Freight Rail, Legal & Compliance, Safety

ATSB reports on Rockhampton rail bridge accident

ATSB Rockhampton accident

A Rockhampton railway bridge was damaged by a tipping trailer that had been loaded onto a freight train despite being too high for the rail network, an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report details.

The tipping trailer was loaded onto the train at the Stuart terminal, near Townsville, on September 16, 2021.

ATSB Transport Safety director Michael Walker the terminal was cooperatively operated between Linfox and Aurizon, with Linfox responsible for the movement of road freight to and from the terminal, and Aurizon conducting the loading of rail wagons and rail operations.

“The tipping trailer was a Linfox asset rather than customer freight and, as such, it was not managed through Linfox’s normal process, which required any non-standard loads to be referred to management for approval,” he said.

The trailer, when loaded onto a rail wagon, reached a height of 4.41 m above the rail – almost 60 centimetres over the maximum permissible height on the North Coast Line from Townsville to Brisbane.

“This was not identified by the heavy lift (forklift) operator during loading, likely because they did not have a nearby reference and were not expecting the load would be out of gauge,” Walker said.

“The rail operator also did not routinely apply a process at the Stuart terminal to verify that the dimensions of non-standard loads were within the permissible profile.”

During the subsequent journey to Brisbane, the trailer’s hydraulic lifting post collided with the overhead structure of Alexandra Bridge in Rockhampton, resulting in damage to both the bridge and the trailer. There were no injuries or damage to the train.

Since the incident, Aurizon has installed a jangle bar at Stuart terminal, and is assessing options for automated controls.

The rail operator has also updated its freight management system and booking system, and implemented procedures for the identification of non-standard freight.

The ATSB encourages all operators to identify and embrace cost-effective ways to enable rail staff to more accurately identify loads with the potential to cause damage or injury during transit.

“In the absence of measuring equipment, or nearby objects of a known and relevant height, it is difficult to accurately estimate the dimensions of loaded freight, especially when judging the height of tall freight from ground level,” Walker said.

“Tools to alleviate this limitation will be significantly more accurate and come with minimal cost.”

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