Final Report


What happened

After carrying out track resurfacing and tamping works at Allandale, NSW, the Australian Rail Track Corporation Network Control Officer (NCO) granted permission for a Leighton Swietelsky Rail Joint Venture (LS Rail) tamper and ballast regulator to travel in convoy and stop before signal BN 87U near Greta. The tamper led the ballast regulator, with the Traffic Officer (TO) travelling in the rear vehicle. Near Greta, the lead track vehicle operator (operator) contacted the TO advising he was approaching a signal displaying a stop (red) indication, but that he was unable to identify the signal number. Both the TO and the operator thought that this signal was BN 87U.

The TO contacted the NCO for further instructions. During the discussion, both the operator (lead vehicle) and the TO (rear vehicle) independently established that the signal ahead was BN 83U. At about this time the tamper stopped near signal BN 83U, but the rear vehicle was still approaching from behind. The TO continued to talk to the NCO about clearing signal BN 83U, so they could continue on to signal BN 87U in preparation for stabling the vehicles at Greta.

While the TO was talking with the NCO, the TO sensed that the ballast regulator (rear vehicle) was not slowing. He looked ahead to see the gap was closing between the two vehicles. The TO noticed that the ballast regulator operator was looking at him and the TO hand gestured in a forward motion. The operator interpreted the hand gestures to mean ‘keep going’. Instead, the TO was indicating that the operator ‘look forward’. Soon after, the TO called out for the operator to ‘STOP’. The operator turned and quickly realised that the tamper was closer than he had realised and made a full brake application. However, there was insufficient time to stop before colliding with the rear of the tamper.

The collision saw the ballast regulator ride above the tamper coupler and remain supported on the tamper deck. The ballast regulator also derailed the lead axle. The tamper operator sustained a minor injury and there was moderate damage to both vehicles.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the Traffic Officer’s telephone conversations distracted the ballast regulator operator, drawing his attention away from the driving task and the location of the tamper ahead. Although the operator was aware of the slowing tamper ahead, he did not maintain a safe distance between the vehicles. When the operator became aware of the stationary vehicle ahead, there was insufficient time for the operator to react and bring the vehicle to a stop before colliding with the tamper.

What's been done as a result

LS Rail has taken action to mitigate against the risk of further collisions between track maintenance vehicles, including requiring greater attention to worksite planning, briefing, communications, hazard identification and route knowledge.

Safety message

When travelling in convoy, track vehicle operators should remain alert, focused on the driving task and maintain a safe braking distance from other vehicles.

The occurrence



Additional safety actions

Sources and submissions