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Sydney Trains called for the state's independent safety investigations body to strip a reference to the Granville train disaster from a final report into flaws found in a section of rail track north of Sydney.
The successful request for the reference to what remains Australia's worst train disaster be removed from the report by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations into the failure of fasteners on a section of track north of Sydney is contained in documents obtained by Labor under freedom-of-information laws.
Labor's transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay, said it was inappropriate that Sydney Trains had gone to "great lengths" to seek the removal of the reference to the Granville tragedy in Sydney from a report by an independent statutory body.
"The public has a right to receive an unfettered and independent report," she said.
"I don't think it is appropriate nor what the community would expect that they could interfere in an independent investigation like that."
The report from OTSI, released in May, warned that "unrestrained track" in a 140-metre tunnel near the Hawkesbury River could have led to a train derailment.
Ms McKay said the reference to the Granville disaster, in which 83 people died and 213 injured in 1977, was important in giving the public an understanding of the seriousness of the track defects found in "Boronia No.3", one of four tunnels between Cowan and the Hawkesbury River.
But Sydney Trains said it was asked to provide feedback on an earlier version of the Boronia report, as was standard procedure for any OTSI investigation.
"In our response, Sydney Trains requested OTSI reconsider the reference to Granville, as the incident at Boronia is not directly comparable," a spokeswoman said.
OTSI's CEO and chief investigator, Mick Quinn, said further internal review and analysis were conducted after responses to the draft report were received from several "directly interested parties" in the Boronia tunnel investigation.
"A decision was then made to remove the reference to Granville as it added no value to the report. This change to the draft had no impact on the veracity of the report, its findings or recommendations, which stand and are being addressed by Sydney Trains," he said.
Mr Quinn said another OTSI investigator who conducted a separate peer review of the draft before it was released also challenged the reference to the Granville disaster due to a "lack of relevance and influence on the report".
"Several other international accidents were also appended in the draft, which were also challenged for the same reasons," he said.
Under legislation, parties directly related to a matter under investigation have the opportunity to respond to OTSI's draft reports before they are tabled in parliament.
The final report into the defects in the tunnel revealed inadequate inspections and maintenance of rail tracks had been "systemic" across the Sydney Trains network.
The main north line through the tunnel carries thousands of commuters each day between Sydney and the Central Coast and Newcastle. More than 350 passenger and freight trains travel in each direction every week.
The documents obtained by Labor shed light on the lengths government departments go to prepare for questions from journalists on sensitive matters.
Among the "media lines" drafted about the OTSI report, Sydney Trains spokespeople were told to say that it had a "rigorous approach" if asked about "inadequate track inspection and maintenance being systemic" in the wake of the Boronia report.
They also listed among the key points the messages that the "report relates to maintenance problems that happened more than three years ago", and that "our network is the most reliable, clean and safe it has ever been".
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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