Granville Train Disaster 1977

 
  deb_h Beginner

Could any of your members help me with some research I am doing into the Granville train disaster in 1977? From what I understand, the ‘official’ verdict for the cause of the accident was primarily due to poor standards of track maintenance. There was also the issue of the speed of this train, in that it had a dispensation to travel 10 km per hour faster than others on bends. Some people argue that was a contributory factor which arose from political pressure to appease the commuters/voters of the area by ensuring they had an expedient journey at a time when they held key marginal seats.  

I am interested in exploring whether a foundation of bad political decisions lay beneath this disaster. Were the government failing in their responsibilities by being too quick to appease public will rather than taking a more rigid adherence to safety standards? Was increasing speed seen as an ‘easy option’ to investing in track maintenance, which at that time would have disrupted the service and caused short term inconvenience ? – that sort of thing.

Can anyone shed some light into the political atmosphere that preceded and followed the event?  For example, would it be fair to say that concessions were made in response to public pressure that were unlikely to have been made had the commuters of the train not been seen as ‘politically important’. And if so, did those policies ultimately backfire, not just by the tragic accident itself, but through damage to the government, loss of political ground, etc. Or did the emergence of public sympathy cause the people to ‘rally round’ the government.

I’ve been trailing through your archives and see that you have members who remember the accident well.  I would be extremely grateful for your memories, recollections and insights.

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  insideinfoman Station Master

Location: Sydney
There were a number of factors that contributed to the Granville disaster.
1. According to a driver who was around at the time the primary cause was a worn wheel on a worn rail. The locomotive simply climbed out of the points and derailed. Speed was not a significant factor.
There was an attempt to cover up the cause by the track maintenance group who claimed that they did not have equipment to measure the track gauge in points but that was plainly not the cause of the derailment.
2. The high death toll was caused by the concrete deck of the Bold Street bridge collapsing onto the train once the inadequate steel bridge supports were knocked out by the train. I was told in 2000 by a senior manager that Ron Christie (the recent Coordinator General) was in charge of Way and Works at that time (tracks, bridges etc) was not held responsible for the design failings that caused the bridge to collapse. As usual the danger of the design had been recognised but nothing was done about it.
Once the inadequacies of the bridge design was made public by the Granville smash there was a rush program to fix other bridges of the type.
3. The Wran government had been recently elected in part because of the problems with the railways that had been caused by the mismanagement and underspending by the previous corrupt Askin - Lewis - Willis liberal government. Neville Wran said after Granville that the NSW railways were a "ramshackle railway system"
4. The notorious Commissioner Shirley was an Askin appointment who was told to cut costs. All he did was to shut down large parts of the system and made almost no difference to the losses. His cuts to maintenance spending was a primary cause of the Granville smash.
He closed many branch lines and gutted the freight services. The net result of the cuts to rail freight services were that much more freight went by road (so today we have unending road deaths caused by trucks) while the loss of income from railway freight revenue were almost balanced by the savings derived from service cuts. The external costs in soaring road spending and paying for truck smashes were ignored.

Today the same attitude prevails in the Howard government where billions of dollars are handed to the road freight industry each year (eg the diesel and alternative fuel subsidy scheme) while spending on railways has virtually ceased.
  Riccardo Minister for Railways

Location: Gone. Don't bother PMing here.
There were a number of factors that contributed to the Granville disaster.
1. According to a driver who was around at the time the primary cause was a worn wheel on a worn rail. The locomotive simply climbed out of the points and derailed. Speed was not a significant factor.
There was an attempt to cover up the cause by the track maintenance group who claimed that they did not have equipment to measure the track gauge in points but that was plainly not the cause of the derailment.
2. The high death toll was caused by the concrete deck of the Bold Street bridge collapsing onto the train once the inadequate steel bridge supports were knocked out by the train. I was told in 2000 by a senior manager that Ron Christie (the recent Coordinator General) was in charge of Way and Works at that time (tracks, bridges etc) was not held responsible for the design failings that caused the bridge to collapse. As usual the danger of the design had been recognised but nothing was done about it.
Once the inadequacies of the bridge design was made public by the Granville smash there was a rush program to fix other bridges of the type.
3. The Wran government had been recently elected in part because of the problems with the railways that had been caused by the mismanagement and underspending by the previous corrupt Askin - Lewis - Willis liberal government. Neville Wran said after Granville that the NSW railways were a "ramshackle railway system"
4. The notorious Commissioner Shirley was an Askin appointment who was told to cut costs. All he did was to shut down large parts of the system and made almost no difference to the losses. His cuts to maintenance spending was a primary cause of the Granville smash.
He closed many branch lines and gutted the freight services. The net result of the cuts to rail freight services were that much more freight went by road (so today we have unending road deaths caused by trucks) while the loss of income from railway freight revenue were almost balanced by the savings derived from service cuts. The external costs in soaring road spending and paying for truck smashes were ignored.

