NSW Government to apologise for the Granville Train Disaster

Not forgotten: January 18, 1977 remains the darkest day in Australian rail history, swept under the carpet by the NSW government at the time. Picture: Fairfax Photo Library
Not forgotten: January 18, 1977 remains the darkest day in Australian rail history, swept under the carpet by the NSW government at the time. Picture: Fairfax Photo Library

It’s taken 40 years but relatives, survivors and emergency workers affected by Australia’s worst rail disaster will finally get an apology.

Preparations are underway for a formal apology regarding the Granville disaster to be held in state parliament. The date is yet to be finalised but it could be as early as next month.

The long overdue apology will be in response to how the Wran government handled things and lack of help to victims’ families in the wake of the 1977 tragedy which claimed 83 lives and injured 213 after a packed commuted train derailed and crashed into the Bold Street bridge.

People who lost loved ones were deserted by the government at the time. Meredith Knight was 15 when she lost her father Bryan in the tragedy. She left school halfway through year 10 to work and help pay the rent.

“My brother asked Premier Neville Wran for a job and became a land tax officer. But after seeing graphic images of Granville on the 10th anniversary, he had his first schizophrenic attack. He lost his job and hasn’t worked in the 30 years since,” she said at the 40th commemorative service in January.

The Granville Train Disaster Association Inc has liaised with the premier’s office to organise the historic occasion. More then 50 relatives and survivors are expected to attend, along with representatives from emergency service organisations.

“It’s been a long battle,” group spokesman Barry Gobbe told the Sun.

“The government never really apologised to the people directly involved. It wasn’t even mentioned in the hansard papers and things were very quiet. When I was researching for my book, I was astounded to find out the way how people were treated.  They used stand over tactics on those affected, who were told to get on with their lives. It’s not too late to apologise. We need to make the state government stand up and make sure it never happens again.”

Then Premier Mike Baird announced a parliamentary apology at the 40th anniversary commemorations but resigned the next day.

With a good relationship with new Premier Gladys Berejiklian from her previous role as a transport minister, Mr Gobbe never feared the apology wouldn’t go ahead.

“It was strengthened more than anything,” he said.

“The state government, Cumberland Council and Sydney Trains have all assured us their support will be ongoing.”

Mr Gobbe was one of the first paramedics at the scene that fateful day.

A third version of his book Revisiting the Granville Train Disaster of 1977 will be soon be released. Now on its third version, the self-published book examines the causes of the tragedy. First released for the 35th anniversary, it has grown from 150 pages to 370.

“Stories are still coming in,” Mr Gobbe said.