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.