Preliminary report published: 8 March 2018
Sequence of events
On 22 January 2018, at about 0834 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, a Sydney Trains passenger train, A42, crewed by a driver and guard, departed Central Station (Central) on run 150-E to Richmond Station, New South Wales.
The train stopped at 19 stations on its way from Central to Richmond Station. Richmond Station was the train’s final stop for the run, located 60.680 km by rail from Central (Figure 1). The stop before Richmond Station was East Richmond Station, located 60.000 km by rail from Central (Figure 2).
The train was running about one minute ahead of schedule when it stopped at East Richmond Station at 0950:10. It departed the station at 0950:29. The train then travelled the approximate 506 m between stations, taking 46 s at an average speed of 40 km/h. The leading carriage (car) entered the Sydney-end of Platform 2 at Richmond Station at 0951:15. It was scheduled to arrive at 0952.
The train travelled the 169 metre length of Richmond Station at an estimated average speed of 35 km/h. The train subsequently collided with the end-of-line buffer stop at the country end of Platform 2 at 0951:32. After the impact with the buffer stop, the train recoiled backwards approximately 3 m before coming to a complete stop at 0951:37.
The impact caused all cars to concertina together, with some lifting from the normal position. A post-incident inspection found the rear wheelset of the rear bogie on the third position car had raised above the rail and all wheels of the rear bogie on the fifth position car derailed. There was damage to the front of the train, the interconnecting areas and coupling systems between cars. The passenger saloon areas appeared to have sustained minimal damage.
There were 24 passengers on board the train at the time of the collision. As the train entered Richmond Station, some of the passengers on board rose from their seats in anticipation of getting off at this final stop. The passengers were unprepared for the impact, and many of the resulting injuries were consistent with them not holding onto handrails or fixtures. There was no announcement or warning before the collision.
The first call to 000 was recorded as being received at 0952:52. A total of 16 people were treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance. All injured persons were from the train; no persons on the platform were injured as a consequence of the incident. The driver, seated in the front driver’s compartment at the time of collision, sustained minor injuries and received first aid before being tested for drugs and alcohol. The guard, who was standing at the door of the driver’s compartment at the rear of the train, sustained facial and chest injuries. Another Sydney Trains employee was injured; a cleaner who was travelling in the passenger area of one of the cars. NSW Ambulance treated him at the scene. In total, fifteen persons were transported to hospital for treatment; this included some passengers with suspected fractures.
Source: Sydney Trains, modified by the ATSB
Train crew information
The driver was based at the Blacktown depot while the guard was based at the Richmond depot. Both lived in nearby suburbs and both had less than 20 minutes travel time to work.
The driver was experienced, starting as a metropolitan train driver in 2007. He was familiar with the route, fully qualified and had been passed as medically fit.
The guard was also experienced, having started as a guard in 2006. He was familiar with the route, qualified and had also been passed as medically fit.
The train was a double-deck electric multiple unit train, consisting of an eight-car Waratah set, designated as A42. It was operated by Sydney Trains. It had a driving car at each end (Figures 3 and 4), two motor cars located next to each driving car, and two trailing cars in the centre of the train. Waratah trains first entered service on the NSW rail network in 2011, and the final set was delivered in May 2014. This set came into service in May 2013.
The Waratah sets are leased by Sydney Trains from Reliance Rail Pty Ltd. EDI Rail PPP Maintenance Pty Ltd maintains the Waratah fleet of trains on behalf of Reliance Rail. The 626 Waratah cars are maintained at Auburn, in western Sydney.
The train has a seated-passenger capacity of 896. The train width is 3035 mm, height 4410 mm and each car is approximately 20 m in length. The total length of the train is approximately 160 m. It has a tare mass of approximately 402 t, a gross mass of 558 t, and a maximum operating speed of 130 km/h. The train has a regenerative braking system with blended electro-pneumatic wheel-mounted disc brakes. The bodies of the cars are stainless steel.
Source: Sydney Trains
Track and infrastructure information
Richmond Station is the terminal stop on the Blacktown to Richmond single bi-directional line. This standard gauge railway line was opened in 1864, it is a branch line of the Main Western line. This electrified line is predominantly used by passenger trains and is a single track for much of its length. The line is duplicated at multiple positions along the track. Passing loops also exist at various stations, allowing for trains to pass.
Train movements on the Richmond line are controlled by Sydney Trains under network rule NSY 500 Rail Vehicle Detection system. This system of safeworking prescribes the rules used in axle counter territory and continuously track-circuited territory on the network. Train movements on the metropolitan network, including the Richmond line, are directed from the Rail Management Centre in Sydney. These movements are controlled in conjunction with local signal control rooms.
Richmond Station consists of an island platform with two dead-end lines on either side (Figure 2). A third dead-end siding line (The Up storage siding) is used to stable trains for storage purposes. All three lines have a buffer stop at the country end to prevent trains overshooting onto the busy four-lane road, East Market Street.
The line from East Richmond Station to Richmond Station curves to the right for 160 m before straightening after the Moray street pedestrian crossing. Once past this crossing there is a clear line of slight to the end-of-line buffer stop for Platform 2. A signal, RD5, and an interlocking set of points permits trains to travel straight ahead along the Platform 2 line, as was the case on 22 January 2018, or be diverted onto one of the other two lines.
