‘Tears and sorrow’ as trains collide in Italy

At least 27 are dead and 50 injured after two passenger trains collided head-on in Italy on July 12.

The two trains collided on a single-section of the Bari-Barletta railway in the Puglia region (known as the Apulia region in English) in southern Italy, just before 11:30am local time on July 12 (7:30pm, July 12 Australian Eastern Time).


Photo: Italian National Fire-watchers Corps
Photo: Italian National Fire-watchers Corps


Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi cut short a visit to Milan and travelled to the region following the crash.

“Tears and sorrow for the victims  and their families, but also a lot of anger,” Renzi said on Twitter.

“We demand clarity on what has happened in Puglia this morning.”

The railway is a roughly 80-kilometre line operated by private company Ferrotramviaria, between the cities of Barletta and Bari.

Since it was opened in 1965, several section of the railway have been converted to dual track, with roughly half of the line currently dual track. The head-on collision occurred on a single-track section of the line, between stations at the small towns of Andria and Corato.


Translated: “Today is the day of sorrow and tears. We are together with Puglia and its people.”


According to reports, the collision occurred on a curved section of track while both trains were travelling at up to 100km/h, giving the train drivers little to no time to react to one another.

Several local and international news sources have reported the section of track relies on “telephonic block” signalling.

Based on the photos from the scene, the trains appear to be a Stadler FLIRT 340, and an Alstom Coradia ELT 200.

Reuters has reported three carriages were torn apart by the impact.

“It looks like there has been a plane crash,” Corato mayor Massimo Mazzilli said, per Reuters.

According to several sources, rescue services had to park fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles among olive trees, setting up a field hospital to access the site, which was far from the nearest road.

Italy’s national rail safety investigator, the Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza delle Ferrovie, is expected to open an investigation into the accident, with train event recorders already recovered from the wreckage, according to reports.

Renzi said he expected an early report to be tabled in Parliament by transport minister Graziano Delrio on Wednesday, July 13.

Truckie’s failure to stop led to 2014 fatality: TAIC

A truck driver who was killed after his vehicle got stuck on a level crossing in Rangiriri, New Zealand, failed to obey a stop sign before entering the intersection, the country’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has found.

Despite finding the incident was caused by the driver’s failure to stop, the TAIC also found the crossing was an inherently dangerous one, with sight lines and ground clearance presenting major issues for road vehicles.

“In this case the train, which had its headlight and side ‘ditch lights’ switched on, would have been visible to the truck driver as his truck reached the stop signs at the level crossing,” the TAIC said in its report, released late in June.

“Had the driver stopped his truck and looked for trains, the accident would likely not have happened.

“However, there were broader safety issues with the level crossing that in different circumstances may have resulted in the accident, even if the driver had stopped at the limit line of the level crossing.”

The incident took place at the Te Onetea Road level crossing on February 27, 2014.

A Northern Explorer passenger train, travelling from Auckland to Wellington, passed through Te Kauwhata station – about 3.5 kilometres north of the level crossing – at 0937.

Meanwhile a truck and long low-loader carrying a road roller was travelling along Te Onetea Road, with the driver looking for a suitable place to turn around.

The TAIC said the truck was approaching the Te Onetea crossing while the train would have been coming into view.

The crossing has ‘passive’ controls, made up of ‘Stop’ and ‘Look for Trains’ signs.

“The truck driver entered the level crossing without stopping and his trailer unit grounded on the rise leading up to the rail tracks,” the TAIC said.

“The truck became stuck, with its driving unit obstructing the track along which the train was approaching.”

The train driver saw the truck and applied the train’s emergency braking, but the train collided with the driving unit of the truck at 78 kilometres an hour.

The truck driver was killed in the collision. The train stayed on the tracks, and none of its five crew and 108 passengers were injured.

While the TAIC was confident the truck driver would have seen the train in this instance if he had stopped, it identified two safety issues with the crossing, resulting in two recommendations made to the chief executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

“The Commission identified two safety issues,” it wrote.

“The first was that the view lines from the stop limit line on the road, along the rail tracks in both directions, did not comply with the minimum restart sighting distances set out in the NZ Transport Agency’s Traffic Control Devices Manual, Part 9, Level Crossings.

