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Unauthorised repairs contribute to Sydney train derailment

Derailment of Sydney Trains Passenger Train 602M near Edgecliff station, Sydney, NSW

On 15 January 2014, a Sydney Trains service made up of two four-carriage Tangara electric multiple units entered the underground section of the Eastern Suburbs Line under Sydney city centre heading towards its destination, Bondi Junction.

Some smoke and a burning smell were apparent emanating from the train at Central station and at all subsequent stations to Bondi Junction. A number of station and train crewing staff were aware of this but the condition was not reported to the appropriate network control officer as required under Sydney Trains’ Network Rules and Procedures.

The train terminated at Bondi Junction where a different driver took control of the train before it departed on its return journey. It then travelled to the next station, Edgecliff.

Shortly after departure from Edgecliff, at 1726, the lead bogie of the third carriage derailed due to a broken axle on the leading bogie of the third carriage. A piece of angle iron that became dislodged from the track infrastructure penetrated the floor of the third carriage and entered a space occupied by passengers. Fortunately, no passengers or train crew were injured.  

The ATSB found that an unauthorised, non-standard repair had been carried out on the axle in December 1998 or January 1999 which introduced stress initiators, causing a crack to develop which over time propagated to the extent that the axle failed in service.

It was also determined that a number of organisational factors contributed to the incident. Poor communication and lack of adherence to procedures and reporting lines after the first problems were noticed, led to the train continuing in service and subsequently derailing. 

Seven axles, including the failed axle, had been repaired in the same way. All were immediately located and removed from service.

Sydney Trains produced a number of safety recommendations which are being incorporated into their Safety Action Management procedures.

Safety message

Rail operators should ensure that maintenance procedures are followed and that non-standard repairs comply strictly with an approved variation and do not introduce new risks to operations.

Also, rail operators should review their internal training and communication pathways to ensure that critical communication can occur in line with best Rail Resource Management principles.

Read the investigation report RO-2014-001

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Last update 03 December 2015