On 6 March 2014, Pacific National superfreighter (5SM2) left Sydney, New South Wales, bound for Melbourne, Victoria. The train consisted of three locomotives hauling 18 wagons of containerised freight. It had a total length of 635.4 m and a trailing weight of 1635.4 t.
At about 1345, train 5SM2 approached Springhurst on the East Track, a location where work was being carried out on the West Track under Absolute Occupation. Due to the occupation on the West Track, protection of the parallel line was in place on the adjacent East Track. This was in the form of Track Force Protection (TFP) which was managed by a third party Track Force Protection Coordinator (TFPC).
Train 5SM2 approached the outer flagman displaying a yellow flag indicating that there was an obstruction ahead requiring the train to stop at an inner flagman. Three Audible Track Warning Signals (ATWs) had been placed 10 m apart on the track by the outer flagman and as 5SM2 went over the ATWs, the train crew sounded the horn and started to manage the train in anticipation of stopping at the inner flagman protecting the worksite 2,000 m ahead.
After 5SM2 had travelled a further 1,100 m, the train crew observed the inner flagman and determined that the train was not going to stop in time. The driver made an emergency brake application and the train came to a stop about 100 m beyond the inner flagman.
At the time of the incident, the East Track TFPC did not consider that the occurrence was an incident or ‘near miss’ that required reporting.
The train crew considered that the incident had been ‘dealt with and reconciled’ by the TFPC onsite and, therefore did not report it. However, the train crew and the TFPC both had an obligation to report the incident as soon as reasonably practicable.
As a result of this occurrence, the ARTC has advised that they are taking the following safety actions:
- The Australian Rail Track Corporation will review the placement of outer and inner warnings given to train crews approaching worksites within Victoria as a priority. The review will consider the requirements specified in the rules applicable to other areas of the Defined Interstate Rail Network with the preferred outcome being alignment across all jurisdictions.
- All ballast rehabilitation program staff have been reminded of the requirement under TA44 to immediately report incidents to Network Control.