Today the same attitude prevails in the Howard government where billions of dollars are handed to the road freight industry each year (eg the diesel and alternative fuel subsidy scheme) while spending on railways has virtually ceased.
"insideinfoman"


The bridge is reputed to have weighed some magnitude greater than was officially thought. One story is that when they built the bridge, it was several inches shorter than the surrounding road way. They then poured extra concrete onto the road level to make it up, waying several hundred tonnes.

I can't buy the 'wheel profile' story - even if this was the cause, then the remedial action they have taken and continue to take - rail replacement, concrete sleepering and reballasting, is far more expensive than grinding a few wheelsets. Also about ten people died when the side of the train was speared by a dislodged stanchion and not because of the bridge collapse, and as such would have died anyway even if the bridge stayed up.

Wran used Granville as mileage against the Libs - which they undoubtedly deserved. Can anyone think of anything redeeming about the Askin administration? Evil or Very Mad  The man is remembered primarily as a crook, who sold of the Northern beaches railway easement, and whose policies led to Granville.
  deb_h Beginner

Thank you very much for your response.

The Wran government had been recently elected in part because of the problems with the railways that had been caused by the mismanagement and underspending by the previous corrupt Askin - Lewis - Willis liberal government. Neville Wran said after Granville that the NSW railways were a "ramshackle railway system"


So is the situation that Neville Wran came into government with some commitment and obligation to the railways and ensuring that particular line ran reliably and on time? Sorry if this question sounds naïve – I’m not from Australia and not too familiar with your politics. I’m not trying to identify a political scapegoat, I’m just trying to establish whether the speed of the train was a contributory factor and if it might have been, to what degree that decision was influenced by political pressure. I understand that the driver and engine staff were not held responsible, that they were following their directives appropriately.

I know you say speed wasn’t a significant factor and I probably overstated it in terms of the official findings. But it seems to be brought up fairly regularly. A quote from your archives, for example, reads:

The fact is, the track at Granville was not capable of taking that train at that speed. If the staff had been properly trained and supervised, there would have been a severe speed restriction on it. Now the speed restriction could have been laid squarely on "underfunding", but in my view, the accident cannot! Of course, my view is based on more modern thinking than existed at the time, and modern ideas have the advantage of hindsight where Granville is concerned.
We have just had this argument out afresh in New Zealand over the Cave Creek disaster (not a railway event, though), and I have say with disgust that the politicians got their ideas wrong in that one also.
Granville was a system failure, involving middle and senior management, probably right up to top management levels.

http://www.railpage.org.au/ausrail/98mar/msg00446.html


Would anyone know whether the Wran government was responsible for allowing this train to run a little faster (to avoid late arrivals in Sydney and keep the commuters/voters sweet?), or was that a decision taken years before?

It sounds from what you are saying that the government itself didn’t suffer loss of confidence as a result of the accident. No heads rolled – is that correct? Would anyone know whether the accident was in any way connected to the fact that the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, resigned shortly afterwards?

There was an attempt to cover up the cause by the track maintenance group who claimed that they did not have equipment to measure the track gauge in points but that was plainly not the cause of the derailment.


That might be worth me looking into – thanks for that.

I really appreciate any help. I’m starting from a very uninformed position I’m afraid and can only gather bits of information that I’ve pieced together from the web. In view of the scale of the disaster and the way that it is still very emotive for Australians, I’m surprised that there isn’t a great deal of detailed information available. I have seen most of the standard websites and know most of the details concerning the accident itself but in terms of the underlying causes the information avilable on the web seems quite superficial.
  tinhare Beginner

Have you seen the film Day of the Roses? While this film does not provide any answers as to why the Granville disaster occured it does canvas many of the questions and issues raised during the aftermath. Many of the political relationships are touched on and certain 'personalities' are highlited who seem to have had reputations to protect over the whole affair.

