RAIL MIRACLE: XPT crash pair arrested as police consider miracle

The remains of a Toyota Landcruiser that was left on railway lines and hit by the Countrylink XPT passenger train at Chiltern. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

TWO men, whom police will allege watched as an XPT train smashed into a car they had left on the tracks at Chiltern, were yesterday arrested.

The Chiltern men, 22 and 25, will be charged on summons for reckless conduct endangering life.

The 25-year-old, the alleged driver, is also facing charges of failing to remain at the scene.

Wodonga police Sgt Stewart Smith said the pair attended Wodonga police station yesterday afternoon where they were arrested and interviewed.

Sgt Smith said police could have been investigating multiple fatalities when the XPT train travelling from Melbourne to Sydney smashed into the four-wheel-drive, which belonged to the alleged driver’s mother, at 125km/h at 2.30am on Sunday.

“It was only by sheer luck there were no passengers on the train and the reason there wasn’t was because the train had been delayed at Southern Cross for three hours so passengers had been put on coaches,” Sgt Smith said.

“There was a driver and four crew members on the train at the time — even one person placed at risk is one too many, but the consequences of this could have been absolutely catastrophic.”

Sgt Smith said it was a miracle the train didn’t derail.

“If that train was full of passengers, if it had’ve derailed, we could have been looking at multiple fatalities here,” he said.

Sgt Smith said the car had been on the tracks for 30 minutes before it was hit.

He said it was not left on the tracks deliberately, but its occupants, who were nearby at the time of the collision, fled the scene.

“Although the exact circumstances will be revealed in due course, I can’t emphasize enough that if you are involved in an incident that occurs anywhere near railway lines, or if you become aware of any safety issue whatsoever on or near a safety line you must ring triple-0 immediately,” Sgt Smith said.

“It must be the first phone call you make.

“It’s a reminder as well there are specific offences for crossing train tracks in an area where you’re not authorised to do so.”

He said the two men would be charged when the brief of evidence was completed with police waiting for the Australian Rail Track Corporation and CountryLink to provide specialist evidence regarding damage and cost of repair to the train and the track.

He said the crash backlogged freight trains for hours between Melbourne and Sydney.

“People need to consider the massive flow-on effects.”

Sgt Smith praised the driver, from Junee, for his “excellent job”.

“He was extremely professional, he conducted himself in an absolutely exemplary manner and he did what needed to be done,” he said.