RailCorp crews have been working arouind the clock to repair damage caused by the derailment at Clifton, but the company says there’s still ‘‘a lot of work to be done’’.A 500 tonne crane has been set up on the site to undertake heavy lifting duties and remove eight derailed wagons.Crews will then clear tonnes of coal, spilled when the wagons overturned about 12.25am on Thursday, before repairing more than 400m of track. RailCorp’s acting chief operating officer Tony Eid said workers faced a number of challenges, but would be working as quickly as possible to allow train services to resume.“The crew has a number of challenges to compete with including difficult terrain, the weather, and the need to isolate power – but we’ve got over 100 people on the job recovering services, assisting customers and arranging alternative transport,’’ he said.Trains are not expected to run on most of the South Coast line until Monday morning after a suspected broken axle threw the region’s rail network into disarray yesterday.The midnight derailment of a coal train at Clifton delayed more than 6500 peak-hour commuters and left rail authorities to scramble for alternative transport arrangements.Buses are replacing rail services between Waterfall and Thirroul in both directions.CityRail will provide an update by Sunday afternoon on the progress of repairs.About 12.25am Thursday, a fully laden coal train from the Metropolitan Colliery, travelling along the South Coast line, came off the rails soon after emerging from the Clifton tunnel. Aerial video of the site by Mercury photographer Andy Zakeli
The train, operated by Pacific National, had two drivers in the front locomotive. They were not injured, as the derailed wagons were eight back from the front of the train.Pacific National said the pair were experienced drivers based at the company’s Port Kembla depot. The incident left a crumpled tangle of rail wagons blocking the track.A broken axle was the suspected reason, according to the NSW Government’s transport regulator, which had investigators at the accident site yesterday.A panorama of the crash site by Shane Wynter
RailCorp’s acting chief executive Tony Eid said he was contacted about the derailment at 12.40am.The train had come to rest on a section of impassable track, shared by commuter services travelling between the South Coast and Sydney.RailCorp officially closed the line in both directions and commuter services were replaced with buses.About 40 buses were brought in from across Sydney, with the first put into service about 1am.Commuters were soon being ferried between Thirroul station and Waterfall station every 25 minutes, with extra train services moving passengers from Dapto to Thirroul and from Waterfall to Sydney.Commuters planning to travel from stations south of Dapto had to also contend with planned track work. Those heading for Sydney would have had to catch two trains and two buses.Crowd marshal Kevin Granland was called in about 3am to act as a crowd marshal at Thirroul railway station.He likened peak-hour crowds to being at the Easter Show, but said everyone was patient.Rhoda Tsalidis was caught up in the disruption while travelling from Wollongong to Sydney to visit her mother. She said replacement operations seemed to be running smoothly.‘‘I’m not surprised at what’s happened - it’s been happening for 35 years since I moved from Sydney to Wollongong,’’ she said.Blair Massie, dragging a suitcase, chose yesterday to move from his Austinmer home to an apartment in Sydney.‘‘I was staying with my family and today I’m moving and I have brought my suitcase. It’s my biggest one and I’m already starting to regret using it,’’ he said.RailCorp inspectors were on site yesterday. Mr Eid said he expected repair works to run until Sunday.‘‘The terrain is not exactly favourable,’’ he said.‘‘It is quite severe ... it’s going to take some time to clear.’’He said overhead cables were intact at the accident zone, but said about 1000 sleepers had been damaged over a 400m stretch of track.Also at the accident site were investigators from the Office of Transport Safety Investigations, which said yesterday it was conducting a preliminary investigation into the incident. The NSW transport watchdog, the Independent Transport Safety Regulator, also sent inspectors to investigate any potential breaches of rail safety.
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