Michael
  deb_h Beginner

I did see that a few years ago (I'm from the UK BTW) but I don't remember many of the finer details now. I also travelled the line about 6 years ago on a visit between the Blue Mountains and Sydney and I was told all about it then. But I can only remember bits and pieces, I wasn't doing any research then.   Rolling Eyes
  Riccardo Minister for Railways

Location: Gone. Don't bother PMing here.
Thank you very much for your response.

The Wran government had been recently elected in part because of the problems with the railways that had been caused by the mismanagement and underspending by the previous corrupt Askin - Lewis - Willis liberal government. Neville Wran said after Granville that the NSW railways were a "ramshackle railway system"


So is the situation that Neville Wran came into government with some commitment and obligation to the railways and ensuring that particular line ran reliably and on time?
"deb_h"


In general yes, but no in this case. The two interurban lines, ie central coast and blue mountains, have always had pressure maintained on government through the marginal seats that they created (less marginal these days) and reports of lateness do a lot of political damage [because of land shortage, many more people are forced to commute from these lines than ideal].

So it would have been both parties to blame if this culture had led to overspeed

Sorry if this question sounds naïve – I’m not from Australia and not too familiar with your politics. I’m not trying to identify a political scapegoat, I’m just trying to establish whether the speed of the train was a contributory factor and if it might have been, to what degree that decision was influenced by political pressure. I understand that the driver and engine staff were not held responsible, that they were following their directives appropriately.
"deb_h"

I doubt it.
I know you say speed wasn’t a significant factor and I probably overstated it in terms of the official findings. But it seems to be brought up fairly regularly. A quote from your archives, for example, reads:

The fact is, the track at Granville was not capable of taking that train at that speed. If the staff had been properly trained and supervised, there would have been a severe speed restriction on it. Now the speed restriction could have been laid squarely on "underfunding", but in my view, the accident cannot! Of course, my view is based on more modern thinking than existed at the time, and modern ideas have the advantage of hindsight where Granville is concerned.
We have just had this argument out afresh in New Zealand over the Cave Creek disaster (not a railway event, though), and I have say with disgust that the politicians got their ideas wrong in that one also.
Granville was a system failure, involving middle and senior management, probably right up to top management levels.

http://www.railpage.org.au/ausrail/98mar/msg00446.html


Would anyone know whether the Wran government was responsible for allowing this train to run a little faster (to avoid late arrivals in Sydney and keep the commuters/voters sweet?), or was that a decision taken years before?
"deb_h"

As stated above, it had become a culture, not anything a specific political party did.
It sounds from what you are saying that the government itself didn’t suffer loss of confidence as a result of the accident. No heads rolled – is that correct? Would anyone know whether the accident was in any way connected to the fact that the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, resigned shortly afterwards?

Not related. NSW always votes countercyclically to the rest of Australia. Eg Whitlam out - Wran in, Hawke Keating in - Greiner in, Howard In - Carr in (although hard to tell the difference Smile )

That might be worth me looking into – thanks for that.

I really appreciate any help. I’m starting from a very uninformed position I’m afraid and can only gather bits of information that I’ve pieced together from the web. In view of the scale of the disaster and the way that it is still very emotive for Australians, I’m surprised that there isn’t a great deal of detailed information available. I have seen most of the standard websites and know most of the details concerning the accident itself but in terms of the underlying causes the information avilable on the web seems quite superficial.

Day of the Roses is a good start, but then some of the other reading will help remove some of the myths. The collapse scene is pretty close to what it would have been like.

We don't get disasters of this size in Australia much thank God, in the UK seem to occur every year or 2. It therefore hit Australians very hard, particularly mountain people.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
The Granville crash site including the alledgedly faulty turnout and faulty bridge piers had only been build or rebuilt when the line to Granville was quadruplicated in about 1960 when the Labour party was in power in NSW.

The turnout rails and sleepers were only about 17 years old. Is this a long time for turnouts?
It is quite likely that the turnouts and track did not particularly use resiliant fastenings such as pandrol clips.

The replacement bridge spans all 5 tracks in one go, and the bridge falling down part of the accident cannot repeat itself.

