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The family of an elderly woman who died from injuries suffered when a passenger train was shunted at Sydney's Central Station is upset it took political intervention before her death was investigated.
Betty Mackay, 91, from Neutral Bay on Sydney's north shore, died 15 days after she sustained head and back injuries in the incident on a NSW Trains V-set on August 10 last year.
When the train arrived at Central from Newcastle, Mrs Mackay and her husband, Roderick, had delayed getting off because they did not want to hold up other passengers from disembarking.
Just over 90 seconds later, Mrs Mackay and her husband, Roderick, were thrown down carriage stairs by the force of the train being shunted into another four-car V-set.
Mr Mackay told investigators the "train gave a tremendous jolt [and] ... we both went for six and fell down the stairs".
Their daughter, Lyn Dwyer, said her mother's death was not referred to the state's Office of Transport Safety Investigations until five months later following intervention by Labor and Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
"[NSW Trains] should have referred it straight away to OTSI. They hoped that we would go away," she said.
"All we wanted was to have it investigated and for them to change their procedures and a sort of acknowledgment that they were at fault. The most important thing is that it doesn't happen again."
The Sydney woman's death occurred 15 days after she suffered injuries at Central. Photo: Daniel MunozMs Dwyer said the short amount of time between the train terminating at Central and being shunted would be insufficient for many elderly or disabled people to disembark.
"There would be a lot of people who would want longer than one and a half minutes to get off – a mother with toddlers or someone who has some sort of disability," she said.
A report released on Friday by OTSI into the fatality has made a series of recommendations to NSW Trains. These include the need for enough time to be given for passengers to disembark and for staff to walk through carriages to carry out checks before shunting.
The investigation found the Mackays did not hear or register announcements made over the train's public address system to warn them of the shunting.
And, while NSW Trains' procedures did not require it, OTSI found neither train crew or station staff made a physical check of the train to see if passengers were still on it before the shunting occurred.
Labor's transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay, said the incident should not have needed her intervention and a direction from the Transport Minister for it to be investigated.
"It's taken too long for Mrs Mackay's husband and family to find out what happened and to be assured the procedures and processes will be changed so this terrible event never happens again," she said.
NSW Trains has told OTSI it will request a minimum of 10 minutes for passengers to disembark and carriages to be checked at Central Station before trains are joined to others. So-called amalgamations of trains will also take at least five minutes.
Staff will also be able to lock train doors once it has been confirmed a carriage is empty as part of "second defence" measures.
Mr Constance said he asked for a "full independent investigation" by OTSI as soon as he received correspondence from Mrs Mackay's family.
"While I know nothing will make up for the loss of a parent in these circumstances, I extend my deepest sympathy to the family," he said.
A spokeswoman for NSW Trains said it began its own investigation immediately after the incident which "found our staff followed the procedures that were in place on the day of the incident".
"We also conducted a review of procedures and a new train amalgamation or 'shunting' procedure has since been implemented to help minimise the risk of customers being injured," she said.
"NSW TrainLink cooperated fully with the OTSI investigation. A number of the recommendations of the OTSI report have already been implemented."
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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