Watching the weather essential for safe rail operations

Today the ATSB released its report into the derailment of freight train 7AD1 at the Edith River rail bridge near Katherine in the Northern Territory on 27 December 2011. The derailment caused significant damage to the bridge and the rolling stock. A number of wagons derailed into the Edith River. The driver was uninjured but the co-driver suffered back injuries.

The ATSB found that the derailment was caused by the wash-away of the south eastern embankment, associated sub-grade and ballast on the approach side of the rail bridge. The extent of the wash-away meant that the track could not support the weight of the train and it collapsed. The wash-away resulted from a severe flood event caused by torrential rain in the aftermath of cyclone 'Grant'.

The train owner, Genesee & Wyoming Australia Pty Ltd (GWA) has undertaken a range of actions to enhance its policies, procedures and employee training for managing risks associated with severe weather events. GWA will also enhance its systems for alerting staff to severe weather events including flood risks.

The safety message from this event is that it is essential for rail network operators to have robust systems in place to monitor and mitigate the risk of severe weather events and ensure that the safety of railway operations is not compromised. 

ATSB's full report RO-2011-019

Last update 04 January 2013