“It was therefore possible that when a train was just out of a truck driver’s view, a fully road-compliant heavy road vehicle would not have sufficient time to pass over the level crossing without being struck by the train.

“The second safety issue identified was that level crossing assessments do not require the road profile and the alignment of roads on the approach to and passing over level crossings to be routinely measured.

“Therefore, there are no checks made to ensure that all road-legal vehicles can pass over level crossings without becoming stuck, as happened in this case.”

Mango Hill station on Moreton Bay Rail Link. Photo: Queensland Government

Sydney Metro engineer to investigate MBRL signalling

Queensland transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe has appointed signalling expert Rob Smith to conduct an audit into how an insufficient signalling system was installed on the Moreton Bay Rail Link in northern Brisbane, delaying its opening.

Hinchliffe appointed Smith, currently working on the Sydney Metro Northwest Project (formerly known as the North West Rail Link), on Thursday.

The minister said Smith was one of Australia’s leading rail signalling experts.

He said Smith will audit the procurement and governance of the signalling system for MBRL.

Queensland Rail said this week the signalling system installed on the billion-dollar project was not adequate to handle the number of signals required on the South East Queensland passenger network.

A disappointed Hinchliffe had announced the opening of the project would be delayed on May 30.

The minister said he had been told as recently as earlier in May that the project was on track for its targeted mid-2016 opening.

He announced an investigation would lock on to what caused the error, and on Thursday appointed Smith to lead the audit team.

“Mr Smith is eminently qualified to examine the MBRL project and has more than 20 years of experience in design and project management for rail systems,” Hinchliffe said.

“Mr Smith specialises in delivering rail signalling systems and his extensive knowledge will be extremely beneficial to the audit and ensure we can get to the bottom of why the signalling system currently installed does not meet the operational and safety standards found across South East Queensland’s rail network.

“The audit will investigate the governance and contractual processes for the signalling system and its performance and integration during design and construction,” he said.

“Ultimately this audit will determine how the signalling system was selected and why the project cannot be delivered within the expected timeframe.”

Smith’s work will be conducted separately to the work being undertaken by Queensland Rail to bring the system up to standard so the new line can be opened.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Rail and other parties will provide relevant documents as requested for the audit, Hinchliffe said.

A final report will be due by the end of July.

QR: Moreton Bay system can’t handle the signals required

Queensland Rail says the system installed on the Moreton Bay Rail Link can’t handle the number of signals required at the intersection between the new and existing lines.

State transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe launched an inquiry on June 3 after he announced earlier last week that the Moreton Bay project would be delayed beyond its mid-2016 targeted opening date.

Hinchliffe said the opening had to be pushed back after Queensland Rail found “significant” issues with the line’s signalling system.

A spokesperson from Queensland Rail told Rail Express this week that the system simply couldn’t handle the task at hand.

“The testing process has determined the signalling system currently installed does not meet the operational and safety standards found across the rest of the network,” a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“It has a limitation of only being able to manage 15 signals at one time and the current requirement is 26.

“The system is simply not powerful enough to adequately run a signalling system at such a complicated and critical juncture as Petrie.”

The 12.6km Moreton Bay Rail Link begins at Petrie railway station, on Queensland Rail’s North Coast line, extends to the east, via new stations at Kallangur, Murrumba Downs, Mango Hill, Mango Hill East, Rothwell, before reaching its terminus at Kippa-Ring.

The $650 million contract to build the link was won by the Trackstar consortium in August 2013. Trackstar was led by Thiess, and included subcontractors Aurecon, AECOM, HASSELL and Golder Associates.

The full $988 million required for the project came jointly from the Commonwealth, the Queensland Government, and the Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Queensland Rail has ruled out opening the line until the signalling system meets its standards.

“Safety is our top priority,” the spokesperson told Rail Express.

“Queensland Rail has participated in operational readiness exercises since the Moreton Bay Rail line was electrified at the start of the year, undertaking comprehensive testing of all aspects of the system, including signalling.

“Queensland Rail are urgently working to resolve the signalling issues and will take the lead in finalising the commercial and technical arrangements required to get the signalling system up to standard, online and tested.

