Ongoing investigations into the train that derailed in Melbourne’s north killing two people, have revealed the train could have been travelling well more than twice the speed limit when it crashed.
The train’s driver, a 54-year-old man named by Nine newspapers as Canberra resident John Kennedy, and his pilot, a 49-year-old from Castlemaine in Victoria, were killed when the Sydney to Melbourne XPT diesel locomotive and five carriages came off tracks near Wallan Station, 60km north of the city on Thursday evening.
Eleven passengers were injured.
The train, carrying about 160 passengers, was meant to slow to 15km/h to divert through a “passing loop” at Wallan when it derailed but passengers believe it had been moving much faster.
Although the exact speed has yet to be confirmed, there are reports the train could have been travelling up to 85km over the limit.
The train was running more than an hour behind schedule when it derailed just before 7.45pm.
Some passengers claimed they heard an onboard announcement saying the driver was trying to make up for a lost time before the crash, but police would not confirm this.
They said it was a miracle more passengers weren’t hurt.
Authorities have begun sifting through the derailment site, a notorious section of rail that had caused trouble for train drivers in the past.
“(The derailment) occurred over a section of track over which was awaiting maintenance,” Rail, Tram and Bus Union secretary Luba Grigorovitch said in a statement.
“Conditions were altered and V/Line drivers rightly refused to traverse this section over the past week.”
Another train derailed further up the line in January.
Asked about the claims, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) said it was unable to provide comment while the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator conduct their investigations.
The ARTC is in charge of rail maintenance, while the train is managed by Transport for NSW. The section of the track where the crash happened was commonwealth-owned.
Transport for NSW secretary Rod Staples said the XPT trains – which are more than 40 years old – are “much loved” by customers and crew.
He insisted there was a “vigorous” maintenance process in place for the trains.
The ATSB said a preliminary investigation would be conducted within 30 days, with investigators looking at several factors, including speed.
It will take days to clear the tracks, with buses set to replace all Seymour, Shepparton and Albury train services until further notice.