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What happened

On 30 October 2015, following the completion of planned track maintenance work undertaken by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, a safe working irregularity occurred on the rail corridor between Allandale and Farley in the Hunter Valley region of NSW.

While exiting the rail corridor, a road vehicle involved in the maintenance work became bogged in a drain. The vehicle was located outside the danger zone, and therefore there was no requirement to employ a work on track method to retrieve the vehicle. Nevertheless, the protection officer in charge of the worksite made a safety assessment to exclude rail traffic from the portion of track to ensure the presence of workers in the rail corridor did not alarm a driver of an approaching train.

The protection officer contacted the network controller and requested controlled signal blocking. During this conversation and a subsequent conversation, the parties did not confirm their common understanding about the location of the worksite. Consequently, when controlled signal blocking was put into effect, a train had already passed the signal and was travelling toward the worksite.

Workers on the site assumed the track was protected and were preparing to remove the vehicle when they noticed an approaching train.

There were no injuries to people or damage to property.

What the ATSB found

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that communication between the protection officer and network controller resulted in the misunderstanding of information that contributed to a safe working irregularity where controlled signal blocking was issued with a train (HV130) located between the protecting signal and the worksite.

The rule and procedure associated with the issuing of controlled signal blocking did not manage the sequential communication of sufficient information to identify the worksite location before controlled signal blocking was acted upon.

There is also no requirement in the rule or procedure applicable to controlled signal blocking to keep a permanent record detailing the specific information relating to its implementation, therefore increasing the likelihood of error during the read-back process.

What's been done as a result

The Australian Rail Track Corporation has undertaken a review of ANWT 308 controlled signal blocking and will be seeking to amend and retitle ANWT 308 controlled signal blocking to ANWT 308 absolute signal blocking. The revised rule will include the requirement for the network control officer and protection officer to keep a permanent record about the Absolute Signal Blocking details. Including when the protection officer requests absolute signal blocking, the network control officer is informed of the location of the worksite and that the protection officer must identify the signals to be set and kept at stop with blocking facilities applied.

Safety message

It is vital that individuals planning work in the rail corridor ensure the communication of sufficient information to validate the worksite location in relation to approaching train movements.

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The occurrence

Safety analysis

Findings

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General details
Date: 30 October 2015 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1032 EDT Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):near Allandale  
State: New South Wales  
Release date: 04 May 2017 Occurrence category: Incident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: None 
 
Train details
Line operator: Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) 
Train operator: Pacific National 
Train registration: HV130 
Type of operation: Freight 
Sector: Freight 
Damage to train: Nil 

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Last update 04 May 2017