“This is critical in order to ensure the Moreton Bay Rail line can deliver an efficient, safe and reliable service for its passengers.”

Albo blames Lib ‘skimping’ for Moreton Bay woes

Cuts to the federal contribution for the Moreton Bay Rail Link could have been key to the signalling issues which will delay the project’s opening, Anthony Albanese has suggested.

The shadow transport and infrastructure minister has recalled comments he made after the 2014 budget, which reported “savings” which would be recouped by the Commonwealth as major works neared completion.

“That will mean it is an inferior project,” Albanese told a press conference in January 2015.

“You can’t cut that sort of money out without winding the project back. Like winding back sound barriers, like winding back the quality of the infrastructure at the new stations for the project.”

Queensland transport minister Stuart Hinchliffe last week was forced to announce the project would not open in time for its targeted mid-2016 date, after Queensland Rail discovered “significant” issues with the line’s signalling system.

Hinchliffe, who says he was told the project was on track as recently as April, blamed the previous state government’s decision to put the Department of Transport and Main Roads in charge rather than Queensland Rail.

The minister launched a full review into what went wrong last week.

Albanese says voters should look no further than the Federal Liberal Party, who he blames for “skimping” on the flawed project.

“Voters should not forget that when the federal Liberal Government took office it cancelled all Commonwealth investment in public transport projects except those, like the Moreton Bay Rail Link, that were subject to contracts and were under construction,” he said on May 31.

“Instead, the Liberal Government cut $159 million from its contribution to the Moreton Bay Rail Link in its 2014 budget.

“At that time, I warned that skimping on the rail line would reduce its quality.”

The Moreton Bay Rail Link was promised by Julia Gillard during the 2010 federal election, and funding was formalised from the Commonwealth in December 2010.

Albanese says the project will reduce traffic congestion and provide a new option for thousands of commuters who travel from the Redcliffe Peninsula each day.

“The Liberals’ cuts to the Moreton Bay Rail Link fit in with its general lack of support for investment in public transport,” he concluded.

Moreton Bay Queensland Government

Hinchliffe launches review into Moreton Bay signalling

The Queensland Government has released the terms of reference for the independent review of the procurement and delivery of the signalling system for the now-delayed Moreton Bay Rail Link north of Brisbane.

State transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe on May 31 announced the billion-dollar passenger rail project would be delayed after Queensland Rail raised serious concerns over the new line’s signalling system and its integration with the larger network.

Hinchliffe announced an independent review and on Friday he was ready to present the terms of reference that would dictate that review.

“Queensland Rail testing had determined the signalling system currently installed does not meet the operational and safety standards found across the rest of the network,” the minister said.

“This review will determine what went wrong and how the signalling system was selected.

“This review will run separately to the work being undertaken by Queensland Rail into the requirements of the signalling systems in order for Moreton Bay Rail Link to open.”

Hinchliffe said the Queensland Government was in the process of finalising the commercial arrangements of the appointment of an expert to lead the review.

He said the full scope of the review will consider:

Governance and Contractual processes for MBRL, including: 

  • Any signalling system related issues, risks and/or opportunities arising from the decision in 2012 to bring the project under the auspices of the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR);
  • A review of the signalling system elements of the tendering and contract process;
  • Whether the role assigned to Queensland Rail through contractual and/or governance documents and processes provided for appropriate involvement of the rail operator in the assurance processes relating to signalling; and
  • Contract milestone payments relating to signalling, and gainshare payments, and the grounds upon which any payments have been made.

Performance and integration of signalling systems during design and construction, including:

  • The nature of assurance activities by the project team, Queensland Rail, or other parties to monitor, test, and review signalling systems and signalling system interface/integration;
  • The nature of interface/integration issues experienced between multiple signalling systems on the one network; and
  • The adequacy of assurance activities, and lessons for future rail contract selection and oversight;
  • The processes by which concerns raised by Queensland Rail or other parties regarding the signalling systems or signalling system integration were managed; and
  • The assurance program being implemented by Queensland Rail in order to have the project commissioned

The minister said the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Rail and other parties will provide relevant documents as requested, subject to commercial or cabinet confidentiality.

