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Metro Trains’ poor track maintenance led to the derailment of a train carrying more than 100 passengers, an investigation by the transport safety watchdog has found.
A passenger train on the South Morang line came off the rails near Rushall station on February 6, 2016, as the train reached the tightest bend on the network – the notorious ‘‘Rushall curve’’.
Passengers were escorted off the train by police and paramedics, with one person taken to hospital for treatment of their injuries.
In a report released on Wednesday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s found the train came off the rails because the track was not adequately greased, creating friction between the wheel and the tight curve of the rail.
The watchdog found there could have been ‘‘more serious consequences, had a train from the opposite direction been passing at the time’’.
That risk was exacerbated by the fact that the Metrol (Metro’s control centre) could not be reached for six minutes after the derailment, despite the driver’s attempts to make contact over the train radio system.
Rail traffic was not halted until seven minutes after the derailment, when the driver reached the centre after calling from their mobile phone.
This was a ‘‘significant delay’’, the watchdog said.
‘‘Prompt reporting of incidents to the control centre is important to allow emergency response and also to prevent possible further incidents or injuries. In this case the train derailed and one carriage was foul of the adjacent Down passenger line.’’
Sunstone, a contractor owned by Metro Train, carried out monthly inspections on the South Morang line up until the end of 2015, when it handed the maintenance work back to Metro.
There were no maintenance inspections between the end of 2015 and when the train derailed in February 2016.
This led to a deterioration in wheel condition, over January and early February.
‘‘MTM [Metro Trains Melbourne] was aware of the fleet-wide deterioration in wheel condition, but the response was inadequate to prevent this derailment.’’
Five days after the incident, a maintenance vehicle derailed at the same spot. This occurred despite the tracks being greased. Under the terms of a $6.3 billion, seven-year contract, Metro Trains is responsible for maintaining and running the suburban train network.
The government set aside $936 million for Metro Trains for 2017-18 in this year’s budget, which was well above the target of $784 million. This is set to increase to $1.1 billion in 2018-19.
Metro Trains has rolled out electronic lubricators across the network, and changed its management of track condition and faults, according to the watchdog.
Metro’s director of assets and systems Paul O’Halloran said the company had taken a range of proactive steps since the incident, such as setting up a committee to oversee lubrication arrangements and expanding driver training.
‘‘Safety is our absolute priority," he said.
‘‘We accept all of the report’s findings and have already implemented measures to further improve safety.’’
The Age has approached the state government for comment.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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