If there was any overspeed by the driver at Granville, it was only acceptable tolerances, unlike the gross overspeed at Glenbrook Waterfall Concord West, with near misses at Blacktown and Seven Hills.
  insideinfoman Station Master

Location: Sydney
The train speed was not raised as a serious cause of the Granville smash - it was properly put down to worn equipment and maintenance failure.
Despite this finding the driver was abused by anonymous callers and I think was never able to return to work.
Speed was a significant factor in the Glenbrook smash. The driver was under pressure to run on time - even if that meant speeding.
McInerny in his report (Final Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Glenbrook Rail Accident) found that on time running had become more important than safe operating. The driver was advised to drive through a presumed faulty red signal by a train controller via the Metronet  train radio. He ran into the back of the Indian Pacific and killed 7 people and injured 51 because the position of the Indian Pacific train in front was unknown to the signal man at Penrith because the Indian Pacific driver did not have a Metronet radio and was unable to report his position to the Penrith signal box.
The interurban hit the back of the Indian Pacific at around 30Km/h.
  deb_h Beginner

The two interurban lines, ie central coast and blue mountains, have always had pressure maintained on government through the marginal seats that they created (less marginal these days) and reports of lateness do a lot of political damage [because of land shortage, many more people are forced to commute from these lines than ideal].
So it would have been both parties to blame if this culture had led to overspeed

I understand. Thanks. Where you say ‘I doubt it’ do you mean you doubt that speed was in any way an issue, or that the driver/engine staff were blameless and were following their directives appropriately? Thanks for clearing that up about Kerr, there didn’t seem to be any connection I could find, so I just wanted to eliminate that.

We don't get disasters of this size in Australia much thank God, in the UK seem to occur every year or 2. It therefore hit Australians very hard, particularly mountain people.

The scale of this disaster was bad, and the sheer bad luck in the train derailing near the bridge and then bringing that down must have added to the emotional shock and disbelief that life should be so cruel.

Is the extra 10km/h limit for the intercity/express services stretch all the way to central?

I’d also like to know, if anyone can help, when that was introduced. Is it still in force?

Insideinfoman:
With regard to the Glenbrook accident you note ‘on time running had become more important than safe operating’
That’s really what I’m trying to explore here, and I’m sorry to labour on about this speed issue when you’ve made it plain that you don’t consider it a factor, but I’m not suggesting that speed limits were broken, merely considering the bad mix of fragile carriages, worn track and high speed together. Stronger carriages wouldn’t have prevented the accident though may have minimised the loss of life. The speed of the train might not have caused any problem were it not for the worn tracks. The worn tracks might not have been a problem if the train had been travelling a little slower.  One report on the web reads as follows:

The morning commuter train from the Blue Mountains into Sydney was an important train. Clearly, It was important for the many commuters who used it that it should arrive in New South Wales' capital with time enough for them to reach their desks in time to start their day's work. But the train had an even greater significance for the NSW state government. The line to the Blue Mountain connected a number of marginal constuencies and transport was a major issue of the time. The state-run NSW railway was in a run-down condition and complaints about the service were frequent. For example, the trains themselves were left uncleaned and were so filthy that commuters using the route would carry tissues in order to clean the seats before sitting down. Time keeping was also a problem, but this particular service was given a degree of priority and efforts were made to ensure that it ran to time.
This required some very smart working of the train as there were other, stopping trains using the same path through Sydney's suburbs. At one point there was a margin of just 3 minutes between the Blue Mountains train and a stopping train. Just a short delay could mean that the local train went ahead and the express would be held up causing a late arrival of about 30 minutes. An expedient to help to avoid this was to impose a speed limit at the curve at Granville which was 10 km/h higher than that imposed on all other curves in NSW….
A signal check at Blacktown was the only impediment to otherwise good timekeeping. But it was the cause of the train being 3 minutes late departing from Parramatta for the non-stop run into Strathfield. With around 25 minutes journey time left and under clear signals, the Train 108 accelerated to the maximum speed permitted for the line, (80km/h). But, as it approached Granville it began to slow in anticipation of a temporary (20km/h) speed restriction. This had been imposed because of track maintenance being carried out east of Granville, at Clyde. As the train entered a left hand curve and travelling at (78 km/h) the locomotive derailed.

