Undetected rail defect derails freight wagons

Broken rail segment. Source: Pacific National

The derailment of two freight wagons and the subsequent disruption to freight and passenger services has highlighted the importance of inspection techniques that effectively monitor and report on asset condition.

On 7 June 2019, Pacific National freight train 6CM3 was operating between Griffith, in New South Wales’ Riverina region and Melbourne’s Appleton Dock. A roll-by inspection from the Down platform at Junee station detected that the 40th and 41st wagons of the train had derailed.

The investigation, conducted on behalf of the ATSB by NSW’s Office of Transport Safety Investigation (OTSI), found that the wagons had derailed at a broken rail about 300 metres before the platform. The rail had broken in two places, allowing the wagons’ wheels to derail, damaging the wagons and infrastructure.

The investigation found that, following a change in maintenance practices, rails forming turnouts between main lines were not being ultrasonically tested. As a consequence, a likely detectable rail defect went undetected, with the two rail breaks occurring at different times.

The crew’s detection of the derailed wagons prevented an escalation of the occurrence.

As a result of the incident, the Australian Rail Track Corporation identified rails forming turnouts that were not previously subjected to ultrasonic testing. Those rails were included in the asset management register, and testing was scheduled.

The investigation’s safety message highlights that managers of rail infrastructure should ensure that inspection techniques effectively monitor and report on asset condition.

Further, risk controls should be continuously assessed through the life cycle of the asset, in particular when changes are made to inspection regimes.

Read the investigation report RO-2019-011: Derailment of freight train 6CM3, Junee, New South Wales, on 7 June 2019

Last update 07 July 2020

Final report

RO-2019-011: Derailment of freight train 6CM3, Junee, New South Wales, on 7 June 2019