NEARLY 200 passengers on a Melbourne bound XPT were left stranded on tracks for up to four hours on Tuesday after the train’s brakes locked.
With only one toilet in use, air conditioning not working properly and people not allowed to leave the train, some distressed passengers called police for help.
Inspector John Sheehan said it was not a police matter and contacted rail authorities to clarify the situation. The train came to a halt at Jerrawa, between Gunning and Yass, at about 11.40am, some 80 minutes after leaving Goulburn.
Railcorp has confirmed the XPT developed a “substantial” air leak in one of the brake reservoir system’s pipes.
The pressure loss triggered a fail safe mechanism, causing the brakes to lock. There were 186 passengers on board.
“Someone rang police to say people were distressed and they had concerns about the train moving when the brakes weren’t working properly,” Inspector Sheehan said.
The passenger claimed that people couldn’t use toilets. However Railcorp says one was working.
“We understand it was frustrating and upsetting for passengers on board the train…,” a spokesperson said.
“However, for safety reasons it was not possible to open the carriages and allow passengers off the train when it was not at a station platform. The danger this presented, with nearly 200 passengers and running train lines was too great.”
Staff assured passengers there were no safety issues to be concerned about, provided food and drinks and a vending machine was made available free of charge. CountryLink was unable to fix the fault at the scene and continue the trip.
“This required the isolation of power on the lead car,” the spokesperson said.
“…As the rear power car was the only remaining source of pneumatic air – and at a reduced capacity – the train returned to Goulburn.
“The train was hauled back to Goulburn by the rear power car at a reduced speed of 40km/h, and 25km/h over level crossings, due to safety requirements.”
The XPT didn’t arrive back at the station until 3.40pm, five hours after leaving Goulburn. Angry passengers swarmed onto the platform, picked up luggage and waited in 14-degree temperatures for coaches that CountryLink had organised
The breakdown will cost the rail authority. All passengers have been offered complimentary tickets and full refunds on their journeys.
Extra staff were rostered at Goulburn to help people and all 70 customers booked to travel to Melbourne were offered either taxi vouchers on their arrival or overnight accommodation.
People waiting at stations beyond Nerriga were picked up and taken to their destinations by coach. CountryLink also arranged a taxi for a wheelchair bound person. Asked about the train’s maintenance, the spokesperson said all XPT trains were regularly serviced.
“The proper maintenance on this particular train had been performed that morning prior to departure from Sydney,” she said.
CountryLink trains have been running late through Goulburn recently, which RailCorp put down to the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s speed restrictions.