I welcome the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) interim findings into the derailment of the Sydney to Melbourne XPT service at Wallan on February 20, 2020.
The interim report has confirmed that the rail signaling system at Wallan – used to direct railway traffic along the line – was a contributing factor in the accident, having been damaged by fire earlier that month.
The report also revealed that the track’s direction had been changed earlier that day, resulting in the XPT leaving the main track and entering the northern end of the Wallan passing loop at a speed probably between 114km/h and 127km/h.
I commend the steps taken by both the Australian Rail Track Corporation and NSW Trains following the investigation thus far, including improved communication between the two bodies as well as amendments to current safety procedures.
Significant analysis is still required before the ATSB can conclude its investigation but I hope this interim report gives long-awaited answers to the families and loved ones of the two men who tragically lost their lives, and also to the 155 passengers who were on board the train that day.
It is also worth noting that the railway signaling on the neighbouring broad-gauge tracks are still being manually operated by V/Line using technology from the 1890s.
The signaling system for this track is the oldest signaling system in the state, and it is the only stretch of line in Australia that still uses the double line block system – effectively signalers along the line communicating in Morse code.
This puts signal operators in that section of the track under major pressure, as one human error could have fatal consequences.
More than a year after the tragedy at Wallan, it beggar’s belief that the Victorian Government has made no effort to upgrade this antiquated system.