Rail safety investigations & reports

Derailment of Pacific National freight service 8838N near Narwonah, NSW on 1 October 2017

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


Update: 1 October 2019

The investigation into the derailment of Pacific National freight service 8838N near Narwonah, NSW on 1 October 2017 is continuing.

ATSB investigators have investigated numerous elements of the accident including:

  • The track condition at the time of the derailment and presence of any track defects
  • The track maintenance regime
  • The potential for influence of the sleeper pattern of alternating steel and timber sleepers
  • The potential for influence of the speed of the train on the derailment.
  • The potential for influence of the loading of wagons on the derailment.

The investigation is currently in the examination and analysis phase. During this phase, evidence is reviewed and evaluated to determine its relevance, validity, credibility and relationship to other evidence and to the occurrence. ATSB investigators may:

  • undertake detailed data analysis
  • create simulations and reconstruct events
  • examine company, vehicle, government and other records
  • examine selected wreckage in the laboratory and test selected components and system
  • research scientific literature related to human factors associated with the evidence
  • review specialist reports (such as meteorology, component examination, post-mortem report and toxicology reports)
  • conduct further interviews, and
  • determine the sequence of events.

Once the examination of the evidence is complete, the investigation team will test a series of hypotheses to arrive at a number of safety factors that could have contributed to the transport safety occurrence or issue, or otherwise increased safety risk.  

The investigation team then convenes a Safety Factor Review with ATSB management. This is a rigorous internal review of the progress of the investigation, its preliminary findings and focus. The Safety Factor Review involves the investigation team presenting their evidence and analysis to reach consensus on the investigation findings. Once consensus is achieved, the report drafting phase of the investigation can begin.

Should any critical safety issues be identified during any phase of this investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify those affected and seek safety action to address the issue.


Initial summary: 4 October 2017

At 1130 on 1 October 2017, 11 wagons derailed on a Pacific National loaded wheat service. At the time the train was heading south on a single line between Narromine and Parkes, near Narwonah (537 km). The train consisted of 2 locomotives and 23 wagons. The 12th to the 22nd wagon in the consist derailed, with 9 derailed wagons on their side and 2 wagons remained upright. The last wagon, the 23rd wagon, did not derail. There were no injuries but there was substantial damage to 9 wagons and track infrastructure.

The ATSB has commenced an investigation into this accident, which will be undertaken by officers from the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigations, under the provisions of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003. Investigators have commenced collecting evidence and statements from involved parties, which will be analysed and a draft investigation report compiled. The draft report will be forwarded to relevant parties for comment prior to the completion and release of the final report.

General details
Date: 01 October 2017   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 1130 EDT   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Narwonah   Investigation phase: Final report: Internal review  
State: New South Wales    
  Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 2nd Quarter 2020    

Train details

Train details
Line operator ARTC  
Train operator Pacific National  
Train registration 8838N  
Type of operation Freight  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Substantial  
Departure point Narromine, NSW  
Destination Parkes, NSW  
Last update 16 January 2020