Opening Statement Senate Estimates – ARTC CEO – Wallan

Monday 2 March 

ARTC CEO, John Fullerton, opening statement to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, Canberra.

Check against delivery

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today, and for the chance to make these remarks. I will keep them brief.

When you head up any operational business – in rail or otherwise – you work hard to prevent accidents and prepare extensively in case they happen.

As Senators know, earlier this month, the worst possible outcome happened.

At around 8pm on Thursday 20 February a NSW Train Link XPT service bound for Melbourne, derailed approximately 1.5 km from Wallan in Victoria.

During the accident, we lost two much-loved members of the rail family. This accident devastated families, friends and colleagues, and an industry that prides itself on safety.

I am sure this will be a subject that is canvassed here today, but I wanted to outline our response over the past 11 days, which has been four-fold:

  1. supporting our staff and contractors;
  2. working with emergency services and Transport for NSW to safely remove the train;
  3. repairing the track so it is available again for use; and
  4. cooperating with investigations underway.

In terms of supporting staff and contractors, many of our staff personally knew the people who were killed in the accident, and many others were involved in the first response.

We are very aware of the potential impact that this could have on staff, and have been widely advising those who need to, to access the services they need through our Employee Assistance Program.

We have also been asking them to take care of one another.

And we have been working with the relevant contractor companies on what support they need to give the people who were involved.

With respect to the physical repair tasks, I would like to put on the record my thanks to the teams of up to 70 staff who worked around the clock to get the track operational.

ARTC staff have been working alongside emergency services and Transport for NSW staff on the progressive removal of the train carriages which were involved in the accident.

Finally, with respect to the investigations, ARTC has been providing full support to investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) and the Victorian coroner.

On Thursday 20 February, there were two employees in our industry who went to work and never came home, and we collectively owe it to John Kennedy, the driver from Canberra, and Sam Meintanis, the pilot from Castlemaine, to work with the investigators to understand what happened, and what actions need to be taken to prevent it ever happening again.

These investigations will provide the important answers that we all want.

Thank you for the opportunity to put this on the record.

ENDS

 

Saturday 29 February 2020

NORTH EAST RAIL LINE IMPROVEMENT PLANS AND SUPPORT TO ONRSR AUDIT

In line with the plans outlined on Thursday, the repairs to the North East Rail Line around Wallan were completed yesterday, with the first Melbourne-Brisbane freight service passing through at 2.50am on Friday.

In addition to conducting repairs, ARTC have been assisting investigations into the Wallan derailment that were launched by the Victorian Coroner, ATSB and the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR).

Key updates that can be confirmed today are as follows:

  • The ARTC can confirm that ONRSR has written to us requesting an additional independent review focused on track condition, which we understand and support.
  • While various elements are being considered, to further provide confidence to the Regulator, our rail operator customers and the community, we’ll be implementing an interim 80 km/hr speed limit on the line between Melbourne and Albury.
  • More than 2.4 kilometres of copper signalling wire was stolen by thieves between Wallan and Donnybrook overnight, which will result in 60-90-minute delays to all rail services.

“While concurrent investigations are underway and distinct to the investigations regarding the tragic accident at Wallan, the regulator wants a broader look at track quality on the corridor, which we understand and support,” ARTC CEO John Fullerton said.

“We recognise the importance of the independent audit and it is essential we consider a range of measures to help ensure public confidence in the railway network. We will be working closely with the regulator to appoint an experienced and independent rail expert to lead the audit.

“We have taken a further precautionary decision to reduce track speeds between Melbourne and Albury to 80km per hour for all train services. We recognise this will result in delays to services, but at this time, it is important we prioritise safety as operations return.

“We will also be arranging for our senior managers to ride in the cabs of freight and passenger trains between Albury and Melbourne through this week in order to assess the ride condition from the locomotive cab and to engage with train drivers. While this is something our management do regularly, it is even more important at this time.”

“In addition, we are also calling for any member of the community who has knowledge of, or saw suspicious behaviour, regarding the theft of more than 2.4km of copper signalling wire between Wallan and Donnybrook before 1am early this morning, to please contact Crimestoppers.

“It is incredibly disheartening that these thieves would seek to take advantage of such a tragic situation.”

Work is underway on the $235 million North East Rail Line Upgrade, including track quality improvements such as resurfacing and new ballast, and putting overhead wires underground to decrease the risk of line wire theft.

ENDS

Media contact: ARTC media team 1300 196 401

Background:

Copper Wire Theft

Between July 2017 to July 2019 there were 231 incidents of copper line wire theft along the ARTC rail corridor between Craigieburn in Victoria and Sydney which is estimated to have resulted in ‘hard’ costs of around $600,000 in rectification, but further cost and impacts via significant delays to train services, call out time for staff responding, additional driver and staffing hours, late freight deliveries and costs to passenger customer time. Of these incidents, 77% resulted in train delays to the network. The focused area of theft in Victoria is between Craigieburn in Melbourne’s North to Chiltern, south of the VIC/NSW border, with 52% of the incidents occurring within a roughly 40km stretch of track north of Melbourne (around Wallan – Donnybrook – Kilmore East).