He expects the review to be complete by the end of July.

Mango Hill station on Moreton Bay Rail Link. Photo: Queensland Government

Signalling delays Moreton Bay opening

A bemused Stirling Hinchliffe has told reporters the planned mid-2016 opening of Queensland’s Moreton Bay Rail Link will be delayed by “significant” signalling issues.

The state transport minister says he’s not happy to hear of the delay, given the government was until this point told the billion-dollar project was on track for completion by mid-year.

He said on Monday that he had been told the project would hit its targeted opening date as recently as this month.

He told reporters he had only been advised of the issues by Queensland Rail on Monday morning, May 30.

“I am extremely disappointed that this timeframe will not be met,” he said.

“The rail line will not be commissioned until Queensland Rail assesses it as entirely safe and fit for our entire peak and non-peak services.

“This is non-negotiable.”

Hinchliffe laid blame on the former Newman Government, who he said had left the Department of Transport and Main Roads in charge of commissioning the project, relegating Queensland Rail to an advisory role.

He put Queensland Rail in charge of the rest of the project’s commission on Monday.

The $988 million project is jointly funded by the Federal Government ($583 million), Queensland Government ($300 million) and Moreton Bay Regional Council ($105 million).

Thiess is listed as the project’s managing contractor and full rail service provider.

“My priority has to be the safety of the travelling public and integrity of the entire South East Queensland rail network,” Hinchliffe continued.

“This is not an easy decision, but it reflects the seriousness of the advice and problems identified through the testing phase.”

The minister said he would appoint an independent audit investigation into the project, including “how the signalling system was selected and the costs associated with it”.

“Let me be clear, the consistent advice the Government has received is that the project was on track to be delivered mid-year.

“In fact the advice as recently as this month was the project would likely open mid-year.

“Further my incoming-minister brief in December last year clearly stated that the MBRL was ‘on track to be delivered by mid-2016.’”

Hinchliffe took the transport role off the hands of deputy premier Jackie Trad, who is also in charge of infrastructure, planning, trade and investment.

“While the advice has been that the project is on track, I was concerned when the scheduled date for closures to undertake critical connection works and signal testing for MBRL was postponed,” Hinchliffe told reporters.

“This was a red flag for me and it’s why I sought separate written briefs from both the Department of Transport and Main Roads and from Queensland Rail.

“I instructed the Department to provide Queensland Rail with all commercial and technical information requested in order to provide me a final assessment of the status of the project. This is the advice Queensland Rail has given me today.”

Queensland Rail has told the minister the “signalling is not adequate to service a junction as critical as Petrie”.

“The main safety issues from Queensland Rail’s investigation is the increased risk of ‘signals passed at danger’,” Hinchliffe explained.

“Some of the other safety issues identified by Queensland Rail include lack of sufficient stopping distance and increased confusion for train controllers.

“From today, Queensland Rail is responsible for the commission of this project.

“The Government is now entrusting them to take the lead in finalising the commercial and technical arrangements required to get the signalling system up to standard, online and tested.”

Winter blitz to remove crossings ahead of time

A month-long closure of a portion of Melbourne’s Frankston line will help workers remove three level crossings, six months ahead of schedule.

A joint venture of John Holland and KBR is removing three level crossings on the Frankston line – one at North Road, Ormond, another at McKinnon Road, McKinnon, and the third at Centre Road, Bentleigh.

A section of the line will be closed from June 24 to July 31, to allow workers to lower the train line below road level.

Thousands of bus services will replace trains during the closure.

“When train services resume on 1 August 2016, the level crossings at these three sites will be gone for good and trains will travel under the roads,” the Level Crossing Removal Authority said earlier this month.

The closure will also allow crews to begin the three new station rebuilds under the John Holland/KBR deal – Bentleigh station, McKinnon station, and Ormond station.

“We’re not waiting for another near miss or another ambulance to get stuck at the boom-gates,” local member for Bentleigh Nick Staikos said.

“We’re getting rid of these dangerous crossings as soon as we can, to save lives, reduce congestion and improve public transport.”

