Rail safety a 'priority' after Waterfall crash

The scene of the Waterfall train crash in 2003.
The scene of the Waterfall train crash in 2003.

The woman in charge of the state's rail network said yesterday the Waterfall train disaster had resulted in "significant changes" to ensure passenger safety.

"The accident was a dark moment in NSW's rail history. It is one of those awful moments where you remember where you were when it happened," Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said on the eve of the accident's 10th anniversary.

"My thoughts will be with those who lost loved ones and the wider community as the anniversary is marked. I know Waterfall has had a lasting impact on the Illawarra community."

Since coming to government in 2011, "this government has been committed to ensuring that the safety of our customers is the number one priority", the minister said.

On January 31, 2003, the driver of a Tangara train, travelling along the South Coast line to Port Kembla, suffered a heart attack, collapsing on to a "dead man's pedal", which forced his commuter train to speed up and run off the rails.

The train struck the stone wall of the rail corridor, killing seven people and injuring 16.

A subsequent inquiry made 177 recommendations - two of which are still outstanding.

One of those yet to be completed is the implementation of a digital train radio system.

The Independent Transport Safety Regulator reported last month that the recommendation was a work in progress.

"RailCorp plans to implement a digital train radio system. An objective of this system is for it to be inter-operable with existing analogue radio systems," the report said.

"Because of the technical complexities associated with achieving inter-operability, this has been a longer-term initiative." The first stage of its implementation began in 2005 and it is due for completion in 2015.

The final recommendation of the Waterfall inquiry yet to come to fruition includes the roll-out of onboard braking and slowing systems.

"Implementation will involve significant infrastructure change and is the subject of a major project," the regulator reported.

Testing is under way, with a target completion date of 2014.


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