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A TRUCK company whose rig was involved in a level-crossing smash which derailed a passenger train is suing V/Line over the condition of the crossing.
The crash in July last year left Mahony’s Transport Services driver Keith McPherson and 11 passengers injured when the train derailed.
The semi-trailer was destroyed on impact with the Warrnambool-bound train which had about 90 passengers aboard when the crash occurred at 3.45pm on July 12.
V/Line track maintenance manager Stuart Murray at the scene of the crash. Picture: Glenn FergusonDozens of emergency services workers searched for victims in bitterly cold conditions, with eight injured passengers ferried by ambulance to Colac and Geelong hospitals with ailments, including broken bones, head wounds and cuts.
Mr McPherson was treated at the scene before being flown to hospital in Melbourne.
“The opportunity there for some extensive loss of life was quite paramount,” Police sergeant Shane Howard said.
The Phalps Rd level crossing, in farming land west of Colac, had warning signs but no flashing lights or boom gates.
In a writ lodged with the Supreme Court, the truck company alleges V/Line was aware the crossing was high risk but failed to do anything to rectify this, by installing lights, bells and boom gates; lowering speed limits for trains; or warning motorists of the hazard.
The scene of the accident. Picture: Glenn FergusonThe company also claims V/Line was negligent in failing to provide safe infrastructure, any early warning system of approaching trains or ensure there was adequate line of sight in both directions.
It alleges that drivers when stationary at the crossing had a line of sight to the northeast of no more than 152m, less than the Australian Standard for railway crossings of 523m.
In April Colac Magistrates’ Court heard Mr McPherson, from Ballarat, could not be found to be at fault. He had been accused of driving a motor vehicle carelessly but the charge was later withdrawn.
Magistrate Ann McGarvie accepted Mr McPherson stopped his truck just short of the crossing stop sign, looked left and right, taking his seatbelt off and leaning forward for a better view, but did not see a train approaching and began to cross.
V/Line track maintenance manager Stuart Murray at the scene of the crash. Picture: Glenn FergusonMagistrate McGarvie ruled the collision was a pure accident with improvements after the crash emphasising the pre-existing dangers of the crossing.
Less that five weeks after the collision, V/Line reduced trains speeds, installed flashing lights, bells and boom gates and cut back pine trees which had restricted driver’s visibility.
Mahony’s claims the crossing failed to comply with Australian Rail Track Corporation signalling and level crossing design standards or comply with Austroads Reseach Report on sight distance requirements for heavy vehicles.
As the result of V/Line’s failure in its duty of care to the crossing’s users, the company says it has suffered loss and damages of more than $360,000.
The claim includes the $220,000 value of the prime mover and $150,000 trailer, less their combined $23,000 salvage value, plus $16,500 in towing, investigation and surveyor’s fees, plus interest and costs.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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