 

North East Line Upgrade

The $235m North East Rail Line upgrade is underway and major contract work continues. More than 100 people are currently engaged in the project, with progress including:

  • Early works like ballast and track improvement, improvements to timber bridges, level crossing renewals and installation of new rail cross-overs, this has been ongoing since early 2019.
  • Site set up and establishment of the major contractor’s office commenced in December and works have started, commencing from Wodonga, moving south. Ballast trains have been delivering ballast to various work sites for a number of weeks.
  • In addition, a targeted track tamping program has been operating since October 2019 and 130km of tamping has been completed. Two track tamping machines are stationed in North East Victoria for ongoing use, achieving an average of around 5km of track tamping per day.

========================

 

Wallan Incident Advice #9 Final advice: Track repairs complete

In line with the plans outlined yesterday, the repairs to the rail line around Wallan have now been completed, and the line is now available to passenger and freight services.

The first train, a Melbourne-Brisbane freight service, went through the area at 2:50 am.

We would like to take this opportunity to again thank the teams of up to 70 people, who worked around the clock in tough circumstances for seven days, to undertake the necessary repair works.

The ARTC has been providing full support to investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) and the Victorian coroner.

ENDS

========================

Wallan Incident Advice #8 – Track repairs nearing completion – updated 27/2/20 5:00pm (AEDT) 

  • Repair works to damaged sections of the Wallan loop almost complete
  • Operators advise freight and passenger services to resume soon
  • CEO visits site again to thank staff for hard work in tragic circumstances

The CEO of Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), John Fullerton, today returned to Wallan to thank rail staff working to repair the extensive damage to the track caused by the tragic rail accident last Thursday 20 February.

Teams of up to 70 people at a time have been working around the clock to make the rail line available for freight and passenger rail services, with operators advising that subject to regulatory checks, they may start bringing them back on track from later this evening.

“A week ago, we lost two much-loved members of the rail family. This accident devastated families, friends and colleagues, as well as an industry that prides itself on safety, and everyone wants to understand what happened and what actions need to be taken to prevent it ever happening again,” Mr Fullerton said.

“For ARTC, our focus has been four-fold for the past week: cooperating with investigations underway, supporting our staff and contractors, working alongside emergency services and NSW Transport to safely remove the train, and repairing the track so it is available again for use.

“I would like to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to the teams of staff who have worked hard in tragic circumstances to undertake these tasks.”

The carriages of the train involved are being moved progressively back to Sydney, and rail works have included replacing 300 sleepers, laying 20 lengths of rail and 800 tonnes of ballast, as well as undertaking signalling works which are in their concluding stages.

The ARTC has been providing full support to investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) and the Victorian coroner. Rail services will resume after the relevant approvals from ONRSR.

Latest links to vision and stills below:

Vision #1

Vision #2

Vision #3

Stills

 

 

ENDS

========================

Wallan Incident Advice #7 – Repair and Recovery – updated 26/02/20 10:15am (AEDT) 

Overnight the front power car of the train was loaded onto a truck and removed from site. Two carriages will be taken to Sydney in the coming day before the trucks return and pick up the remaining two carriages later this week.

ARTC has trackwork underway to repair damaged sections of the Wallan loop, with around 70 people on site working to restore the infrastructure.

As of yesterday afternoon (25 February), around three quarters of sleepers have been laid, half of the rail has been laid, signalling repairs are underway and ballasting continues.

The main line in the immediate vicinity of the accident has been inspected, with no significant damage reported.

We will continue to provide full support to the ongoing investigations into the incident, which will look at all potential factors.

Background: 

The $235m North East Rail Line upgrade continues. More than 100 people are currently engaged in the project, with progress including:

  • Early works like ballast and track improvement, improvements to timber bridges, level crossing renewals and installation of new rail cross-overs, this has been ongoing since early 2019.
  • Site set up and establishment of the major contractor’s office commenced in December and works have started, commencing from Wodonga, moving south. Ballast trains have been delivering ballast to various work sites for a number of weeks.
  • In addition, a targeted track tamping program has been operating since October 2019 and 130km of tamping has been completed.
  • Two track tamping machines are stationed in North East Victoria for ongoing use.

Regarding Video of North East Line re-published yesterday:

UPDATED Video from site this morning

UPDATED Stills from site this morning

 

ENDS

========================

Wallan Incident Advice #6 – Repair and Recovery – updated 25/02/20 2:30pm (AEDT) 

The recovery and safe removal of the final train carriages and locomotives from the Wallan derailment incident site is expected to be completed today.

