Published at 00:21 on Tuesday 14th February 2012
Tags: World News, Austrlia, Genesee & Wyoming, Derailment

The lead locomotive on the derailed freight was brand new GWA Class No. GWA001, a classmate to GWA002 pictured here. Leon Oberg

The key Adelaide to Darwin rail link, closed near Tennant Creek since 27th December due to a major washaway, should have reopened this week, but the operator now says its unlikely before 29th February.

On 27th December, a Genesee & Wyoming Australia (GWA) freight train derailed on the approach to Edith River bridge some 100 km north of Katherine, following a month of heavy rainfall and flood waters associated with Cyclone Grant.

The three locomotives, one a brand new GM-powered GWA-class, managed to come to rest in a derailed state on the northern side of the bridge after each one broke away from the other while on the bridge. But the rolling stock simply crashed into the flood waters, including vehicles conveying over 1,200 tonnes of copper concentrate.

The leading vehicle, a crew relay car (which was fortunately empty at the time) was split in two and left at a severe angle in the riverbed surrounded by rail wagons and spilt goods.

In a statement, GWA’s USA parent said crews were focused on restoring the abutments to the north and south ends of the bridge, where a detailed inspection of the bridge structure has revealed severe damage to the bridge girders with the train salvage and track remedial work continuing to be interrupted by poor weather.

Although an adjacent road bridge was also flooded, that link was restored and repaired within days and all rail freight from southern Australia to Darwin was trucked by road from a goods transfer yard in Katherine.

The Railway Herald understands although the crew was flown to hospital with minor injuries, the two lead locomotives GWA001 and FQ02 have suffered badly bent chassis while the third unit, an older CLF-class CLF6, has rear end damage.

The company has now delayed resumption of services, advising that it will be 29th February before traffic returned to the route.

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