Legal & Compliance, Passenger Rail, Safety

Training improved after overspeed incident



A rail network operator has taken steps to improve training after an overspeed incident involving a Sydney-bound passenger train.

On June 29, 2021, a NSW Trains XPT passenger train was operating a service from Albury to Sydney when it travelled through a worksite at Harefield, in the NSW Riverina, at approximately 100km/h, despite ongoing repairs requiring a speed limit of 40km/h.

An investigation into how the incident occurred was conducted by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations, which carries out rail investigations in New South Wales on behalf of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

The investigation found the Protection Officer, who managed the Track Occupancy Authority on-site, had incorrectly answered “no” to the assurance question asking whether there were any conditions affecting the network, prior to the passenger train being cleared to pass through the worksite.

OTSI Chief Investigator Natalie Pelham said the new digital system being used to manage the track occupancy did not include a requirement for safety critical information to be confirmed and repeated back, which is a safeworking requirement under the operator’s network rules.

“The rollout of this new system was not targeted to the appropriate level of competence of the trainees,” she said.

“The Protection Officer involved in this incident was not trained or competent in the rules and procedures for Track Occupancy Authority when they were briefed on the new digital system, and there was no competence assessment for the use of the application for the Protection Officer involved.”

In response to the overspeed, network operator the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has developed a new training structure for the digital system, which consists of three separate modules, specifically relevant to a Protection Officer competency level.

“This investigation has highlighted the importance of supporting the introduction of new technology with training that includes competency assessments, content tailored for the workers and their required application of the technology in their work, and the practical use of the technology under different scenarios,” Pelham said.

“We believe the action taken to address the structure of this training will address that aspect of the safety issue.”

OTSI will continue to monitor the ARTC’s commitment to address the separate safety issue regarding confirmation and repeating-back of safety critical information under the new digital system.