TAIC investigates KiwiRail derailment

A distracted driver and excessive speed caused a KiwiRail freight train to derail in March last year.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) found that the freight train had exceeded the maximum permissible track speed when exiting the crossing loop.

The TAIC report said this was due to the driver becoming distracted and the downhill gradient of the track allowing the train to accelerate to above the maximum permissible line speed.

The incident occurred on March 29, 2019 when the three rear wagons of the KiwiRail freight train derailed as the train exited a crossing loop at Clinton on the way from Invercargill to Dunedin, New Zealand.

Two of the three derailed wagons overturned onto their sides, causing damage to the wagons, track, and a signal.

“A train driver can become distracted even when carrying out tasks specific to their role which, if poorly timed, can have unintended consequences,” the commission said in the investigation report.

The TAIC reported in its investigation findings that a phenomenon known as dynamic interaction was very likely the cause of the derailment.

Dynamic interaction occurred where the excessive speed combined with the track geometry at the point of derailment and the centre of gravity of the fully loaded coal wagons caused the wagon to oscillate from side to side. One or more wheels then lifted and climbed the rail, resulting in derailment.

The wagon condition and loading were found to be within KiwiRail’s maximum permissible limits, the TAIC found.

A similar derailment occurred at the Clinton crossing loop in 2016, which was not investigated by the TAIC.

“At that time KiwiRail took a number of safety actions after the incident, including speed monitoring and track repair,” the TAIC stated.

“However, a procedural control measure to ensure that loaded trains did not use the crossing loop was not adopted.”

The TAIC acknowledged in the investigation report that KiwiRail has taken a number of safety actions that addressed the issues raised in this report and that therefore no new recommendations needed to be made.

“To avoid repeat accidents and incidents it is important to learn from previous incidents,” the TAIC stated.

“This requires a focus on implementing corrective action in accordance with the hierarchy of controls.

“However, when procedural control measures have been identified they should be implemented, checked and monitored properly to ensure the desired results are achieved.”

Siva Sivapakkiam, KiwiRail executive general manager operations told Rail Express that the derailment of three wagons last year at Clinton was a serious incident, and KiwiRail has treated it as such.

“As the TAIC report notes, we have already made a change to our operating procedures to ensure that fully laden coal trains heading to Dunedin use only the main line when passing through Clinton,” she said.

Sivapakkiam said this avoids fully laden trains having to proceed through the crossing loop points, and it also means that the speed of empty Invercargill bound trains entering the loop is reduced by the uphill geometry of the track.

“Drivers have again been briefed on the need to ensure that the whole length of the train remains within the appropriate speed limit when entering or exiting crossing loops,” she said.

“We have instituted a non-technical skills training programme which provides staff with the knowledge to identify and manage distraction.

“In addition a redesign of the points configuration at Clinton is planned. We note that TAIC did not make any new recommendations for further action.”

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.