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.