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Derailment creates grain havoc

A 40 carriage locomotive carrying 2880 tonnes of wheat has derailed approximately 2km from Rennie.

FIONA BLICK January 11, 2013 2:18pm

A 40 carriage locomotive carrying 2880 tonnes of wheat has derailed approximately 2km from Rennie creating uncertainty over grain deliveries now harvest is completed.

At 3pm last Thursday the double locomotive was heading to Geelong from the Oaklands Silos when it went around a slight right hand bend with the carriages coming off the rails.  The train was carrying wheat for the Australian Wheat Board for export, conservatively valued at $1 million.
Sgt Grant Churchin from Mulwala Police said the driver had stated he and his fellow driver were travelling approximately 45km/h when they noticed a large amount of dust rising behind them.
“They have seen that the middle and rear vehicles, or carriages, had come off the rails and were askew from the line,” Sgt Churchin said. “The speed was well within restrictions. No person was injured; there was monetary and infrastructure loss only.”
Sgt Churchin said police attended the scene and on inspection of the location, it appeared the soil that had been used as an embankment had come loose.
“The tracks were warped creating a large amount of debris and railway sleepers were displaced,” he said. “Information was obtained that the area was under water about 12 months ago when it was flooded and water appears to have coursed through piping under the embankment which may have caused erosion.”
Sgt Churchin believes the line is expected to be non-operational for at least two weeks due to the derailment.
 “Salvage is currently underway for the carriages and wheat, and it is expected this will continue for a number of days with the track to be cleared by heavy cranes.  Each carriage weighs approximately 70 tonnes,” he said.  “A loss is expected on the wheat at this time. The railway line is owned by the Victorian Government and managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC). The drivers work for El Zorro Transport. Both drivers were breath tested and produced a negative result. Internal investigations are expected from all involved parties. There has been considerable damage to the rail infrastructure.”
During the March 2012 floods over 12km of road running parallel to the train line was underwater.  One farmer told the Yarrawonga Chronicle at the time of the floods the train line acted as a levee bank and the culverts that were supposed to drain the water through didn’t work.
“After four days of rain I rang 000 as I thought the train line was going to go, there was a definite bulge there,” the farmer said.
An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) spokesperson declined to comment on whether flood erosion may have been a contributing factor to the derailment but said the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) had been notified of the incident and attended the scene last Friday morning.
“The cause of the incident is subject to investigation,” the spokesperson said. “There were no injuries to train crew. Ten loaded wagons derailed but they have all remained upright. ARTC is currently assessing the requirements to remove the wagons in consultation with the rail operator.”
He said initial estimates were that approximately 260 metres of track had been damaged and will need repair.
“The line is currently closed north of the incident site,” the spokesperson said. “There is currently no forecast for a return to services and this will be contingent on removal of the wagons from the site first.”
GrainCorp spokesperson Angus Trigg said CrainCorp was in a fortunate position to have a large, flexible network where they can draw grain from other areas if one area “goes down”.
“In instances where there is a derailment we will work with our customers and draw grain from other areas,” he said.  “Rail is definitely the most effective way of getting grain to port but we can examine other transport options; there is quite a strong export demand at the moment.”

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