On 18 January 1977, a commuter train derailed near Granville Station causing an overhead bridge to collapse onto two carriages. Eighty-four people lost their lives and another 213 were injured making it the worst rail disaster in the nation’s history.
The Granville Train Disaster has left a lasting legacy that can never be forgotten. Today, at a memorial service held where the tragedy took place, Acting Chief Executive Suzanne Holden and Acting Deputy Secretary of Transport Howard Collins remembered the victims, the survivors and those who lost loved ones.
Suzanne acknowledged the many lives that were lost and those that were forever changed that January morning 44 years ago.
“We must also remember and recognise the emergency service workers, rail staff and other unsung heroes who risked their own safety in extremely hazardous conditions to help others,” said Suzanne. “Without them, more lives would have been lost.” The eight-car passenger train was travelling from Mt Victoria to Central when it derailed shortly after 8am on an approach curve to Granville Station, colliding with the Bold Street Bridge. The crash caused the bridge to fall on the third and fourth carriages of the train.
The disaster area was complicated and extremely dangerous; the concrete slabs and tonnes of bricks made the disaster zone very difficult to access, requiring a high degree of coordination from police, civil and emergency services. The dangerous and unstable environment hindered the rescue operation. This was compounded by a gas leak from ruptured bottles of LPG used to run carriage heaters. This limited the use of machinery and all parties needed to proceed with extreme caution.
Rescue workers displayed extraordinary feats of bravery to remain with injured passengers despite the dangerous conditions and threat to their own lives, staying in areas considered too dangerous to enter to assist injured passengers.
An inquiry into the disaster exonerated the train’s driver and attributed the cause of the accident to the state of the tracks in the area.
The rail system has come a long way since that terrible day in 1977. Invaluable lessons were learnt from this tragedy and there have been continuous improvements to the safety and maintenance of our rail system since that time.
Suzanne laid a wreath at the Granville Train Disaster memorial wall in remembrance of the victims.