Multiple brake applications by the driver of an empty bauxite train failed to slow the train to avoid a collision with a rake of wagons, an ATSB preliminary* report says.
On 22 September 2019, the empty bauxite train was travelling the 19.5 km track between Lorim Point and Andoom, near Weipa in Queensland. At the 17.5 km mark, the driver made a service brake application to the slow the train for the 25 km/h turnout as it neared Andoom, but the brake application did not slow the train. The driver then released the brake, applied the locomotive’s dynamic brake, and applied a service brake application for the second time.
Realising the train was not slowing, the driver made an emergency brake application, which was not effective. At 59 km/h, the driver applied the locomotive independent brake on the train. The independent brake only applies to the locomotive, but it did result in a slight decrease in the train’s speed.
The driver was aware that a train collision was imminent but was unable to prevent it.
The train passed through the turnout at 54 km/h. At the same time, a rake of wagons was being loaded at the automated loading point at Andoom, 635 m away. The driver was aware that a train collision was imminent but was unable to prevent it.
The train collided with the partially-loaded rake of wagons at 37 km/h. The locomotive of the moving train, and four empty wagons at the rear of the partially-loaded rake, derailed on impact.
The collision resulted in the modular driver operating cab separating from the main structure of the locomotive, coming to rest on the ground. The cab sustained substantial damage. The driver was initially trapped inside the cab but sustained only minor injuries.
The ATSB’s ongoing investigation will focus on the the crashworthiness of the modular operating cab design, factors associated with the function and use of the train brakes, and further analysis of the train’s event recorder and the operator’s policies, procedures and guidelines.
*Preliminary reports outline basic factual information established in the early phase of an investigation. They do not contain findings, identify contributing factors or outline safety issues and actions, which will be detailed in an investigation’s final report.