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V/Line drivers over the past week had refused to drive along the corridor where a train derailed last night.
The Sydney to Melbourne train derailed at Wallan last night, killing the driver, a 54-year-old man from the ACT and the train’s pilot, a 49-year-old Castlemaine woman, are dead.
Dozens of passengers were injured after the train derailment at 7.45pm.
State secretary Luba Grigorovitch said the section of track was awaiting maintenance.
“Conditions were altered and V/Line drivers rightly refused to traverse this section over the past week,” she said.
“The RTBU is deeply saddened by the tragic accident that has taken the life of two rail workers and unnecessarily injured many more.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy, from other rail workers, affected passengers and the family and friends of all those grieving from this incident.
“Today marks a difficult day for drivers and rail workers across the state and the RTBU will be here not only to offer support but to ensure a thorough investigation is undertaken.”
Passengers leave the train in this photo tweeted by a passenger. Picture: Twitter/@Rickard_Scott
Emergency services flood the scene after the Sydney to Melbourne train derailed in Wallan. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
It’s believed authorities will investigate whether the driver sped through the points along the rail line before the crash.
It is understood both V/Line and the union had agreed on slower speed limits than the Australian Rail Track Corporation had recommended.
Concerns were raised about track degradation in that area.
Police are still looking to account for about 20 people who were on-board, urging passengers to contact Crimestoppers and confirm they are safe.
It comes as a passenger revealed the train driver announced he would try to make up time on the delayed service, before the train flew off the tracks.
The track is unlikely to open for another four to five days as investigators assess the scene.
Victoria’s transport minister Mellisa Horne and NSW transport minister Andrew Constance inspected the scene this morning, along with V/Line chief James Pinder.
Victoria Police Acting Inspector Peter Fusinato said the two deaths were tragic and it was a miracle that more people weren’t hurt.
Firefighters at the scene of the train derailment on Friday morning. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
“As a first responder who turned up it would have looked like a horrific scene,” he said.
“The outcome was probably far greater than you would have anticipated. I’m very surprised there weren’t more serious injuries.”
Acting Insp Fusinato said the engine of the train tipped onto its side.
“We’ve done a thorough search of the train and no one was ejected,” he said.
The train is thought to have left Sydney’s Central Station at 7.40am and was running more than an hour late at the time the accident happened.
It had been due to arrive into Southern Cross Station at 6.30pm.
Passengers have said the driver told them over the public address system he would try to make up time before the train carrying 153 passengers and five crew flew off the tracks near Wallan at 7.45pm.
Passenger Joan Marks told the Herald Sun the train had been running behind schedule with several delays.
“We stopped for a bit then he really took off,’’ she said.
A train has derailed in Wallan Picture: Twitter/Rickard_Scott
Several carriages were derailed. Picture: Twitter/Rickard_Scott
Passengers described being thrown violently around inside the train as the diesel locomotive and at least four carriages careered off the tracks.
Shocked and bruised passengers climbed out of the wrecked train onto the tracks, while a triage centre was set up at a nearby petrol station — the Wallan BP truck stop on the Hume Freeway — and ambulances began ferrying the injured to hospital.
Maintenance had been done on the track in recent days and all trains were travelling through the Wallan loop.
Ambulance Victoria confirmed one of the injured passengers had been flown to a Melbourne hospital and another four people were being taken to Northern Health hospital at Epping, where they were in a stable condition this morning.
“A number of others will be taken to hospital with minor injuries,” an Ambulance Victoria spokesman said.
Uninjured passengers began arriving at Southern Cross station on buses about 10.30pm.
Emergency services treat injured passengers at a makeshift triage station. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Many expressed their relief, with some met by emergency services coming off the replacement coaches.
A couple from Burwood spoke of the crash, saying they were just “relieved” to be home
“We just felt the train skid along and go sideways and we went into trees,” they told the Herald Sun.
“The SES, police and ambos were fantastic, but everyone was good, everyone was positive and calm, there was no panic. We are just happy to be breathing.”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau launched an investigation and investigators are due at the site today.
The track is operated by the Federal Government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation, and Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack was briefed on the incident last night.
In December, Infrastructure Australia ruled that the business case for an upgrade of the Melbourne-Albury North East Rail Line should not be included on its priority list.
CHAOS AS PASSENGERS ‘WENT FLYING’
One passenger described items flying through the air as the train derailed and “suddenly slid into a fast stop”.
Dr Scott Rickard said the “carriage (was) at an angle” and “tray tables went flying”.
