A preliminary report details evidence gathered so far from an investigation into a safe working incident involving two passenger trains travelling in opposite directions on a single track section of Melbourne’s Belgrave line in February.

The investigation is being undertaken by Victoria’s Office of the Chief Investigator (OCI), which conducts rail investigations in Victoria on behalf of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Prior to the occurrence, two Metro Trains Melbourne passenger trains were travelling east towards Belgrave on a section of bi-directional single track between Ferntree Gully and Upper Ferntree Gully stations on 25 February 2024.

The second of these trains was a non-revenue service, meaning it was not carrying passengers, and was not operating to the timetable.

After the first train departed Upper Ferntree Gully station, there was a third MTM train waiting there, preparing to travel through the single track section in the opposite direction.

“The driver of the train waiting to depart Upper Ferntree Gully was held by a stop indication on the platform’s departure home signal,” Chief Investigator Mark Smallwood explained.

The signaller based at Upper Ferntree Gully reported checking the signalling panel, and the train schedule, and then making an unsuccessful attempt to reset the signal.

“Believing there was a signalling system fault, the signaller contacted Metrol – the network’s central control centre – for permission to allow the train to enter the section under a caution order, and this permission was granted.”

The signaller subsequently gave the driver of the waiting train a caution order to proceed, and the train departed Upper Ferntree Gully under that caution order, which meant it was authorised to travel no faster than 25 km/h through the section.

“Meanwhile, the non-revenue train was stopped midway along the single section of track at another signal,” Mr Smallwood said.

Fortunately, as the westbound train travelled towards the stopped train, its driver heard the whistle of the stopped train, and immediately brought their train to a stop.

“Both trains were then at a stop, facing each other, about 300 m apart.” 

Mr Smallwood noted the preliminary report into the safe working incident does not contain analysis or findings, which will be detailed in a final report.

“To date in the OCI investigation, investigators have examined train operational information, interviewed several parties, inspected the Upper Ferntree Gully signal box and collected other relevant documentation,” he said.

“As the investigation progresses, we will review and examine train operations, the actions of signallers and train controllers, the operation of the signalling system, and safe working systems and risk controls.”

The incident occurred while a section of the Belgrave line was closed due to level crossing upgrade works, and Mr Smallwood noted the investigation would consider the management of train operations during these works.

“Should a critical safety issue be identified during the investigation, relevant parties will be immediately notified so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken,” he said.

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

Read the preliminary report: Safe working incident involving MTM trains TD3148 and TD7255 at Ferntree Gully, Victoria, on 25 February 2024

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