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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11905

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (12:39 PM) —I rise because there are some important issues that I wish to touch on today that have some bearing on some of my constituents. In Melbourne last Monday week, there was a freakish train accident where a driverless train managed to proceed along the railway bound for Spencer Street. Fortunately, there were no fatalities; indeed, accidents were averted until the train got to Spencer Street. However, the out of control train did collide head-on with a stationary train that was bound for Bacchus Marsh, which is part of my electorate. There were passengers on that train. The Herald Sun ran a small story about the driver, who managed to jump out just in time. His carriage was destroyed entirely as a result of this quite freakish occurrence.

My concern went, of course, to everyone on the train. There were a number of people injured who are residents of Bacchus Marsh, and I have made an attempt to contact them. There were a few bone fractures, which is an awful thing to have happened to those people, but I suppose things could have been a lot worse; indeed, there could have been fatalities. I think, therefore, it is incumbent upon the proper authorities to investigate the accident that occurred. There needs to be an examination of how a train could run along a rail for 17 kilometres driverless. Indeed, there are some questions that go to the impact at Spencer Street—why the passengers and the driver were not alerted of the train approaching.

I have been in touch with Steven Bradford of Great Southern Railway. The Overland was on another platform at the time. Certainly that could have been the train that was hit by the runaway train. Fortunately, it was not, as there were more passengers on that train. I also want to record my appreciation for the staff of Great Southern Railway who were on the train at the time and who attended to the casualties on the train that was hit.

In discussing this matter with Steven Bradford he indicated that he believed that the state government has done the right thing in referring the matter to the national authority for rail accidents and not having it considered by the state authority. He believes that the national authority will investigate the matter properly. Hopefully, there will be some lessons learned from that examination. Certainly the residents of my electorate, those who live in Bacchus Marsh, who were injured and their families want to know how that could have occurred.

Catherine King, the member for Ballarat, and I—our electorates share the municipality of Mooroobool—have both written to the state government, and we are intending to keep an eye on this matter and wait for the answers from the inquiry so we can judge whether things can be done to ensure that this does not happen again. It is clearly important that the review is done expeditiously, that there is a thorough examination of the facts, that the conclusion is drawn quickly and that the results are provided publicly so that those people affected—and those who may have been affected if it had been on the other platform—can find out how something like that could have occurred.