On 7 April 2013 southbound freight train 5BM7 was travelling at near track speed (115 km/h) on the main line of the Culcairn North passing loop in New South Wales. On rounding a sweeping right-hand curve the driver saw the headlight of an opposing train and also saw that the signal (CN03) ahead was at stop. He immediately made an emergency brake application to stop the train just before signal CN03 thereby averting a collision with the opposing train which was entering the southern end of the passing loop.
There were no injuries or damage as a result of this occurrence.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB investigation of available technical evidence, showed that the signalling system was operating correctly at the time of the incident and therefore the signal (DIS-CN03) preceding the signal at stop (CN03) should have been displaying a caution aspect (yellow). However, the crew of train 5BM7 had perceived signal DIS-CN03 at clear (green) and were therefore not expecting signal CN03 to be at stop (red).
As the train was not fitted with forward facing video equipment the ATSB was unable to substantiate the observations of the train crew with respect to the aspect of signal DIS-CN03.
What's been done as a result
The train operator, Aurizon, has advised that it has forward facing cameras on about 8.5 per cent of its locomotive fleet and that it is likely that this type of technology will be fitted to all locomotives purchased in the future.
The Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) has advised that it will encourage its membership and the wider rail industry to adopt the use of independent data validation systems, such as forward facing video on trains, to assist with coming to a better understanding of rail occurrence events, such as signal irregularities.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau encourages rail operators to consider the use of independent data validation systems, such as forward facing video on trains, to provide a source of information to assist in coming to an understanding of rail occurrence events, such as signal irregularities.