A report into a fatal train derailment north of Melbourne in February has revealed the train was travelling at more than 100km/h in a 15km/h zone when it came off the tracks.
But the preliminary report by the Australian Safety Transport Bureau said the direction of the rail tracks had been changed from their “normal position” earlier that day, which caused the train to leave the main track and enter a passing loop.
The Sydney-to-Melbourne XPT service, which was carrying 153 passengers, derailed at Wallan shortly before 8pm on February 20.
The report stated when the train reached Albury, it was about 85 minutes behind schedule.
The train’s driver, 54-year-old John Kennedy of Canberra, and train pilot, Sam Meintanis, 49, of Castlemaine, were killed, and 39 passengers were injured.
Mr Meintanis boarded the train a few stops from the crash site to help the driver navigate through a 24-kilometre section of track because signalling equipment was damaged.
The report stated the tracks on both ends of the Wallan loop had been changed from their “normal position” to their “reverse position” earlier that day.
“This change meant that rail traffic, in both directions, would be diverted from the Main Line [straight] into the loop track,” the report said.
Information issued by the rail manager to the driver “reflected the change” and specified a 15km/h speed limit to enter the loop and a limit of 35km/h to exit.
According to the report, the train was approaching the Wallan loop at 7.43pm at about the speed limit of the main track, which was 130km/h.
Train ‘unable to negotiate turnout’
Recordings from the train revealed the driver applied an emergency brake shortly before the point where the track had been switched.
“This slowed the train a small amount before it entered the turnout travelling at a speed in excess of 100km/h,” the report said.
“The train was not able to negotiate the turnout to the loop track at this speed and derailed.”
The report revealed the front train car rolled onto its left side and the XPT driver and pilot sustained fatal injuries.
Three passengers were seriously injured and 36 received minor injuries.
Five members of the train crew, who were in the passenger cars, were also injured.
The ATSB will continue its investigations into the crash looking at the track condition, the condition of the train and carriages.
So far, the ATSB review had found there were no adverse track conditions that contributed to the derailment.