Knowing the limits of your authority and which way is ‘down’

The ATSB’s investigation into a safeworking breach by Track Machine BC7 at Bogan Gate, NSW, highlights potential for confusion around terminology used in track occupancy authority (TOA) notices and the need for track personnel and operators to ensure they know the limits of their authority, before moving rail vehicles.

On 10 August 2011, John Holland Group (JHG) contracted a traffic officer to pilot track machine BC7 (a 176 t shoulder ballast cleaner) from Denman Siding to Broken Hill. On 15 August 2011 the ARTC network control officer (NCO) issued a track occupancy authority (TOA) for the section of track between signal GJ149 at Parkes and the ‘down’ yard limit board at Bogan Gate until 1200. (The terminology ‘down’ is used within rail systems throughout Australia to describe the direction of travel by a rail vehicle. This direction is not determined by one specific point in Australia and changes from state to state, usually in reference to the direction the vehicle is travelling from the state’s capital city. In this instance the ‘down’ direction at Bogan Gate describes the movement of all track vehicles travelling west towards Broken Hill. )

On the same day track machine BC7 was en route from Narromine towards Broken Hill with an operator and the traffic officer on board. The traffic officer contacted the protection officer and was authorised to transfer the machine to the down yard limit at Bogan Gate. In fact the crew took the machine to the platform at Bogan gate, which was beyond the limit of their authority.  

In its own investigation, JHG found that the incident may have been caused by limitations in the traffic officer’s local knowledge or misunderstanding of the terminology ‘up’ and ‘down’. JHG has taken action to verify their traffic officers’ competencies, method of safeworking and route knowledge and to review worksite protection and rolling stock transfer through multiple safeworking territories. 

Download ATSB's report RO-2011-013

Last update 04 January 2013