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TasRail will be required to fork out $1.5 million to pay for September's train derailment in Devonport.
TasRail chairwoman Samantha Hogg told a government business scrutiny hearing on Wednesday the company would be required to pay out $1 million for an insurance excess and $500,000 to cover public liability costs as a result of injuries caused by the incident.
She said seven wagons were written off through the derailment and the locomotive was damaged.
The train was being operated remotely at the time and the company has since suspended use of this technology.
Infrastructure Minister Jeremy Rockliff said TasRail had gone from almost one derailment a month in 2009 to one a year in recent times.
He said the remote system, now under review, had been in place for between 15 to 20 years.
“We treat this as the most serious incident and we can all imagine it could have been far more catastrophic and I have often thought long and hard about this fact,” Mr Rockliff said.
In the company’s last annual report, train drivers reported 72 failures to stop or give way at level crossings in 2018.
Mr Rockliff said the number was consistent with the previous year and below the 123 incidents reported in 2015‑16.
There was an increase in the number of livestock collisions with trains, however, with 20 recorded for 2017-18.
Mr Rockliff said a new communications initiative on the issue with the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association was expected to be launched next year.
TasRail saw a 10.5 per cent increase in freight volumes in 2017-18, particularly through growth in transport of forestry products.
Mr Rockliff said the growth was expected to continue with timber volumes growing by 24 per cent in the past year and plantation timber carried on rail for the first time.
He said the growth in freight allowed the company to post its first ever above-rail profit of $440,000.
The North-East line leads to one of the largest forestry resources but TasRail has no plans yet to reopen the track.
The company’s strategic development manager, Neale Tomlin, said the timber went to Bell Bay so it was a short haul.
“Given the upgrades on the road network up there, which have been quite substantial, if you looked at the capital cost to reopen the line just for that freight task, it would be difficult for TasRail to compete,” he said.
TasRail operates under a letter of comfort from TASCORP.
Company chairwoman Samantha Hogg said TasRail were in the process of working to increase a $6 million borrowing limit to $20 million.
Government business scrutiny hearings continue of Thursday on the Public Trustee, Hydro and Sustainable Timber Tasmania.
This article first appeared on www.theadvocate.com.au
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