Preliminary report released into runaway loaded ore train

The ATSB has released its preliminary report into the runaway loaded ore train, M02712, 211 km south of Port Hedland, Western Australia, on 5 November 2018.

The derailment destroyed two locomotives, 245 ore cars and 2 km of track infrastructure at Turner South.

A loss of communication between the head end locomotive and the end of train monitor triggered an automated penalty brake application, stopping the train as it approached Garden South.

The driver alerted train control of the emergency, confirmed handbrake requirements, placed the reverser control to neutral, turned the generator field off and applied the independent brake before exiting the locomotive cab to begin manually applying handbrakes to the train’s 268 ore cars while awaiting assistance from a maintenance ground crew. During this time, an empty ore train, M02727, stopped on the adjacent track due to the blocking protections set up after train M02712 had stopped.

About 30 minutes later, the ground crew arrived and train control requested they start applying handbrakes from the rear of the train and proceed toward the driver who was working from the front.

Approximately 60 minutes after stopping, while still applying handbrakes, the driver of M02712 heard air venting from the brakes and noticed the train move forward slightly before commencing to roll away. Shortly after the driver alerted train control M02712 was a ‘runaway’. The Automatic Train Protection system triggered a number of penalty brake applications but these were ineffective.

The investigation is ongoing and the ATSB is constrained about what further information it can release publicly at this time.

Four minutes later, the driver of the empty ore train (M02727) advised train control the ground crew had mistakenly applied handbrakes to his train and not to M02712.

M02712 continued the runaway, reaching a speed of 162 km/h before slowing on a rise toward Woodstock.

Train control set a crossover to switch M02712 between adjacent tracks at Turner South and Turner North to derail the train. M02712 travelled through the Turner South crossover at 144 km/h and derailed. The lead locomotives travelling a further 1.6 km before coming to a stop.

The derailment destroyed two locomotives, 245 ore cars and 2 km of track infrastructure at Turner South.

The investigation is continuing and will look at a number of factors including the design of train braking systems used by the operator and procedures in the operator’s safety management system.

This preliminary report does not include any findings or recommendations – these will be provided in the final report, which we anticipate to be released in the fourth quarter of this year.

It is important to note that the investigation is ongoing and the ATSB is constrained about what further information can be released publicly at this time.

Read the preliminary report: RO-2018-018 - Runaway loaded ore train M02712, 211 km point south of Port Hedland, WA, on 5 November 2018

Last update 12 March 2019