V/Line driver was going 80km/h too fast in rough rail ride from Melbourne to Albury

A train driver on a V/Line trip from Melbourne to Albury caused injuries to passengers by hurtling through a crossing loop at Wallan more than 80km/h above the required speed.

Passengers were thrown from their seats during what the Australian Transport Safety Bureau safety report, released this week, described as a “rough ride” on the evening of July 11, 2015.

It found the driver travelled through the loop track at about 97 km/h during a section where the signalled speed was 15km/h.

“The train swayed violently, severe enough that some of the passengers were thrown out of their seats,” the report stated. “About five seconds after passing over the points, a distance of about 185 metres, the driver made a service brake application.” 

The report revealed it was service crew tending to passenger injuries who reported the incident to V/Line and the driver made contact only after being asked to by the buffet car attendant.

“The driver asked that the incident not be reported to the regional driver supervisor, but the  V/Line network customer centre explained that it was protocol to report incidents causing injuries,” it stated.

Investigations found he was undergoing performance management during 2015 following a six-year history of indiscretions caused by inattentiveness, including missing platform stops.

One “high dependency passenger” suffered a hit to the head and another person was worried about possible injuries to a child.

An ambulance met the injured passengers in Seymour and the driver continued his duties until he was relieved at Benalla, and sent back to Melbourne in a taxi.

He tested negative for any drugs or alcohol and was deemed medically fit to drive the train.

“The ATSB found that the driver of train 8625 did not demonstrate effective train handling techniques when approaching a signal displaying a low speed aspect,” the report stated.

“The driver did not immediately report the severity of the incident to the ARTC train control or V/Line … The ATSB also found that V/Line did not have a procedure in place that specifically required other V/Line employees to report incidents in the event that a driver did not.”

The company has since implemented a procedure to address the risks of high speed and updated the policy around reporting incidents, including what should happen if a driver fails to do so.

The driver no longer works for V/Line.

Chief executive James Pinder said the company had worked with the ATSB during the two-year investigation.

“V/Line has reviewed its driver monitoring processes, which includes operational history, and a more stringent driver recruitment process has been implemented.

“We are also developing a new system to support appropriate management of driver competence.

“V/Line’s internal processes and procedures have been updated to ensure incidents are reported by other staff in situations where a driver may not have reported an incident.”