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Track operators must manage track defects to avoid derailments

  • Railway track operators must assess and manage track defects thoroughly to avoid derailments.

The derailment of the 47th wagon of a freight train at Port Augusta, South Australia highlights the importance of rail transport operators carrying out thorough assessments and management of track conditions. 

On 6 May 2011, the trailing bogie on the 47th wagon of freight train 4PM6 derailed after traversing the Carlton Parade level crossing at Port Augusta. The wagon travelled over a second level crossing and re-railed itself when it entered a third level crossing about 1,300 m later. 

The defects had not been adequately assessed and controlled in accordance with the ARTC Track and Civil Code of Practice.

The train continued towards Adelaide before it was stopped at Winninowie after the network controller had been alerted that the train was emitting sparks and that the half-boom barriers remained down with warning devices continuing to operate at the two level crossings. 

In investigation report RO-2011-008, the ATSB found that multiple geometric rail defects needing urgent attention had been detected by a track geometry car inspection three months before the derailment. As a result, there was a 30 km/h temporary speed restriction (TSR) in force at the time. The defects had not been adequately assessed and controlled in accordance with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) Track and Civil Code of Practice and the 30 km/h TSR was probably inadequate to minimise the risk of derailment. The ATSB also found that the track geometry defect exceedence reports did not contain fields to record the date and time as confirmation that field inspections had been carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice. 

As a result of the accident, the ARTC has, through its Alliance Partner Transfield Services, undertaken additional training on the ARTC Track and Civil Code of Practice. This includes the necessary responses to situations where there are multiple localised geometric defects. The ARTC is also developing an improved reporting format for data from geometry car measurements.

Read the investigation report, RO-2011-008.


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Last update 21 January 2013