07:39 am, Monday 16 July, 2007
Two rail workers were killed instantly when a coal train struck them as they worked along the rail line at Singleton in the NSW Hunter Valley before dawn.
Authorities say the dead men were wearing safety vests when they were hit by a northbound coal train about 5.50am (AEST), as they worked on the track at Singleton station.
The two men were signal technicians working for Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which formerly was a commonwealth rail authority.
The ARTC notified Comcare, the federal workplace safety regulator, whose investigators were on the scene with NSW police.
“Comcare has commenced an investigation under the commonwealth Occupational Health and Safety Act,” a spokesman said.
“NSW police have control of the accident site and our investigators are on the scene.”
The spokesman said investigators had not yet determined what led to the men’s death.
“It’s far too early to talk about any specifics,” he said.
ARTC chief executive David Marchant said the two men appeared to have been walking along the railway line when they were struck by the train.
“Prior to this, the two technicians had been working on points at Singleton railway station,” he said.
Mr Marchant said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) would also investigate.
The maximum civil penalty for a breach of occupational health and safety laws is $242,000 for a corporation while the maximum criminal penalty is $495,000.
Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile said the prayers of the federal government were with the families of the dead workers.
“We extended our sympathies and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the two men who have lost their lives and, obviously, we will be providing all the support and counselling necessary for the families,” Mr Vaile told reporters.
Mr Vaile, who is also the transport minister, said the ATSB was taking a “keen interest” in the accident.
“The direct jurisdiction for the investigation rests with the New South Wales Transport Safety Office, not withstanding that the line is actually operated and managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.”
The men have not yet been formally identified.
Train services have been cancelled in the region this morning to allow the investigation to proceed.
RailCorp said the tragic incident had forced the cancellation of the 6.21am, 8.51am and 10.10am services between Maitland and Muswellbrook.
A spokeswoman said more cancellations might follow.
“We’re trying to get buses at the moment … we’re just seeing how long it takes to clear track,” a spokeswoman said.
“Until emergency clears the line we can’t really run any trains.”
The town of Singleton is on the banks of the Hunter River, just over 200km north-west of Sydney.
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