Sunday 24th Mar, 2019

Locos wrongly routed, derailer failed prior to NZ collision

Graphic: TAIC

New Zealand’s transport accident investigator says audit and compliance testing at a southern New Zealand rail yard were not robust enough prior to a dangerous collision in 2017.

A truck was damaged after being hit by a pair of locomotives which had been wrongly-routed into a maintenance depot at Invercargill, at the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, shortly after 3pm on November 16, 2017.

According to a report released by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) this week, the two coupled locomotives were being moved from the main line to a refuelling area, but the necessary points were not set for the intended route, and the locomotives were instead directed into a rail maintenance depot.

A protective derailing device had been placed onto the rail outside the maintenance depot, designed to protect the site, but the cowcatcher on the front of the lead locomotive dislodged the derailer and prevented it derailing the locomotive.

The locomotives collided with a truck parked outside the depot, propelling it into a freight wagon that was parked inside the depot for repairs.

Both ends of the truck were damaged, but nobody was injured, according to TAIC.

The TAIC found the locomotives were wrong-routed off the intended route and into the maintenance depot siding because the necessary checks to ensure that the points were set in the correct position for the movement were not made.

“The Commission also found that the procedures in the Invercargill Joint Operating Plan for protecting the maintenance depot from unintended rail movements did not conform fully with the KiwiRail rules, and that there were indications that staff were routinely not complying with the procedures set out in the plan,” TAIC said on March 14.

The Commission said the level of audit and compliance testing of the Invercargill Joint Operating Plan “was not robust in detecting and addressing compliance issues within the Invercargill yard”.

TAIC said KiwiRail has already taken a number of actions to address this issue. “Consequently, the Commission has made no recommendations arising from this inquiry.”

The Commission stressed the importance documented rules, policies and procedures are compatible and consistent across all places of work in the rail network, and that a culture of non-compliance is not allowed to develop at rail sites.

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