Rail boss defends shaky track


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03-08-2011 08:15 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


03-08-2011 08:15 AM



03-08-2011 08:55 AM

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2011-08-03 08:15:02

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Rail boss defends shaky track -

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TONY EASTLEY: Train drivers are threatening not to work on Australia's busiest railway line between
Sydney and Melbourne if safety conditions don't improve, but the boss of Australian Rail Track
Corporation says he's investing millions of dollars in track maintenance and he's very confident
the track is safe.

Last week a loaded passenger train in Victoria narrowly missed crashing into a maintenance crew
when it travelled down a section of line that should have been closed.

The train's operator V/Line has now imposed a 60km/h speed limit on the section of track but that
limit doesn't apply to other trains like the Inter Capital Express.

Matt Peacock reports.

MATT PEACOCK: Last Friday V/Line instructed its drivers not to exceed 60km/h on the main
inter-capital line north of Seymour because of the rough ride caused by mud holes in the track's

But there's been no equivalent speed limit imposed there by the Australian Rail Track Corporation,
or ARTC, the Federal Government body that maintains the track.

As a result, Countrylink's inter-capital passenger express, the XPT, is free to travel at double
that speed along the same section of track.

The Rail Union's Bob Hayden has urged Countrylink to follow V/Line's example.

BOB HAYDEN: Why is it good for one and not for the other on the same track?

I mean, you could understand if they were running on a different section of track in the same area.
But no, it's the same track and Countrylink has just not seen fit to drop the speed of their

MATT PEACOCK: There was a lucky escape in this area last week when the driver of a V/Line train
loaded with passengers narrowly avoided derailment after his train was allowed down a track where a
maintenance crew had removed a section of rail.

The irony is that this section of line between Seymour and Wodonga was closed to traffic for most
of last year while the ARTC converted it to standard gauge and at the same time replaced its ageing
wooden sleepers with new concrete ones.

The union says that instead of using a track laying machine to install the new sleepers the ARTC
used a cheaper method of side insertion, and as a result mud holes are appearing up and down the

It's warned Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese that its drivers may refuse to drive on the

BOB HAYDEN: We will support any member who decides to reduce the speed of their train because they
believe the condition of the track is unsafe.

MATT PEACOCK: But the ARTC blames the rain not its method of laying sleepers for the problem.

Although even its own consultant warned in May that without urgent attention this particular
section of track could turn to mud very quickly.

CEO John Fullerton.

JOHN FULLERTON: In relation to V/Line, it's a matter for them. They've chosen to apply a blanket
speed restriction and they've made that decision themselves.

MATT PEACOCK: V/Line says the ride's so rough its passengers and drivers are getting thrown around
too much.

You're not saying they're imagining that. I mean, you can't have it both ways. One of you must be

JOHN FULLERTON: Well, we're not getting the same level of complaints from other operators and we
have been working very closely with V/Line.

There has been some ride testing that was done on the passenger coaches before the resumption of
service, and those ride conditions for the passenger coaches were quite satisfactory from the
information that we received from V/Line.

MATT PEACOCK: Now last week there was a near miss where a V/Line passenger train very nearly
collided with a maintenance crew and there was rail missing so there would have been a derailment.

Was that the ARTC's fault?

JOHN FULLERTON: That's an investigation that we've currently got underway.

There was a maintenance gang on the western track that was in place when a V/Line passenger train
was approaching.

We don't believe there was any serious potential for a derailment.

There were certainly works being carried out, and there was a small section of rail missing as they
were repairing some of the defects that we're repairing on that corridor.

TONY EASTLEY: ARTC chief executive John Fullerton ending that report from Matt Peacock.