“Fortunately only a few ppl (sic) injured in our carriage,” she said on Twitter.
“Stuff flew everywhere. Carriages crumpled at edges. We walked out. Most people able to walk out.
“We’re in a bit of shock, but OK. Drinking cuppas now,” she added.
The aerodynamic Express Passenger Train (XPT) travels between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Dubbo, Grafton and Casino, and travels at a top speed of about 160km/h.
Emergency services worked to clear heavy wreckage around the tracks last night.
Ms Marks, 74, said the derailment “felt like we just went flying”.
She and twin sister Ivy Bell, from Leeton in NSW, got on at Wagga and were headed to Melbourne to visit family.
A person is treated by a paramedic. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
She said the journey didn’t get off to the best start and was running behind schedule.
“It wasn’t a real good ride when we got on,” she told the Herald Sun at the scene.
“Then we left Seymour, we stopped for a bit then he really took off.”
She said there had been a sudden jolt.
“Just like that it was off the rails, there were cases everywhere, I’ve never seen anything like it before’” she said.
“I’m not sure if he was making up time because he was running late, but it came off the rails all of a sudden.
“We were an hour and a half late as it was. We had to stop just outside Seymour because of the signals. He (the driver) did say over the speaker he was going to try to make up time.”
One man aged in his 70s said train staff told passengers during a delay that there were ongoing problems with the track, asking those on board to lodge complaints.
He said “heads should roll” over the derailment, adding: “I just hope someone gets a kick in the pants over this, because it has not just happened, it’s been ongoing.”
Shaken passengers stand by the side of the tracks. Picture: Richard Sherman
Canberra man James Ashburner, 69, was sitting by the window in the first passenger carriage when the train derailed.
He said it had been travelling “at 100-odd km/h and then things went strange”.
“There was a lot of noise and suddenly there was dust, the train was swaying a lot,” he said.
“I didn’t realise that we had derailed until we came to a stop.
“Initially we were all just stunned, people went flying, stuff went flying. A couple of people had been standing in the aisle and they really went flying.
“For some minutes, we were just milling about seeing who needed assistance and what sort of assistance.”
Mr Ashburner said that the woman seated in front of him suffered a blow to the back of her head and was bleeding profusely just behind the ear.
“It was just oozy blood, she had a serious cut,” he said.
One passenger has described items flying everywhere as the train derailed, and “suddenly slid into a fast stop”.
‘BLUE MURDER’ TRIP FOR EARLIER PASSENGERSA retired rail worker who was on a Sydney-Melbourne train ahead of the service that derailed said their trip was so rough he was “frightened” and he feared it would go off the tracks.
Merv Bartlett, a retired station master who worked for 40 years in the rail industry was travelling on the overnight train with his wife.
“There were at least 20 times when the train (the one he was travelling on) hit what we call ‘a hole in the road’.”
Mr Bartlett described “a hole in the road” as a depression where the track is not level and smooth.
“A couple of times I thought, we’re in trouble here. I was quite frightened, to be truthful.”
Mr Bartlett, from Brisbane, was travelling on the Sydney-Melbourne train with his wife. They have come to Melbourne to visit a sick relative.
Emergency crews worked well into the night to treat the injured. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
“When we got to Southern Cross, I got out and I walked up to the locomotive and the driver was getting out and I said to him: ‘How did you keep it on the tracks?’
“He said to me ‘We’ve got a lot of troubles’. I asked if he wanted to talk about it and he said ‘no’.”
Mr Bartlett, 81, said it was the “worst trip” he’d ever experienced and that he felt dreadful for the people on the train which derailed.
He said he was so concerned after his own trip, he wanted to report it but he didn’t know who to report it to.
“I was going to go to the police but I didn’t know who to complain to,” he said.
He and his wife were on the overnight train that got into Southern Cross Station about 8am Thursday.
“From Sydney, it was okay until about 11pm. But between 1am and about 4.30am, it was blue murder.”
Mr Bartlett said his wife had already booked flights home to avoid catching the train.
The Public Transport Users Association’s Daniel Bowen described the crash as an “awful thing”.
The crash site near Wallan. Picture: Twitter/Rickard_Scott
“Our thoughts are with those affected by this,” he said. “There will be an investigation in due course into the cause.
“Thankfully serious accidents on the rail network are very rare, but that makes it even more important to investigate the cause.”
Premier Daniel Andrews tweeted last night: “Our thoughts are with everyone involved, including our first responders.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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