flood

Monitoring processes improved following rail flood incident

An out of service water level sensor led an Aurizon freight train to plough through flood waters that had inundated a rail bridge near Tully, Queensland, in 2018.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found that the driver had attempted to stop the train before the flooded bridge, but as the bridge was soon after a curve, applying the emergency brake was not enough to stop the Brisbane-bound train.

Following investigations unearthed that the water level sensor at the bridge had been out of service for several weeks, and the crew was not informed that the bridge was flooded. A CCTV camera also installed had an out-of-service illuminator, so was ineffective at night.

Further inquiries by ATSB established that Queensland Rail (QR), the infrastructure operator, could not effectively ensure that network control staff knew that monitoring systems were working or not, especially during conditions such as wet weather. The ATSB also noted that control staff were not required to actively search for information about track conditions ahead of a train when there was a realistic potential that conditions had deteriorated.

“This investigation highlights the importance of having serviceable weather monitoring stations at known flooding locations on a rail network, and ensuring that if these systems are not functioning all relevant parties need to be aware of the defect,” said ATSB director transport safety Mike Walker.

The incident occurred on March 7, 2018, after a significant period of wet weather, the Tully area is also one of the wettest towns in Australia, with an average March rainfall of 756mm. A flood watch had been issued on the afternoon of March 6 for that area.

Due to these conditions QR had placed a speed restriction on the area, limiting the speed of trains so that they could stop short of an obstruction within half the distance of a clear line that was visible ahead.

“Operating under a condition affecting network (CAN) requires effective communication between all relevant parties,” said Walker. “Train controllers need to ensure that all relevant information associated with the network conditions are passed to train crews and track maintenance personnel so that they can effectively perform their roles.”

The train driver and crew were not injured, and following the incident moved the train to the Tully yard.

QR has improved its processes to ensure weather systems are reliable, and that control personnel are aware of any faults. Network control staff have also been trained to proactively monitor network conditions.

Preliminary report into Jumperkine collision released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its preliminary report into a freight train collision at Jumperkine in Western Australia.

The collision occurred on 24 December, 2019, when a Pacific National freight train travelling towards Perth collided with the rear of a stationary grain train, operated by Watco. The driver of the Pacific National train, Greg Reid, suffered fatal injuries.

Prior to the collision the freight train passed a signal set at caution, then a temporary speed restriction ahead sign warning of a 30km/h speed restriction. The preliminary report then establishes that the freight train passed a signal set at stop when travelling at 72km/h.

Roughly 60 metres after the stop signal, the freight train passed a temporary speed restriction start sign, and the driver applied the brake three seconds later. This slowed the train down as it travelled around a left hand curve and then onto a straight section of track. The report then notes that the rear of the grain train would have come into view, leading the driver to apply the emergency brake. 13 seconds after the brake was applied the freight train collided with the grain train.

The collision occurred at 2am and the driver was acknowledging the vigilance system alerts. Before the collision a network controlled had attempted to contact the driver, but there was no response.

ATSB director transport safety Stuart Godley said that further investigations would be undertaken.

“In the coming months transport safety investigators will examine the functionality of the locomotive’s braking and vigilance control systems and undertake further analysis of event data recorders and video recordings,” said Godley.

A spokesperson for Pacific National said the company acknowledges the report.

“At Pacific National the safety of our employees and contractors is our highest priority and as a business we are devastated by the loss of our train driver Greg Reid in this very unfortunate incident.  We continue to offer support to Greg’s family.”

Arc Infrastructure, the operator and manager of the accident site, also noted the report.

“Arc Infrastructure fully cooperated with the ATSB in their investigation including providing an internal investigation report into the Jumperkine incident. Arc Infrastructure remains committed to working with industry to continue to improve the safety of the rail industry,” said an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

“We wish to thank the ATSB for the detailed factual information contained in the report and for their ongoing commitment to safety in our industry.”

Proactive safety actions have been taken by both Pacific National and Arc Infrastructure and cover operations carried out between midnight and 6am, the calling of train routes, and processes for when a train has stopped.

ATSB releases preliminary report into Wallan train derailment

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released the preliminary report into the Wallan train derailment.

Although the report does not contain findings, the report does note that signals at Wallan were reversed, causing the XPT train to enter a passing loop at a speed of more than 100km/h when the speed limit for entering the loop was 15km/h, and exiting the loop was 35km/h.

“Earlier that afternoon, the points at either end of the Wallan loop had been changed from their ‘Normal’ position to their ‘Reverse’ position, which meant that rail traffic, in both directions, would be diverted from the Main Line into the loop track,” said ATSB chief commissioner, Greg Hood.

