Notice advises operators to be aware of locomotive braking systems

A train

A Safety Advisory Notice has been issued to rollingstock operators as part of an ongoing investigation by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI), into the derailment of a grain train near Wollongong.

The Notice has arisen from an ongoing investigation being conducted by OTSI on behalf of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, into the derailment of a loaded grain train on the 1 in 30 grade rail line between Robertson and Unanderra, NSW, on 15 December 2020.

“During the descent, the train driver lost control of the train,” OTSI Chief Investigator and CEO Dr Natalie Pelham explained.

“The driver did not apply the emergency brake as the train continued to gain speed, as they believed the emergency application of the air brake would disengage the dynamic brake.”

The investigation identified, however, the locomotive’s electronic braking system did allow the dynamic brake to remain active while the emergency brake was applied.

“This feature was unknown to the operator and the train driver,” Dr Pelham said.

The investigation has identified that had the driver been fully aware of the braking functionality, it is likely they would have applied the emergency brake which may have slowed the runaway train and lowered the risk of derailment.

“Today’s advisory instructs all rail operators to review specifications and test locomotives under their control to understand how the braking systems are configured,” Dr Pelham said.

“Operators must have a complete understanding of the operation of their locomotives. Identifying safety critical information from technical specifications and testing locomotive operations must be completed and used to inform the organisation’s procedural and training material.”

OTSI conducts rail investigations in NSW on behalf of the ATSB under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

The investigation into the Dombarton incident is due to be finalised in the third quarter of 2022.

Read the full Safety Advisory Notice: (RO-2020-022-san-002) Unknown functions in locomotive braking systems

Addendum 6 July 2022: some wording in this statement updated to more accurately reflect the wording in the SAN


Last update 06 July 2022

Safety Advisory Notice

Notice advises operators to be aware of locomotive braking systems