Local News

Emergency services on site at Warragai Creek on March 9 after the northbound XPT which was headed for Casino, struck a tree which had fallen across the railway line during a devastating storm. Image: contributed.

Storm causes chaos as XPT hits fallen tree

Emma Pritchard

A northbound XPT collided heavily with the branches of a large gum tree which had fallen across the railway line during a severe storm on March 9.

The incident occurred around 6:30pm at Warragai Creek, roughly 22km north of Grafton, and caused minor delays to freight and passenger services on the North Coast rail line.

The driver applied the brakes but was unable to pull up in time with the impact subsequently damaging two XPT power cars and impacting several carriages.

A side glass on the diesel tank of the leading power car was ruptured, spilling an estimated 600L of diesel fuel and the collision also ripped the trains air hoses, preventing the brakes from being released.

Thankfully, the 21 passengers and 6 crew members on board were uninjured.

Emergency Services, Hazmat crews and Trenayr Rural Fire Service were among those who attended the scene and walked almost 1km along the track to reach the train.

Denso putty was applied to prevent further diesel fuel leaking as Hazmat crews worked to contain the scene.

Grafton Fire and Rescue 306 Station Captain Garry Reardon, who was called to the scene at around 7:20pm, said the situation could have been far worse.

“The train hit some fairly significantly sized limbs,” he said.

“Every carriage was impacted.

“Luckily there were no injuries, but the passengers and crew were quite shocked by the incident.”

The XPT travelled roughly 400m up the line before stopping following the collision and broken branches and limbs continued to strike the side of the train as it passed.

Due to the torrid wet weather conditions, the XPT was not travelling at full speed and thankfully, it did not derail as a result of the impact.

Lights were set up to guide 18 of the 21 passengers as they walked 800m down the track to an assessment area while an Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) high rail utility vehicle escorted three elderly passengers from the stricken train.

Transport NSW organised buses to replace the train following the collision.

The North Coast rail line was reopened to freight and passenger services several hours later.