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What happened

At about 0730 (CDT) on 31 March 2015, intermodal freight train 2MP9 passed No. 1 signal at the southern end of the Mile End crossing loop (South Australia). The signal was displaying a 'Calling on/Low speed’ indication. The train proceeded at low speed, but subsequently collided with the rear end of intermodal freight train 2MP1, which was stationary on the main line. The collision resulted in moderate track damage and the derailment of three wagons at the rear of train 2MP1. There were no injuries to train crews.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB determined that the signalling and communications systems were operating correctly and as designed. The investigation found that the driver of train 2MP9, on receiving a ‘Calling on/Low speed’ signal indication, proceeded at a speed not greater than 25 km/h, but was unable to stop the train, ‘within half the distance the line ahead was clear’, as prescribed by the operational rules. The driver was aware that the operational rules stipulate that ‘block ahead may be occupied or obstructed’, but did not expect that train 2MP1 was stationary on the track so close ahead. As he approached train 2MP1, some stumpy vegetation and a low fence initially obscured his view of the empty flat wagons at the rear of the train. When the driver finally saw the rear of train 2MP1, he immediately made an emergency brake application, but was unable to stop the train before it collided with 2MP1.

The ATSB noted that the pathing of a train by a network control officer (NCO) onto a line occupied by a preceding train, when an alternate route is available and not obstructed, presents an elevated level of risk. Similarly, well thought out and clear communications between an NCO and crew of an approaching train, as to the proximity of a train occupying the track ahead, can significantly enhance situational awareness and reduce operational risk.

What's been done as a result

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and SCT Logistics have implemented a range of proactive strategies for enhancing the safe operation of train movements when entering an occupied section of track under a ‘Proceed restricted authority’ (PRA). This includes the use of all available infrastructure to reduce risk, encouraging communications between train drivers and NCOs where clarification of operational conditions is necessary, and a review of the National Train Communications System (NTCS) for the Adelaide area.

Safety message

Train drivers should carefully consider their obligations when accepting a ‘Calling on/Low speed’ signal indication in relation to sighting constraints, train speed and occupation of the track ahead. In circumstances where sighting constraints may exist, drivers should consider requesting further information from the NCO before moving through the track ahead.

NCOs should carefully consider the pathing of trains under their control, and the communication of information that may mitigate collision risk when dispatching trains.

 

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The occurrence

Context

Safety analysis

Findings

Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions

 

Safety issues

RO-2015-007-SI-01 - RO-2015-007-SI-03 - RO-2015-007-SI-04 - RO-2015-007-SI-05 -  

End of train conspicuity

Vegetation and a low fence adjacent the Mile End crossing loop partially obscured the view that the crew of train 2MP9 had of the empty flat wagons at the rear of train 2MP1.

Safety issue details
Issue number:RO-2015-007-SI-01
Who it affects:All rail transport operators throughout Australi
Status:Not addressed


 

Train pathing

The practice of pathing a following train onto a line occupied by a preceding train, when an alternate route was available and not obstructed, presented an elevated level of risk.

Safety issue details
Issue number:RO-2015-007-SI-03
Who it affects:All rail transport operators throughout Australia
Status:Adequately addressed


 

Pre-warning train driver of occupied track

The practice of pathing a following train onto the same line occupied by a preceding train, without pre-warning the driver regarding the train ahead, presented an elevated level of risk.

Safety issue details
Issue number:RO-2015-007-SI-04
Who it affects:All rail transport operators throughout Australia
Status:Adequately addressed


 

National Train Communications System (NTCS) – Broadcast communications

The design of the NTCS in screening Adelaide metro broadcast communications prevented the driver of 2MP9 from gaining an appreciation of activities close to his area of operation, in particular the position of train 2MP1 along the Mile End main line.

Safety issue details
Issue number:RO-2015-007-SI-05
Who it affects:All rail transport operators throughout Australia
Status:Safety action pending

 
General details
Date: 31 March 2015 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0740 CDT Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):Mile End   
State: South Australia  
Release date: 16 December 2015 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: None 
 
Train 1 details
Line operator: Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) 
Train operator: Aurizon 
Train registration: 2MP1 
Type of operation: Intermodal Freight 
Sector: Freight 
Damage to train: Substantial 
Departure point:Melbourne, Vic
Destination:Perth, WA
Train 2 details
Line operator: Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) 
Train operator: SCT Logistics 
Train registration: 2MP9 
Type of operation: Intermodal Freight 
Sector: Freight 
Damage to train: Minor 
Departure point:Melbourne, Vic
Destination:Perth, WA
 
 
 
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Last update 17 December 2015