guide trains from one track to another - was rusted and had broken off either before or during the accident.

The flange of a carriage wheel was also snapped off either before or during the accident, leading to speculation that the rail line was badly aligned.

One senior manager told the Herald that the track was "so severely rusted that it simply came apart underneath the train".

A spokeswoman for the Rail Access Corporation confirmed last night that the set of points had been "checked and certified" three weeks ago by Rail Services Australia staff, who are employed to maintain the CityRail network.

The signal system was also changed but the spokeswoman denied that the points had been replaced or that the rail line was rusted enough to cause the accident. She said the line was checked every 72 hours to ensure it was "fit for traffic".

"We have found that the tip of the switchblade broke off but we don't know if that caused the derailment or happened because of the derailment," she said. "If infrastructure faults are found to be the cause of the derailment then we will accept the blame."

The Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Chikarovski, said she would move in Parliament next week for an inquiry into the rail system, even though a motion was defeated earlier this week by Labor and cross-bench members in the Upper House.

"How many more times do we have to look at pictures of crumpled carriages off the rails before Premier Carr and his Minister for Transport realises that they have a serious problem on their hands?" she said.

But the Minister for Transport, Mr Scully, labelled the Opposition move a political points-scoring exercise and referred the latest accident to Justice Peter McInerney, who is conducting the inquiry into the Glenbrook tragedy.

"I'm advised that the Transport Safety Bureau is concentrating its inquiries in respect of [train] wheel and respect of track," Mr Scully said.

-- Rachel Gibson (, April 08, 2000

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