What I am looking into is the underlying factors that cause these kinds of accidents to happen. The way I see it is this – those commuters held some political importance at the time preceding the accident. The government (whichever it was) was responsive to the pressure to get them into work on time, to the extent that specific moves were made to ensure that their journey was timely. One of the ways they did that was to allow the train to travel a little faster than other trains on curves (it derailed on a curve).  By taking a ‘quick fix’ solution, yet ignoring the heavier problem of track maintenance, on time running was being put before safe operating. Why? Because the commuters who travelled the track had enough political importance to make the speed of their train become a government concern. It was their will that was putting the pressure on the govt to do whatever it could to avoid delay. But was the govt acceding to public pressure on one hand and failing to maintain its long term responsibilities on the other? That’s always a fatal combination. Accidents don’t just happen, the potential for the accident usually exists for a long time beforehand, and it is only a matter of time before an unfortunate spark lights the flame, resulting in disaster.

The two interurban lines, ie central coast and blue mountains, have always had pressure maintained on government through the marginal seats that they created (less marginal these days) and reports of lateness do a lot of political damage

Don’t you think it is ironic that one of the trains the govt were most keen to have running reliably and expediently ends up in disaster? I don’t see that as an unrelated coincidence. And if this line had a long history of maintaining pressure on the govt, how come the train was so old, dirty and worn down, and the track maintenance so poor? There seems to have been an obvious and therefore easily admissible root of maintenance failure, but on the other hand, the need to avoid lateness was inevitably going to put pressure on the driver to keep his speed high, even in a situation that might otherwise have called for a decrease in speed.

Looking at it from a more political/social angle, was this accident more than just a clash between a train and a support that held a bridge, causing the bridge to fall on the train with devastating results.  Was it also a reflection of the clash between society’s drive to keep moving forward without due consideration for the support that holds the system in place? In that sense society itself is responsible and scapegoating drivers is a futile exercise. The point in relation to Glenbrook and other accidents over there and over here, is that lessons don’t just have to be learned, they have to be remembered.
  deb_h Beginner

Can anyone tell me if weather conditions contributed in any way – for example was it raining or moist, making the tracks less resistant than usual?

Also, for what reason was the drama called the Day of the Roses – what was the significance of the title?

Thanks for any help on this.
  Riccardo Minister for Railways

Location: Gone. Don't bother PMing here.
Debh

The clash you refer to wasn't so much a clash of 'wanting to move forward'

It was a clash between political reality that both parties could not afford to lose the mountains or coast vote, on one hand, with bullying senior politicians and treasurers, on the other hand, who would not look at the underlying causes of why the NSWGR had started losing money (in the early 70s) and did nothing sophisticated to analyes, and then remedy, this problem.

The fundamental reason why the coast/mountains vote mattered is the number of people (even more thesedays) who are forced to live there and take journeys that long, because of earlier political failures to manage Sydney's land and population.

In the fifties (apparently) government planning suggested Sydney would stabilise with a population of 2 million, and people would live in satellite cities such as Penrith and Campbelltown, with green belts around them and fast trains taking them to Sydney. By the 70s it was obvious the government had lost control and was using the interurban areas as a residential dumping ground for surplus population.

The weather was not an issue.

The name was Day of the Roses becauses some victims relatives started dumping roses on the tracks (as legend has it) on the anniversary each year.

For the longer term, this clash is not resolved, if anything it is worse now. There is a bully in the 3 top jobs of relevance to NSW rail (Premier, Treasurer and Minister). The Treasury is again allowed to dictate rail spending, because the previous Minister was unable to manage. The unions continue to dictate how the government runs the system and inflate costs. The public are jack of it but can't bring themselves to vote Liberal, or in their best interests and vote Green.

And now we have a whole generation who cannot buy a house in Sydney. We will probably end up with a poorly executed electrification to Moss Vale (like the last 3), not because it's really needed, but because the government continues to fail to manage the housing issue.
  Bwana Chief Commissioner

Deb h

I think your analysis is very accurate - in fact I'm tempted to copy it and send it to a couple of friends.

As Riccardo said, the victims (or their families if they were killed)  throw (not "dump") roses from the Bold St. bridge onto the tracks every year still (it was on the news last year), at the time of impact.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
The train speed was not raised as a serious cause of the Granville smash - it was properly put down to worn equipment and maintenance failure.
Despite this finding the driver was abused by anonymous callers and I think was never able to return to work.

