XPT passenger train traveling 130 km/h in 15 km/h zone before fatal derailment in Wallan: report

An interim report into the Wallan train derailment that killed two people and seriously injured eight in February 2020, outlined safety action plans to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

The Sydney-Melbourne XPT passenger train, operated by NSW TrainLink, derailed at Wallan shortly before 8.00pm on February 20, 2020.

The Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) said the train derailed after rushing into an overtaking loop between 114 and 127 km/h in a 15 km/h zone.

Unable to negotiate switches at this speed, the lead car rolled sideways, with the five passenger cars also derailing.

The train driver, John Kennedy, 54, from Canberra, and the train pilot, Sam Meintanis, 49, from Castlemaine, were killed.

Of the 155 passengers on the train, eight were seriously injured and 53 slightly injured.

All five members of the train’s passenger services team also suffered minor injuries.

Proposed safety measures as investigation continues

The ATSB made eight tentative observations on the facts in the report.

These included observations on ARTC’s handling of risk management and changes to train working arrangements, as well as NSW Trains’ distribution of safety information to railway workers.

The Sydney-Melbourne train was traveling over 100km/h in a 15km/h zone near Wallan in Victoria.(ABC News: Simon Winter)

The report revealed that the direction of the tracks had been changed earlier in the day, forcing the train to leave the main track and enter the passing loop.

Indeed, Wallan’s rail signal system – used to direct rail traffic along the track – had been damaged earlier this month.

The change had been flagged by national rail infrastructure manager ARTC in a notice published on February 19.

In the notice, a speed limit of 15 km/h was specified for trains entering the loop, with a threshold of 35 km/h on exit.

But the train’s electromechanical data recorder showed it was approaching the loop at around the main track speed limit, which was 130 km/h.

The brakes were then applied “a short distance” from the switch to the loop.

The ATSB’s interim report indicates that following the accident, ARTC changed its risk assessment practices and traffic management code of practice.

Meanwhile, NSW Trains is changing its procedures for communicating critical safety information to train crews.

People urged not to jump to conclusions

ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood urged people not to jump to conclusions from the facts presented.

Rail vehicle survivability and crashworthiness standards were also considered.

“The investigation team will also finalize their analysis of the derailment sequence and their assessments of rolling stock and track conditions,” said Chief Transportation Safety Investigator Chris McKeown. .

“They will also look at the training and preparation of passenger services crews in the event of a derailment, as well as passenger safety information.”

The results, safety factors and contributing factors would be detailed in the final report, expected in the first quarter of 2022.

Jose P. Rogers