“A Train Notice reflected this change and also specified a 15 km/h speed limit for entry into the loop.”

Prior to the derailment, the XPT service had travelled through a section from Kilmore East that was being managed using an alternative safeworking system. During this section, an accompanying qualified worker (AQW) boarded the lead power car and joined the driver at the head of the train. Before proceeding, the driver and the network control officer communicated via radio about the train authority for the section to Donnybrook.

After passing Kilmore East, the train sped up to 130km/h, the line speed for this section. Then, the train travelled to Wallan and was diverted onto the Wallan Loop, the points for which had earlier been changed from Normal to Reverse.

The emergency brake was applied a short distance before the points, which slowed the train a small amount, however the train entered the turnout travelling at above 100km/h, leading the train to derail.

The alternative safeworking system was implemented on the section of track from Kilmore East to Donnybrook due to damage to the signalling infrastructure, caused by a fire on February 3, 2020.

Investigations into the incident are ongoing, and are being led by Victoria’s Chief Investigator, Transport Safety (CTIS), along with the New South Wales Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI). The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator is also continuing to investigate.

CEO of the ARTC, John Fullerton, said that the ARTC would learn from the incident.

“Accidents of this nature are complex and can hardly ever be attributed to just one cause, and this investigation is one important way of ensuring lessons are learned, and systems and processes are put in place to avoid something similar from happening again.”

The derailment killed the driver, John Kennedy, and the AQW, Sam Meintanis.

“ARTC joins with all in the rail industry in again extending our sincere condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of John and Sam,” said Fullerton.

“The main focus of all in the rail industry – whether it is rail network operators like ARTC, the passenger and freight rail customers who use it, or the many rail contractors – is to operate safely.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson noted the report.

“We continue to engage with the investigators on what is a complex set of circumstances that led to the loss of a NSW TrainLink employee and a contracted ARTC staff member,” said the spokesperson.

“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this accident and we await the final report by the ATSB due in 2021.”

Hood noted that the full investigation could take over 18 months to complete.

“However, should any safety critical information be discovered at any time during the investigation, we will immediately notify operators and regulators, and make that publicly known.”

Further investigation by the ATSB will inquire into the derailment sequence, track condition, rollingstock condition, crew and passenger survivability, train operation, and management of train operations. So far, the investigation has not found a fault with the rollingstock or the track itself that directly contributed to the derailment.

V/Line driver’s near-miss with a train after failing to stop at signals

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) rail safety investigation found a V/Line driver ran through a level crossing before the boom gates were down at Marshall, Victoria.

On January 2nd 2018 at around 2pm, V/Line train 7750 travelling to Geelong and 1305 V/Line travelling to Warrnambool were heading towards each other on a single track in suburban Geelong.

The two trains were 940m apart from colliding when a control room worker in Melbourne issued an emergency call instructing the drivers to stop.

The ATSB found that the driver of train 7750 did not respond to the Stop indications of signals MSL10 and MSL8 at Marshall.

The driver of train 7750 entered the single line section between Marshall and South Geelong and then into the Marshalltown level crossing before the crossing booms had lowered.

At approximately the same time, The 1305 V/Line Melbourne to Warrnambool service with two crew and 166 passengers on board had departed Geelong and was headed towards Marshall on the same single line section.

The trains were scheduled to cross using the loop track at Marshall.

The investigation report stated that in preparation for the cross of the two trains at Marshall, the train controller “was observing the signalling control and CCTV VDU when he saw train 7750 go through Marshall platform travelling too fast to stop at MSL10,”

“Realising that train 7750 would not be able to stop, the train controller made a fleet radio transmission to all trains in the area to ‘Red Light’ (Stop), the CCTV also allowed the train controller to confirm that train 7750 had stopped beyond the Marshalltown Road level crossing.”

The investigation concluded that the driver of V/Line train 7750 was most likely influenced by symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal, having not applied a nicotine patch on that day.

“Following this incident, the driver of train 7750 tested positive for an inactive metabolite of cannabis, with levels suggesting use within the previous 7 days,” the report stated.

It could not be determined whether that had affected the driver’s performance at the time of the incident.

Report authors say attempts by V/Line safety critical workers to stop smoking should be managed under medical supervision.

As a result of the incident, V/Line has installed a train protection system at Marshalltown Road level crossing to stop a train that has passed a signal at Danger, which has over-speed sensors to prevent a train entering the crossing when unprotected.

V/Line has continued with planning for the provision of three-position signalling for this section as part of other infrastructure projects.

The driver of train 7750 no longer works for V/Line.