Once past signal RD5, there were no train stops or derailing devices (catch points) for trains travelling in the Down direction into the platforms at Richmond Station. In the Up direction, for trains leaving Richmond Station, there are intermediate train stops and catch points for each of the three lines merging into the single line to East Richmond Station.
The permissible posted speed for trains travelling in the section from East Richmond Station to Richmond Station is 50 km/h. At the time of the accident, there were no temporary speed restrictions in place in the section from East Richmond to Richmond stations.
The end-of-line buffer stops at Richmond Station all have a light signal indicator light, which display a red light, centrally located on top (Figure 5). The light signal indicator light on the Platform 2 buffer stop was operational at the time of the collision. This was observed from the forward-facing CCTV camera downloaded from the train’s digital video recorders after the accident.
The buffer stops at Richmond Station were constructed from steel-reinforced concrete with two hydraulic arms that are designed to dissipate the energy of a collision (Figure 5 and 6).
The nearest Bureau of Meteorology automatic weather station (AWS) was located at Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond, about 3 km east of Richmond Station. At 0900 on the day of the accident, the Richmond AWS recorded the temperature as 23.1°C. The overnight minimum temperature was 16.3°C.
The previous four days all recorded a maximum temperature over 35°C and the temperature on the day of the accident eventually reached 42°C (five hours after the accident).
Sunrise was at 0539 and it was a fine morning. The train was travelling in a west-north-west direction and the sun was behind and on the right-hand side of the train. The altitude of the sun was 44° and its position was determined not to have affected the driver’s visibility.
There had been no rain recorded at Richmond Station in the 11 days prior to the incident.
Site examination and recovery
Once emergency services had completed evacuation of the injured, the ATSB formally took control of the site and investigators from the ATSB examined the train, the track and the adjacent infrastructure including the buffer stop. At 1510, the ATSB issued a protection order specifying that the train not be interfered with except by those involved in recovery operations (Figure 7). That evening and on the following day, Sydney Trains unsuccessfully attempted to move the train from its position alongside Platform 2 to the Up storage siding on the other side of Richmond station. Sydney Trains did subsequently successfully relocate the cars to the Up storage siding alongside Richmond Station where further assessment and temporary repairs of the cars occurred to allow Sydney Trains to safely move the cars to the Downer EDI Rail maintenance facility at Cardiff in the Hunter Valley of NSW for further assessment and (if required) repair.
On 24 January 2018, the ATSB took possession of the event recorders and digital video recorders from the train while it was still at Richmond Station. Following a final inspection, at 1500, the ATSB revoked the protection order.
The train remained at Richmond Stationuntil 3 February 2018 when the three rear cars were coupled to a locomotive and hauled to the Downer EDI maintenance facility at Cardiff. Two more cars were moved on 14 February 2018 and the remaining three cars moved on 21 February 2018. A ‘train operating condition’ (TOC) waiver was issued by the NSW Asset Standards Authority on 1 February 2018, specifying a number of conditions to allow this movement to occur.
Initial examination of A42 and Richmond Station indicated the following:
- all cars of the train were intact
- no evidence of contaminants was found on the rail running surface
- event recorders and digital video recorders were intact and operational
- the driver’s and guard’s compartments were clean and clear of any objects, with no personal effects present
- the driver’s windscreen was free from cracking and provided adequate visibility
- the driver’s front emergency access door was in the partially open position (post collision)
- the passenger saloon areas sustained minimal damage
- there was damage to the front of the train, the interconnecting areas and coupling systems between cars
- the buffer stop and hydraulic arms sustained collision damage
- the surrounding station structure, paths and wall showed minor cracking as a result of the impact of the collision
- station CCTV cameras were functioning at Richmond Station and at other stations along the route.
The event recorders and digital video recorders have been retained by the ATSB for further examination and analysis.
Sydney Trains safety action
Whether or not the ATSB identifies safety issues in the course of an investigation, relevant organisations may proactively initiate safety action in order to reduce their safety risk. Sydney Trains has advised the ATSB that, in response to this incident, the following proactive safety actions have been implemented:
- A 20 km/h temporary speed restriction is in place on the approach to Richmond Station until a permanent 25 km/h speed restriction can be applied.
- The train stop located with signal RD5 has been modified to trigger a brake application if train speed exceeds 25 km/h.
The ATSB investigation is continuing and will include consideration of the following:
- train, track and infrastructure examinations
- collision sequence
- obtaining and evaluating event recorder, signalling and CCTV information
- train maintenance history
- train crashworthiness including override prevention performance
- train brake performance
- train vigilance, deadman and warning systems
- train operations including signalling
- train communications
- train crew qualifications, experience and medical information
- train crew performance
- train crew rostering
- track and infrastructure condition
- performance of buffer stop
- automatic train control measures
- operator policies and procedures
- environmental influences
- emergency response
- similar occurrences in Australia and internationally.
The ATSB acknowledges the support of the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force, NSW Ambulance, Sydney Trains and EDI Rail PPP Maintenance Pty Ltd.
The information contained in this preliminary report 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 report. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.
- This information is taken from the Sydney Trains timetable. The exact timing of departure from Central has yet to be established and will be confirmed when further information is analysed.
- The 24-hour clock is used in this report. Local time was Australian Eastern Daylight-saving Time (EDT). Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 11 hours.
- Down lines typically carry train movements away from Sydney, Up lines towards Sydney.
- Asset Standards Authority, TOC Waiver TW 203-629, Locomotive Hauling of Waratah cars from set A42. Issued 1 February 2018.