The Level Crossing Removal Authority has also announced work will ramp up in July to remove four level crossings on the Belgrave/Lilydale split line, with buses replacing trains on certain sections from July 2 to July 10.

A project team of Laing O’Rourke, Fulton Hogan and AECOM is working on crossings on the Belgrave line at Mountain Highway and Scoresby Road in Bayswater.

A project team of CPB Contractors, Aurecon and Arcadis is working on crossings on the Lilydale line at Blackburn Road, Blackburn, and Heatherdale Road, Mitcham.

The Belgrave/Lilydale work in early July will focus heavily on piling activities, as well as the construction of road bridges in preparation of major works over summer, the Level Crossing Removal Authority explained.

Platform screens for Metro Tunnel as $1bn signalling deal goes to market

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews says new high-capacity signalling will allow the five underground stations along the Melbourne Metro Tunnel to have platform screen doors.

Andrews and public transport minister Jacinta Allan announced expressions of interest are now being sought for the Metro Tunnel Project Rail Systems Alliance.

As part of an Alliance with government agencies, the winning bidder for the contract will deliver up to $1 billion of signalling, communications and other related systems on the multi-billion-dollar Metro Tunnel.

The contract will also cover new signalling on the existing Sunbury line and Cranbourne/Pakenham line, which will be combined once the Metro Tunnel is complete.

High-capacity signalling technology will be trialled using X’Trapolis trains on a section of the South Morang line.

This will enable a more seamless roll out of the technology in the future, Andrews and Allan said on Thursday.

“Next-generation signalling will be tested with the newest trains on the network, and rolled out ahead of the Metro Tunnel, so it’s ready for the new network we’re building,” Allan said.

Andrews added: “The Metro Tunnel’s advanced signalling will deliver more trains, more often, and help create 3900 jobs.”

The premier said he is expecting EoIs from all over the world for the massive contract. The EoI period ends on Thursday, June 23.

The Tenders VIC website suggests interested parties “form consortia that have the requisite experience, capability and capacity to deliver the Rail Systems Alliance works”.

The tender process is being conducted by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, the government authority responsible for the delivery of the tunnel project.

Rio Tinto train - Photo Rio Tinto

Rio delays rail automation, cuts iron ore guidance

Mining giant Rio Tinto is experiencing delays in its automated rail scheme in the Pilbara, and has cut into its iron ore export guidance as a result.

Part of Rio’s Mine of the Future program, AutoHaul is an initiative to create a fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance railway system to move hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore from mine to port in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Rio fitted trains with AutoHaul for testing throughout 2015. The miner has said 2016 will see the system reach full functionality, so it can be put through the regulatory approvals process prior to official integration into operations.

But the AutoHaul rollout has been delayed, the miner announced on Tuesday.

“Testing and verification of AutoHaul is continuing, with over 75,000 kilometres of mainline trials competed,” Rio said, “however, some delays are being experienced.”

The miner didn’t go into specifics, but said the delays would impact production in 2017.

Rio updated its Pilbara iron ore guidance to be between 330 and 340 million tonnes in 2017, down from 350 million tonnes.

It did not adjust its global outlook for 2016, of 350 million tonnes of iron ore production on a 100% ownership basis.

This forecast was based on a solid first quarter, where the miner exported 80.8 million tonnes of iron ore from its operations in the Pilbara and Canada, up 17% compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Elsewhere, aluminium production was up 10% year-on-year to 887,000 tonnes in the quarter, and bauxite was up 13% to 11.01 million tonnes.

Chief executive Sam Walsh said the result demonstrated the miner’s commitment to operational excellence.

“However, we continue to experience volatility in commodity prices across all markets,” he conceded.

“In the face of a testing external environment, our focus remains on delivering further cost and productivity improvements, disciplined capital management and maximising free cash flow, to ensure that Rio Tinto remains strong.”

Rio’s iron ore outlook cut for 2017 comes a week after rival Fortescue Metals Group said it was running ahead of schedule for iron ore exports in the 2015/16 financial year, thanks to kind conditions for exports at Port Hedland during the March quarter.

FMG exported 42 million tonnes of iron ore in the March quarter 2016, up 4% year-on-year.