Derailed train damages 1.5km of track
Tue, 16 Oct 2012 6:22p.m.
By Jessica Rowe
A coal train has derailed on the West Coast just north of Westport, damaging more than a kilometre of track.
With KiwiRail planning to cut 160 jobs by the end of the month, the union says there will soon be no one left to fix it.
The wheels of seven coal wagons came off the rails on Sunday afternoon, smashing sleepers, and ripping and twisting 1.5km of the Stillwater line.
Local farmer Phil O’Connor witnessed the derailing.
“The first wagon over here caused trouble and it got progressively worse as it came along. The train pulled up pretty smartly and came to a grinding halt in the shingle.”
No one was injured, but the line to the Stockton Mine is in a state of disrepair.
The site isn't easy to get at it, so KiwiRail has had to build an access way. Cranes are now at work, lifting the wagons back onto the track.
KiwiRail general manager of infrastructure and engineering Rick van Barneveld says the debris should be cleared in a few days.
“The wagons should be back on the rail tonight and moved aside, and when that happens we will be able to finish our repairs and have the trains flowing by Thursday, we hope.”
New Zealand First transport spokesman Brendan Horan says it's just one of a series of bungles by KiwiRail.
“It's quite clear KiwiRail is an accident waiting to happen and the incompetent management need to explain why they tried to hush this up.”
Last month KiwiRail announced it would cut 158 infrastructure jobs by the end of this month. Wayne Butson, Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary, says the timing is kind of ironic, with rail workers who are frantically repairing the track also fighting to keep their jobs.
“All [of them] actually don't know if they have a job in a few weeks, and so it just puts added stress into the place. As usual these guys are working their guts out to get this line open.”
But Mr van Barneveld says KiwiRail has the right priorities.
“Safety and reliability are still important to us. We have had to trim our sails this year, but we are still doing an awful lot over the next three years.”
KiwiRail denies it has tried to hush the incident up, and is now conducting an investigation into what happened.
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