At 1pm today (AEDT) contractors for Transport for NSW placed the lead locomotive (‘power car’) on a specialised flatbed truck, designed for carrying large loads.

The locomotive will join two carriages that were removed from the track and lifted onto flatbeds last night (24 February) to be transported back to Sydney tomorrow (26 February). The remaining two carriages will remain on site until the initial convoy trucks return to load and remove them later in the week.

Earlier this morning, ARTC contractors began the next phase of works to repair the track.

Materials and supplies arrived on site yesterday including 300 sleepers, 20 lengths of rail and 800 tonnes of ballast. Signalling works will then commence.

The site is being carefully controlled to ensure the safety of all those who are now involved in the site recovery and repair.

We acknowledge that the community is seeking to understand what caused the incident and we will continue to provide full support to the ongoing investigation which will look at all potential factors.

Vision link

Stills link 

 

ENDS

========================

Wallan Incident Advice #5 – Repair and Recovery – updated 24/02/20 3:55pm (AEDT) 

Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) continues to work with Transport for NSW to manage the recovery and safe removal of the train carriages and locomotives following the XPT derailment on Thursday evening.

At 6.30am yesterday, ARTC and contractors established site set up with three cranes prepared for the lifting of the trains and carriages.

This work will continue throughout the coming days, reflecting the complexities of the recovery.

The rear locomotive (‘power car’) and carriage departed site this morning to Sydney just after 9.15am.

Two carriages will be lifted into a flatbed truck as well as the remaining power car which will be lifted onto a truck tomorrow morning which will travel in convoy to Sydney.

The remaining two carriages will stay on site with expected pick up later in the week.

Materials and supplies start to arrive today for repairs to commence once the site has been cleared includes 300 sleepers, 20 lengths of rail, 800 tonnes of ballast with roughly 300-500 metres of track to be repaired following removal of the carriages and power cars. Signalling work will then commence.

The site is being carefully controlled to ensure the safety of all those who are now involved in the site recovery and repair.

The number one priority of the Australian Rail Track Corporation is to ensure this incident is managed as safely as possible.

We acknowledge that the community seek to understand what caused the incident and that’s why we are providing full support to the ongoing investigation which will look at all potential factors.

ENDS

========================

 

Wallan Incident Advice #4 – Repair and Recovery – updated 23/02/20 12:00pm (AEDT) 

Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is working with Transport for NSW who are managing the recovery and safe removal of the train carriages and locomotives today.

At 6.30am this morning, ARTC and contractors John Holland and Johnson and Yong Cranes established site set up with three cranes under way at 8.30am conducting the first lift.

Cranes will take approximately seven lifts to remove the carriages and locomotives from the track.

This work will continue throughout the coming three days, reflecting the complexities of the recovery.

Over the next few days equipment including sleepers, rail and signalling equipment will be delivered to the site to repair the rail infrastructure once the XPT is removed.

On Tuesday, we expect to begin the repairs to the track and signal infrastructure which was damaged in the accident.

The site is being carefully controlled to ensure the safety of all those who are now involved in the site recovery and repair.

We acknowledge that the community seek to understand what caused the accident and that’s why we are providing full support to the ongoing investigation which will look at all potential factors.

ENDS

========================

Wallan Incident Advice #3 – updated 22/02/20 6:00pm (AEDT) 

The accident site at Wallan is now under the control of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

ARTC is currently preparing the site with Transport for NSW for the recovery and safe removal of the train carriages and locomotives.

The site is being carefully controlled to ensure the safety of all those who are now involved in the site recovery and repair.

We acknowledge that the community wants to understand what caused the accident. We are providing full support to the ongoing investigation which will look at all potential factors. It is very important that we don’t prejudice the independent safety investigations taking place so we won’t be commenting on possible causes at this time.

ENDS

========================

Wallan Incident Advice #2 – updated 21/02/20 12:45pm (AEDT) 

At about 8pm yesterday evening a train derailment involving the NSW Train Link XPT service bound for Melbourne occurred approximately 1.5 kilometres from Wallan, Victoria.

Firstly, our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have sadly passed away and with affected passengers.

This is an incredibly tragic incident and our focus is to support emergency authorities and other transport agencies in both the investigation and response required to this incident. The Victorian coroner, Office of the National Safety Regulator and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau are all on site undertaking investigations.

ARTC services in the region have been suspended until further notice and the site is quarantined for incident investigations to take place.

We are providing full support to the investigation which will look at all potential factors.

We will provide updates as they become available.

ENDS

========================

Wallan Incident Advice #1 – 20 February 2020, 11:30pm (AEDT)

ARTC services are suspended until further notice, to allow emergency services to respond to a train derailment involving the NSW Train Link XPT service bound for Melbourne around 1.5 kilometres from Wallan, Victoria.

We are working hard to support emergency services, NSW TrainLink and investigators to respond to this tragic accident.

ENDS

Go to top