Rail safety investigations & reports

Safeworking Irregularity, near Helensburgh Station, New South Wales, on 21 August 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress


The ATSB is investigating a safeworking irregularity of an absolute signal block applied on the rail line between Helensburgh and Waterfall that occurred at approximately 0410hrs on 21 August 2019.

At the same time, a passenger train (404A) was pathed on the down rail line towards Waterfall while the train crew of a freight train (4WM2) worked on their train under the presumption that the down rail line had blocking facilities applied.

The train driver of 4WM2 saw the passenger train approaching and gave red lights for the passenger train to stop. The passenger train driver stopped the train, then made enquiries to the North Panel Area Controller as to why he had been given red lights. The North Panel Area Controller advised there was no requested protection.

The driver of 4WM2 informed his co-driver that he had to stop a passenger train and that he needed to stop releasing hand brakes and move clear of the down rail line. The driver then contacted the Waterfall Signaller and informed him they were clear of the down rail line to enable the passenger service to continue to Waterfall.

At this time, the Waterfall Signaller clarified he had placed blocking facilities on the Up rail line only, while the train driver of 4WM2 said he needed blocking on both lines as they needed to walk along the down rail line while releasing hand brakes.

Preliminary review of the radio communications between the train driver of 4WM2 and the Waterfall Signaller indicates there was a lack of clear instructions as to why the blocks were required and there were no assurances repeated back by either party.

This investigation is being led by the Office of Transport Safety Investigator (OTSI). OTSI conducts rail investigations in NSW on behalf of the ATSB under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

As part of the investigation, OTSI is making inquiries into other information and communications that may have occurred at the time of the occurrence and into the events leading to the freight train being stopped at the location.

A final report will be released at the end of the investigation.

Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify those affected and seek safety action to address the issue.

General details
Date: 21 August 2019   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 0410 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Between Helensburgh and Waterfall   Investigation phase: Final report: Approval  
State: New South Wales    
  Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 1st Quarter 2021    

Train 1 details

Train 1 details
Line operator Sydney Trains  
Train operator Pacific National  
Train registration 4WM2  
Type of operation Freight service  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Nil  
Departure point Port Kembla, NSW  
Destination Melbourne, Victoria  

Train 2 details

Train 2 details
Line operator Sydney Trains  
Train operator NSW Trains  
Train registration 404A  
Type of operation Passenger  
Sector Passenger - regional  
Damage to train Nil  
Departure point Helensburgh, NSW  
Destination Martin Place, NSW  
Last update 14 December 2020