Train crashes beyond end of the line

Last updated 16:54 27/05/2014

Melling train derailment

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Hutt Valley

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A section of State Highway 2 in Lower Hutt will be closed tonight as cranes are brought in to lift a train involved in an accident earlier today.

The train crashed into a buffer at the end of the Melling Line in Hutt Valley this morning.

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The train failed to stop when it came to the end of the Melling line beside the motorway at about 8.10am, Police communications spokesman Mike Coleman said.

The front of the dual single-unit Matangi train was driven about two metres up off the rails by the impact. It also took out a power pole.

A NZ Transport Agency spokesman said the southbound lanes of State Highway 2 will be closed between Melling and Dowse Drive between 8pm and 4.30am tonight.

Northbound drivers will not be affected.

A detour will be in place, and northbound drivers will not be affected.

Passenger Ross Moreland, a company director from Hamilton, was at the front of the train when the impact happened.

"The driver jumped out of his cab and told us to brace ourselves when we were roughly 300 metres from the end of the line.

"He shouted out: 'I've got no brakes, brace yourselves'. From what I saw the driver looked like he could do nothing. He didn't have any brakes at all," Moreland said.

There were a woman and three men, including the driver, in the front section of the train.

Moreland praised the driver, who went to the back of the train after the impact and checked out all the passengers.

"The woman who was injured told people she stood up before the impact."

Moreland said he crouched down and braced himself before the seat in front of him.

"I'm going to have a few bruises."

The impact shook houses 200 metres away on Pharazyn St, resident Dan Hickson says.

Pharazyn St resident Thomas Nanai, who lives near the station, said his family were having breakfast when he heard a boom outside "like a truck hitting another truck".

The family thought it was another accident on the motorway near the busy Melling Bridge intersection, and were surprised to see the front of the train had launched up over the concrete buffer.

Dominion Post reporter Hank Schouten, who arrived at the scene after the impact, said one of the overhead 1100-volt power lines was touching the top of the train.

KiwiRail general manager Peter Reidy said Matangi trains would not be taken of the rails in the wake of today's events.

"This was a very serious incident and we're very sorry it happened," he said.

There were 10 passengers were on the train. One who received minor cuts and another who was in shock who have been taken to Wellington Hospital.

This after noon Reidy confirmed both have been discharged from hospital.

"Six passengers left the site immediately after the accident, and we ask those passengers and anyone on the platform at the time of the incident, to call KiwiRail on 027 706 9006 so we can check their welfare."

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He also said the driver was in shock.

"As part of the overall inquiry our people will be talking to the driver to get his version of events".

"The main priority for KiwiRail today was the welfare of passengers and staff."

Reidy said the train involved in today's incident underwent a full thorough service 14 days ago.

The train at the Melling station was the fifth service of the day to run from that station.

Mr Reidy said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the accident but wanted to reassure its customers that safety was  paramount.

"The investigations would look at the full range of possible causes for the incident.

"All Matangi and Ganz Mavag trains are regularly checked as part of our maintenance programme.  We conduct regular safety briefings for our staff and have ongoing staff monitoring and training in place."

All services on the Melling line were  suspended until further notice with  bus replacements provided  between Melling and Petone.

Reidy said the crash of a Matangi train in April last year was also still subject to an ongoing external agency investigation.

Lower Hutt Fire Station Senior Station Officer Rob Sullivan said his men kept the 20 passengers on the train while the power was cut off.

"It took about 10 minutes to cut the power off. The danger came from the fact that the top of the train had risen up and was touching 1100v power cables. So we kept the 20 or so passengers on the train until the power was cut off," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said there was only one injury, to the woman with the cut head, but many people, including the driver, were shaken.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said it was not yet known why the train derailed but KiwiRail executives had been on site to try and figure that out.

"I think you could say anything is possible. Until they actually do the investigation they won't know ... This is very disconcerting because we are encouraging people to use commuter rail, not only do we want it to be reliable but we want it to be safe."

He refused to speculate on what caused the accident but expected to be briefed this afternoon on the preliminary findings.

The issue needed to be addressed quickly to ensure the public's faith in the service was not lost.

"Any rail operator has derailments from time to time but it's the nature of this one that's particularly concerning. I think we're lucky that there weren't more people injured obviously and for those who are injured they've got my deep sympathies and I hope they make a speedy recovery from those injuries."

The accident occured just south of the bridge which leads across the Hutt River into Lower Hutt.

- The Dominion Post

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