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Off-track wheel cause of derailment in Victoria

ATSB finds stray wagon wheel responsible for significant damage to Victorian rail track

By Brad Gardner

An initial investigation into a derailment that caused extensive damage to Victoria’s track has found the train had climbed the top of rail, forcing wagons to jack-knife.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its preliminary report into an incident on the Melbourne to Sydney rail line, which damaged 720 metres of track at Winton near Benalla on July 31.

According to the report, 13 of the 44 wagons of the Pacific National-operated train derailed after one of the wagon’s right-hand wheels rolled over the rail head.

The report says this put pressure on the wooden sleepers which were unable to maintain the 3.5 tonne train, causing a line of wagons to derail.

“The sleepers ultimately failed to maintain track gauge which allowed further wagons to derail,” the report says.

“Wagons continued to derail and jack-knife as the rear portion of the train collided with the rapidly slowing derailed wagons.”

The ATSB’s report says the train continued for about 720 metres before stopping.

The freight train, travelling from Port Kembla to Port Augusta, was carrying steel products and sugar.

The train drivers originally stopped after they noticed a loss of brake pressure, the report says.

The drivers found the derailed wagons after walking back along the rail line to investigate the loss of pressure.

The ATSB’s investigation is still continuing. In its report, it says the track condition and maintenance records still need to be examined.

The government body will also look at the condition and maintenance of the rolling stock, locomotive data and driver actions and the interaction between the rolling stock and the track.

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