Passenger Rail, Safety, Standards & Regulation, Signalling & Communications, Workforce, Certification & Training

Sydney network rules to be amended following Dora Creek incident

A track worker had to take evasive action after finding a passenger train bearing down on him.

SYDNEY Trains has pledged to change its network rules following an incident at Dora Creek on 9 May last year.

Dora Creek is on the main north rail line between Sydney and Newcastle.

According to the ATSB, a track worker heard the whistle of an approaching passenger train and had to remove themselves from the so-called “danger zone”.

The track worker was an outer hand signaller helping do repairs and maintenance on Dora Creek rail bridge.

As the worker prepared to remove a railway track signal (RTS) from the rail line, they heard a train whistle and moved off the line to safety. The train, NSW TrainLink passenger service 283D from Newcastle to Sydney, ran over the RTS (a small device attached to a rail that explodes on impact, designed to attract the attention of train drivers) in response to which the driver applied the emergency brakes. The train came to a stand around 60 metres past the track worker.

The investigation into the incident, undertaken by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI), which conducts rail safety investigations in NSW on behalf of the ATSB, found that in applying the Track Work Authority for the worksite, an unapproved practice was implemented.

That practice, which was intended to improve train operations, involved the protection officer instructing workers to remove the railway track signals used to protect the worksite while trains were closely approaching.

This was intended to let the train run unimpeded, but this action placed the outer hand signaller at risk of being struck.

If protection is removed to allow trains to run unimpeded, then effectively there is no Track Work Authority in place, and this practice put the hand signaller at risk as there was no defined process or method for protecting this worker,” said OTSI chief investigator and CEO Dr Natalie Pelham.

“This practice was not part of Sydney Trains’ recognised methodology for using a Track Work Authority.”

Sydney Trains has since committed to amend its Network Rules to reinforce an existing requirement where both the inner and outer protection must be replaced immediately after the passage of each rail traffic movement.

“Network rules and procedures for safeworking on railways have been developed to give direction and instruction to workers in how to safely manage work on track,” Dr Pelham said.

“When practices develop that deviate from the established procedures, care needs to be taken to ensure these practices do not introduce unintended risk.

“Rail safeworking practices should only be implemented as approved by the rail infrastructure manager.”