"insideinfoman"


Did the 46 class engine at Granville have a speed recorder black box, and if it did, was it turned on?
  deb_h Beginner

Riccardo – that information about the land problem is very useful to me because I hadn’t understood the full importance of that. I agree that these wider social concerns all play a part in contributing to the pressure that builds up and culminates in accident. In searching for causes, it is much too simplistic to blame it on the track, the judgement of the driver, or the speed of the train. Everyone wants to find a scapegoat that takes the issue away from being part of a responsibility they share.

Bwana – please feel free although as you can see I’m still grasping with the issues myself and inviting contradiction. My research takes a somewhat unorthodox approach to the nature of bad luck and how it invites reflection, so even this information about the flowers is potentially valuable. (I’ll be happy to include a link to the article when it is completed and will be acknowledging the help given by the members of this forum).
  insideinfoman Station Master

Location: Sydney
The 46 class did not have a data logger. Dataloggers are still being installed in suburban and interurban electrics. The story of the Fischer dataloggers is a typical tale of indecision (over 700 loggers were purchased and then left in a warehouse for over a year), mismangement (the loggers were paid for without being tested), disregard (loggers were installed in 125 interurbans and then removed after being found to have a wiring fault) and incompetance (the loggers in the Waterfall train were workable but not switched on).
If you want a good story investigate the datalogger saga.
  Alco King Train Controller

Location: sydney
The 46 class locos were fitted with a Hastler speed wich had a recording tape inside the speedo. 8)
  Idle Wanderer Locomotive Driver

Deb_h and others;
I think you might be taking it a little too far to draw an inference that faster speed limits for some trains was/is somehow directly connected to political expediency. Right up to present times all major lines in NSW are signposted with dual speed limits. Typically the higher limit is 10-15 km/hr above the 'regular' limit and applies only to lighter weight passenger trains with better riding qualities and suspension systems, such as today's XPTs and Explorers. You would not want a 4000 tonne coal train with four heavy locos on the front belting around a curve at the same speed as a light bodied passenger train, for example. There is no significant increased risk of immediate derailment with a small excursion over the posted limit, or ought not to be, but the ongoing stresses exerted on the outside rail on a curve by the wheel flanges of the heavier trains are exponentially greater than those exerted by a passenger train less than one tenth the mass. It is just good engineering practice for long term safety reasons to limit the heavier trains to lower speed limits. In any event, as already stated, on all the evidence, this train was not travelling over its speed limit as it left the rails at Granville.
You might be able to construct a weak argument that the rollingstock was getting old due to political lack of will or resources but that again is more complicated than it appears. Peak travel periods pretty much self-evidently stress all transport networks close to their limits, unless there is an unusually generous capacity built in to the system. You might not wish, or reasonably be able to afford, to purchase new equipment to cope 100% with the full diurnal peaks in an urban system because some of that capacity is then only needed a few hours each day and not at all on weekends. That is a waste of resources.
In 1977, pretty much all the regional requirements in the Sydney system were filled adequately by fairly modern stainless steel bodied, electric multiple units which were then a little over 15 years old.  
However the loco on the train in question was slightly older, around 20 years, but still only about half way through it's reasonable life expectation. As that train was a peak hour 'capacity extender' the carriages were indeed older [and I'm sure someone on this forum can tell us their age more exactly than my guess of 'about 40 years'] and would have been coming to the end of their service life. Properly maintained, which I have every reason to believe they were, they would have been more technologically obsolescent than worn out. By that I mean they would have compared unfavourably with more modern equipment in use at that time in terms of facilities such as lighting, ride quality, noise suppression, heating and cooling systems etc. Hence the general political agitation at that time for upgrading, which was more about comfort than safety.
It is unfortunate that these carriages were wood on steel underframes, but in practical terms the outcome would have been fairly similar no matter what the construction. Any vehicle travelling at speed hitting stanchions and having a very solid concrete structure dropped onto it is going to be destroyed with tragic consequences.
The Granville accident did deeply affect the wider community as stated above, particularly the Blue Mountains towns, both because of its severity and also because in those more stable times many people on that train had commuted to the same work place from the same town for many years. This was still in the era when commuters tended to sit in the same seats on trains each day and so got to know each other much more than today's circumstances, where working hours and locations are typically much more flexible.
  Riccardo Minister for Railways

