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What happened

At 0743 on 20 December 2011, an empty coal train collided with an excavator that was being used for scheduled maintenance of rail lines near the High Street Station at Maitland, NSW.

The excavator suffered extensive damage while the lead locomotive suffered minor damage and was able to continue on its journey after a crew change. Neither the train drivers nor the track workers were injured in the collision.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the collision occurred despite the fact that the maintenance work being undertaken had been authorised and that safety measures designed to exclude rail traffic from the worksite had been put in place.

The ATSB further found that the network control officer did not confirm the location of the worksite before authorising access to the track for maintenance purposes, there were communication protocol omissions between network control and the worksite protection officer and a lack of coordination between interfacing network control officers.

What has been done as a result

The track manager has advised that it is reviewing the safe working rules and will include the issues identified by the ATSB in that review.

Safety message

The incident highlights the importance of ensuring the exact location of a given worksite is clearly understood by all concerned in providing protection and that communications between network control officers and worksite staff is effective.

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Safety issue

RO-2011-018-SI-01 -  

Authorisation of Control Signal Blocking

The rules and procedures governing the issue of a Controlled Signal Block did not require or provide for coordination between network control officers when the Controlled Signal Block affects more than one controller’s area of responsibility.

Safety issue details
Issue number:RO-2011-018-SI-01
Who it affects:All track managers
Status:Partially addressed

General details
Date: 20 December 2011 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0743 EDT  
Location   (show map):Maitland Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales Occurrence type: Safe Working Irregularity/Breach 
Release date: 27 March 2013  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Train details
Line operator: Australian Rail Track Corporation  
Train operator: Freightliner 
Train registration: BC151 
Type of operation: Coal train 
Damage to train: Minor 
Departure point:Port Waratah
Destination:A mine in the Hunter Valley
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Last update 27 March 2013