The ATSB is investigating the derailment of train (9281) near Charters Towers, Queensland on 30 December 2020.
At about 0016, a fully loaded fertiliser train (9281) travelling between Phosphate Hill and Townsville derailed after encountering a 'washout' (a breach in a railway track caused by flooding) between Charters Towers and Sellheim on the Mount Isa rail system. The two hauling locomotives and the first two wagons of the train passed through the washout, however the following 13 wagons derailed on their sides spilling fertiliser along the rail corridor. The remaining 20 wagons remained upright on the tracks.
On the previous day (29 December) at about 1615, the local area was subjected to rain that delivered about 84 mm over a 45 minute period. The water runoff funnelled towards a rail culvert that had limited capacity to control the overflow, consequently the ballast supporting the railway tracks was washed away leaving the sleepers and rails exposed. The washout went undetected until the incident about eight hours later.
The driver stated that they noticed debris across the track as the train approached, but could not stop the train. As the weight of the lead locomotive travelled through the washout it lurched and dipped. After stopping the train and assessing the damage, the driver reported their findings to the network control officer at Townsville control centre.
As part of the investigation, the ATSB will:
- interview the train crew
- analyse event recorder data
- review track maintenance records
- assess weather monitoring system information and requirements
- review relevant recorded communication and other areas of interest.
The investigation is continuing, with a final report released at the conclusion of the investigation. However, should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties, so that appropriate safety action can be taken.
|Date:||30 December 2020||Investigation status:||Active|
|Time:||0016 EST||Investigation level:||Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|Location:||near Charters Towers||Investigation phase:||Evidence collection|
|Report status:||Pending||Highest injury level:||None|
|Anticipated completion:||2nd Quarter 2021|
|Line operator||Queensland Rail|
|Type of operation||Fertiliser|
|Damage to train||Substantial|
|Departure point||Phosphate Hill|