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Communications, expectations and visibility issues lead to train collision

Communications, expectations and visibility issues lead to train collision

A train collision, resulting in the derailment of three wagons, highlights the importance of good communications in reducing the risk of collision.    

On 31 March 2015, freight train 2MP9 collided with the rear end of stationary freight train (2MP1) at Mile End, South Australia. The collision resulted in moderate track damage and the derailment of three wagons at the rear of train 2MP1. Fortunately, there were no injuries to train crews.

The accident occurred as train 2MP9 passed the southern end of the Mile End crossing loop. As it approached train 2MP1 under a ‘calling on/low speed’ signal, some stumpy vegetation and a low fence initially obscured the driver’s view of the empty flat wagons at the rear of the train. When the driver finally saw the rear of train 2MP1, he immediately made an emergency brake application, but was unable to stop the train before it collided with 2MP1.

While acknowledging the requirement under a ‘Proceed Restricted Authority’, for drivers to be able to stop their train within half of the distance that the line ahead is clear, the ATSB noted that the network control officer’s pathing of a train onto a line occupied by a preceding train (when an alternate route was available and not obstructed), had created an elevated level of risk. Similarly, well thought out and clear communications between the network control officer (NCO) and crew of the approaching train (as to the presence of another train on the line ahead) could have significantly enhanced the train crew’s situational awareness.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and SCT Logistics have implemented a range of proactive strategies for enhancing the safe operation of train movements when entering an occupied section of track under a ‘Proceed restricted authority’ (PRA). This includes the use of all available infrastructure to reduce risk, encouraging communications between train drivers and NCOs where clarification of operational conditions is necessary, and a review of the National Train Communications System (NTCS) for the Adelaide area.

 Safety message

Train drivers should carefully consider their obligations when accepting a ‘Calling on/Low speed’ signal indication in relation to sighting constraints, train speed and occupation of the track ahead. In circumstances where sighting constraints may exist, drivers should consider requesting further information from the NCO before moving through the track ahead.

When dispatching trains, NCOs should carefully consider the pathing of trains under their control and the communication of information that may mitigate collision risk. 


Read investigation report RO-2015-007

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Last update 19 July 2017