The Metlink Matangi train is inspecting by Transrail staff
after crashing over a barrier at the Melling Station in
Lower Hutt. Photo / Mark Mitchell
A train driver who had smoked cannabis in the days before
a crash at Lower Hutt last year no longer works for KiwiRail,
the company says.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission today
released an interim report into the incident at Melling
station last May in which the commuter train, which was
carrying passengers, smashed into a concrete block.
The report said the driver had tested positive for drugs.
KiwiRail passenger general manager Deborah Hume said today
the driver had been on leave, and had returned to work a day
before the accident.
"He had been tested a number of times before and all those
tests had been cleared," she said.
After the accident the driver was stood down and Ms Hume
confirmed he no longer worked for KiwiRail.
In the past 12 months KiwiRail had carried out 950 drug and
alcohol tests on 791 people. Of those 1.5 per cent came back
positive, she said.
"At any time anyone can be tested for drugs," she said.
KiwiRail is also investigating the incident.
Ms Hume said they would gather information from the black
box, and cameras on board, which would indicate how the
driver responded at the time of the crash.
Two of the 12 people on board the Matangi train suffered
minor injuries and there was substantial damage to the train
and stop block.
Overhead electricity wires were also bought down when a power
pole behind the stop block was broken.
TAIC deputy chief commissioner Helen Cull said the driver,
who had 11-1/2 year' experience driving trains, was tested
for drugs and alcohol after the accident.
"His urine sample returned a reading for the active
ingredient in cannabis which experts have told us is
consistent with a non-chronic user smoking a cannabis
cigarette two or three days earlier," Ms Cull said.
"The issue of whether the driver's performance was impaired
by cannabis is a further line of enquiry."
Ms Cull said definitive findings as to why the accident
occurred had yet to be made.
Data from the train event recorder showed the braking system
responded correctly but due to the damage to the train, tests
of the complete braking system had yet to be conducted.
Other lines of inquiry were looking at the ability of the
trains to stop on a wet or greasy track.
The report also identified a series of urgent recommendations
which have been made to operator KiwiRail.
These concerned restricting station approach speeds,
upgrading the stop block design to better absorb collision
and shifting any poles carrying overhead wires from behind
the end of rail lines.
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) said there was a
long-standing concern about the effectiveness of the Matangi
braking system among train drivers.
The union would work with KiwiRail on interim recommendations
in the Transport Accident Investigation Commission report.
RMTU General Secretary Wayne Butson said there had been
numerous reports about braking system irregularities
"The sole purpose of the interim report provided was to make
urgent recommendations to Kiwirail regarding safety issues
identified early in TAIC's ongoing investigation," he said.
Mr Butson said the issue of whether the driver was impaired
in any way remains one line of enquiry.
"At this point no allegation of driver impairment has been
made, and the RMTU have seen no evidence of driver
- By Nikki Papatsoumas of APNZ