Investigation number
Occurrence date
Report release date
Report status
Investigation type
Occurrence Investigation
Investigation status
Occurrence category
Highest injury level

At about 0914 on Tuesday 18 June 2002 a scheduled suburban electric passenger train number 1648, on an up journey, collided with an approaching scheduled suburban electric empty train number 1025, on a down journey, on a section of single line, 772.3 metres south of Epping Railway station. Passenger train 1648 had a driver and 16 passengers on board, while the empty train 1025 had a driver and two other drivers travelling as passengers with the train. Train 1025 was traversing a single line section and crossing into Epping Yard at the time of the collision. The leading cab on train 1025 had just traversed a set of points and passed the fouling point for both the main line and the crossover line into Epping Yard, moments prior to the collision. Train 1648 had departed Epping platform and was advanced into the single line section on a restricted indication, and had subsequently passed signal EPP121 that was indicating stop. Both trains and infrastructure, including signalling and tracks, were operated by Melbourne Transport Enterprises, through Connex Trains Melbourne (CTM) and Alstom Melbourne Transport Limited (AMTL).

Damaged passenger train

Emergency services, including the Police, Fire and Ambulance services attended the scene. The driver of the passenger train suffered bruising to his right upper arm, but was discharged from hospital on the day of the collision. Minor injuries to passengers were reported. No passengers were hospitalised.

The evidence available, including an expert medical assessment, suggests that the driver of train 1648's performance was impaired by his physically 'unwell' condition. He could not recall events between the departure from Epping station on the up journey and the point that the train passed signal EPP121 at stop, a period of about one minute. As a result, signal EPP121 was passed at stop and a collision occurred. Train 1648 was travelling at about 60 km/h and train 1025 at about 12 km/h, at the point of initial impact.

Signal distances at Epping

Diagram showing Epping Yard signal distances


There are safeguards or defences to protect against such an accident. On this occasion the defences in place failed to prevent the accident. A number of defences were identified as being inadequate in terms of design or application.

The investigation established that train maintenance was not a factor in the accident. In addition, the signalling system, which incorporates automatic train stops, operated within its design criteria. However, the design criteria of the signalling system was such that it could not maintain a minimum safety margin to prevent the collision, given the speed of the passenger train involved.

Trains are fitted with pilot valves (including a dead man's handle), so that in the event that a driver becomes incapacitated the train should be brought to a halt. On this occasion the driver of train 1648 had become incapacitated but the pilot valve did not activate by applying the train's emergency brakes.

The performance of the driver of train 1648 was impaired by migraine symptoms, and possibly treatment, and the effect of stressful personal circumstances. The driver's history of migraine had been declared during regular medical assessments but the medical guidelines did not address the symptoms or treatment for a potentially incapacitating illness. The report also addresses factors that contribute to the driver working when he was unwell.

The Investigation Team has also reviewed the factors surrounding the Footscray collision on 5 June 2001 (ATSB rail investigation report no. 11-01) and considers this event to contain some similar safety issues.

A number of safety actions have been taken or are underway through the Victorian Department of Infrastructure.

The report's recommendations on pages 41 and 42 relate to:

  • the design of the signalling system;
  • the train working procedures for trains operating on single line sections of track;
  • the medical fitness/assessment guidelines;
  • the medical conditions that can impair or incapacitate a train driver;
  • driver sign-on procedures;
  • sick leave policy;
  • emergency procedures; and
  • recommendations contained in the ATSB Footscray investigation report.

Copies of the report are available from the Director Public Transport Safety, Victorian Department of Infrastructure, Plaza Level, 80 Collins Street, Melbourne or by telephoning (03) 9655 6402.