Final Report


What happened

On 26 and 27 December 2015, the rail traffic crew of trains 9E56 and 9T92 encountered wet weather as they travelled toward Julia Creek. The Bureau of Meteorology had issued a series of localised severe thunderstorm warnings for the North West forecast district, which was normal during the wet season. The Network Control Officer (NCO) at the Queensland train control centre in Townsville was monitoring information on the BoM website and had received some information from the rail traffic crews who were travelling along the section. The NCO acted on the information available by arranging track inspections of the relevant sections of track west of Julia Creek.

As these inspections were occurring, train 9T92 continued travel toward Julia Creek from the east. Shortly after passing through a section of track where floodwaters had previously overtopped the track and receded, the crew of train 9T92 encountered another area where floodwater had overtopped the track. At this location, however, the floodwater had scoured the ballast and compromised the integrity of the track.

The driver became aware of the washout only moments before the locomotive impacted and derailed, causing the locomotive to tip on its side. After sighting the washout, the train crew could do nothing to prevent, or lessen the impact of the incident.

What the ATSB found

Scouring of the ballast and formation adjacent to the 617.190 km point by floodwater meant that the track could not support the weight of train 9T92 as it passed over the affected area. The resulting deformation in alignment of the track initiated the derailment. Reporting procedures implemented by Queensland Rail and Aurizon provided insufficient guidance to the NCO or rail traffic crew to identify and respond to potential hazards from a wet weather event.

What's been done as a result

Queensland Rail has issued Safety Alerts to improve the effectiveness of the current network rules in relation to managing hazards associated with weather events. A review of weather monitoring services and the upskilling knowledge of relevant personnel on interpreting meteorological information has also commenced. Queensland Rail has commenced a review into the feasibility of adopting the Australian Standard AS7637 Railway Infrastructure – Hydrology and Hydraulics.

Aurizon has introduced respiratory protection masks for train crew on trains transporting acid. Additionally Aurizon continues to reassess the emergency evacuation procedures, locomotive windscreens and secondary communication opportunities/options.

Safety message

Rail infrastructure managers must implement adequate operational procedures and training programs to ensure the timely identification and management of a hazard to the integrity of their rail infrastructure, such as a weather event. Rolling stock operators must ensure that their training programs include relevant operational procedures enabling consistent assessment, reporting and response by train crew to conditions that may adversely affect the integrity of rail infrastructure or trains.


The occurrence


Safety analysis


Sources and submissions