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Footage from the cabin of a Sydney-to-Melbourne XPT train – travelling on the same route as last week's fatal derailment at Wallan – shows it jolting violently over "dangerous" tracks.
John Dunstan, a civil engineer and committee member of the Border Rail Action Group, uploaded the videos in July last year to draw attention to the state of the tracks. He said they were yet to be fixed.
Mr Dunstan narrates the videos from the cabin as the train hits dips and "short twists" in the tracks near Wangaratta, forcing the train up and down and often-violently from side to side.
While not believed to be directly related to the XPT derailment at Wallan on Thursday night, in which two people were killed and another 11 injured, Mr Dunstan and the rail union said the videos highlighted broader issues around the line's safety.
"You can see how severe it is," Mr Dunstan told The Age. "You can definitely say that's the standard type of ride that you've got along a pretty high percentage of that track."
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union branch secretary Luba Grigorovitch said failure to maintain infrastructure raised "all sorts of issues".
"While track condition does not appear to be the primary cause of (Thursday's) derailment, the RTBU can confirm issues have been raised about the condition of the track across the state for many years, to the extent that our members have deemed the line North-East line the 'goat track'," she said.
The Border Mail, which first publicised Mr Dunstan's videos, reported in August that train drivers on the line had resorted to wearing protective vests to keep themselves safe in the rough sections.
Independent MP for Indi, Helen Haines, also posted the video to her Facebook page at the time and called on the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which administers the track, to take action.
"ARTC could fix this problem with a tamping machine that acts as a track straightener," she wrote.
Mr Dunstan said conditions had generally improved in the past six months following considerable investment and maintenance works because "it had just got so bad". But he said many sections of track - including those in his videos - were yet to be repaired.
"It's definitely considered dangerous," Mr Dunstan said. "Automatically, when they apply temporary speed restrictions, it's considered a very high risk of derailment if you run through at normal line speed."
A spokesman for the Australian Rail Track Corporation did not answer direct questions about the sections of track in the videos, but said it was their "key priority at all times" to run a safe network.
Investigations are continuing into how an XPT, carrying 153 passengers, derailed north of Melbourne and killed 54-year-old driver John Kennedy and 49-year-old pilot Sam Meintanis.
Speaking at the site of the tragedy last week, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said "no authority in Australia would allow a train to travel on an unsafe track. That just wouldn't happen."
The XPT train came off the tracks at Wallan, north of Melbourne.CREDIT:NINE NEWS
Industry sources have told The Age the train was travelling about 100km/h when it derailed, meaning the driver and pilot might have been unaware of a circular sent to drivers on Wednesday informing them that trains on the line were to be diverted through the 15km/h Wallan Loop on the day of the crash.
Materials to repair the section, including 300 sleepers, 20 lengths of rail and 800 tonnes of ballast, arrived on Monday.
The lead locomotive, or ‘power car’, and two carriages were expected to be driven to Sydney on Wednesday.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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