Rail safety investigations & reports

Derailment of coal train near Oakey, Queensland on 21 July 2017

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress
Phase: Final report: External review Read more information on this investigation phase


Updated: 16 February 2018

At about 1550 on 21 July 2017, a loaded Aurizon coal train, designation 9869, departed the Acland coal siding near Jondaryan, for the Port of Brisbane, Queensland (Figure 1). The train was crewed by two drivers and consisted of two locomotives hauling 41 wagons.

Figure 1: Jondaryan to the Port of Brisbane (Fisherman Islands)

Figure 1: Jondaryan to the Port of Brisbane (Fisherman Islands). Source: Queensland Rail modified by ATSB

Source: Queensland Rail modified by ATSB

As train 9869 approached a level crossing, about 9 km north-west of Oakey, the driver observed something on the track ahead. The speed of the train was about 55 km/h.

Initially, the driver thought it was a bird or small animal on the rail, which commonly occurred. As the train neared the level crossing, the driver identified a ‘kink’ in both the rails. The driver applied a full service brake application to control the train to stop.

At about 1600, as the lead locomotive passed through the level crossing, the crew felt the locomotive shudder. In the side mirrors, the crew saw a number of wagons derail as the train slowed to a stop. An inspection by the crew identified that both locomotives and 18 vehicles of the train had derailed. The derailment also resulted in the destruction of about 300 m of the Queensland Rail track infrastructure.

The level crossing was elevated from the surrounding terrain, with gravel-based approach ramps on either side of the track formation. On-site examination of the track at the level crossing identified impact marks to the head of both rails coinciding with the apex of each kink. The rail on the southern side of the level crossing had also broken adjacent to the impact mark (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Level crossing approach showing damage to rails

Figure 2: Level crossing approach showing damage to rails. Source: ATSB

Source: ATSB

The marks on the railhead and damage to the rails were consistent with the lateral impact force from a heavy road vehicle colliding with the track infrastructure as it traversed the level crossing. This caused the horizontal distortion to both rails prior to the arrival of train 9869.

Ongoing investigation

The investigation is on going and will include consideration of:

  • the management arrangements for the occupational/private level crossing
  • details for heavy vehicle guidelines for excess dimension
  • laboratory testing and analysis of damaged rails
  • rolling stock and track infrastructure maintenance records
  • locomotive event recorder analysis.

The information contained in this web update is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the initial investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this web update. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.

General details
Date: 21 July 2017   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 1600 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 9 km north-west of Oakey   Investigation phase: Final report: External review  
State: Queensland    
Release date: 16 February 2018   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 2nd Quarter 2019    

Train details

Train details
Line operator Queensland Rail  
Train operator Aurizon  
Train registration 9869  
Type of operation Coal train  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Substantial  
Departure point Acland coal siding near Jondaryan, Qld  
Destination Port of Brisbane, Qld  
Last update 16 April 2019