Location: Gone. Don't bother PMing here.
Deb_h and others;
I think you might be taking it a little too far to draw an inference that faster speed limits for some trains was/is somehow directly connected to political expediency...You might be able to construct a weak argument that the rollingstock was getting old due to political lack of will or resources but that again is more complicated than it appears. ...Hence the general political agitation at that time for upgrading, which was more about comfort than safety.
"Idle Wanderer"


I don't think anyone has drawn a link  between politics and speed limits per se,; in fact I was specifically trying to rule one out. The main political sensitivity, as miniseries pointed out and others have, was about late running. This might lead a driver to drive near the upper limit of a track's capability.

But if the track was fundamentally unfit for purpose, as is suggested, then this is only of minor import. You can't ask drivers to stick exactly on the limit because there is no tolerance, substantial tolerances need to be built in or else severe restrictions placed.

No the political issues were the lack of maintenance and upgrade, caused by cowardly senior bureaucrats (who could and should have resigned over this issue) bullying politicians and unsophisticated electorates who should have seen this coming. Bear in mind Granville was a delayed effect; the Askin Government had already been voted out when it happened.

Also the link to Blue Mountains politics is probably more relevant now than then? Why do so many people have to commute such long distances, that even regular ten-minute delays are electoral suicide? Is it because of a failure of urban planning (again those cowardly senior bureaucrats, bullying ministers and vested interests raise their heads).

I agree with your discussion about rolling stock. Todays comparison would be a P plus H cars, only used in peak hour for limited runs, and not meeting todays standards. If Granville happened today say at Footscray, I wouldn't blame the set, but would ask how a culture of leaving such old cars in service has occurred when road spending and prosperity is at record levels.

Do not fear criticising bad politicians and ignorant electorates; it is healthy for you and allows you to see the world more clearly for what it really is. Rail in this country is not a technical or engineering problem, it is a political problem and needs to be managed as one.
  dullsteamer Deputy Commissioner

Location: Waterfall, NSW
"Did the 46 class engine at Granville have a speed recorder black box, and if it did, was it turned on?"

46s were fitted with a Hasler speed recorder, which uses a waxed paper tape to record speed, time, and brake pipe pressure. The recorder is driven from a sender mounted on the end of an axle. They cannot be "turned off", but obviously if no tape is loaded, or the tape is damaged, they will not record any information.
  dullsteamer Deputy Commissioner

Location: Waterfall, NSW
"There was also the issue of the speed of this train, in that it had a dispensation to travel 10 km per hour faster than others on bends. "

I don't understand this statement. What was the nature of the dispensation you refer to?
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
"There was also the issue of the speed of this train, in that it had a dispensation to travel 10 km per hour faster than others on bends. "

I don't understand this statement. What was the nature of the dispensation you refer to?
"dullsteamer"


Two incidents at Blacktown and Seven Hills where trains went through turnouts at considerably faster than the posted turnout speed shows that there are some margins in the system. At Blacktown, the train went through the turnout at 3 times posted speed, perhaps 75 instead of 25km/h. At Concord West, a train went through the turnout much too fast, and did derail. At Waterfall, the speed board visible in the photo of the derailed train said 50km or 60km/h, but the driver was going rather a bit faster than 61km/h.

Exception. If the speed boards are used to calculate level crossing warning times, or signal overlaps, then you can come to grief in different ways if drivers speed, such as arriving at level crossings before the booms lower, or overrunning overlaps as happened at a crossing loop in Victoria (Greensborough ??).

Since driver will not always know why a speed restriction is imposed, curves, turnouts, level crossings or overlaps (or a mixture or the same) they should take care driving over the limit at any time.
  dullsteamer Deputy Commissioner

Location: Waterfall, NSW
Since driver will not always know why a speed restriction is imposed, curves, turnouts, level crossings or overlaps (or a mixture or the same) they should take care driving over the limit at any time.
"awsgc24"


That's arguable - if you know the road at all you'd have a very good idea of why a particular speed board is in place. That's why you learn the road in the first place. If it's a temporary speed board the weekly notice will tell you exactly why it's there.

Anyway, none of this is what my question refers to. The original post was worded in such a way as to suggest the poster thought  the train at Granville was specifically authorised to exceed the speed boards. If that is what she is inferring, what is the basis for making that inference?

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