Rail safety investigations & reports

Fire on freight train 3DA2 near Snowtown, SA on 21 August 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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What happened

At about 1055 on 21 August 2014, train 3DA2, carrying containerised freight (including dangerous goods), arrived at Snowtown, South Australia. While at Snowtown, the crew noticed smoke coming from one of the containers conveying dangerous goods. The crew contacted ARTC Network Control to arrange for the Country Fire Service to attend the site. An exclusion zone was set up around the site and the fire was brought under control with minimal damage sustained.  

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that freight within the affected container, including undeclared dangerous goods, had been packed in a manner that was not in accordance with the code of practice for Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road or Rail, or the Genesee & Wyoming Australia dangerous goods policy.

Genesee & Wyoming Australia had a documented policy on the transportation of dangerous goods, including a Standard Condition of Carriage, which documented the obligations of GWA’s customers when providing freight for transportation. However, GWA had no active verification processes in place to check and confirm compliance with those requirements (either in total or in part through random selection). Such a process may have provided the opportunity to detect any undeclared dangerous goods or inappropriately packed freight before an incident or accident resulted.

What's been done as a result

GWA has undertaken an independent audit of their policies and procedures for consigning freight, including the adequacy of training in receiving handling and storage of dangerous goods. GWA has also undertaken to improve communications with customers at their Alice Springs and Darwin terminals to identify where deficiencies may exist and how they might be best addressed.

Safety message

This incident illustrates the importance of freight forwarders and rail operators ensuring that dangerous goods freight accepted for carriage meets the relevant requirements of the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road or Rail code of practice. All rail operators should ensure that their policies and procedures for the acceptance of dangerous goods are effective in ensuring that the goods accepted have been appropriately packed to minimise the risk of incidents during transportation.


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Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 937KB]


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Safety Issue

Go to RO-2014-015-SI-01 -

Genesee & Wyoming Australia procedures for acceptance of dangerous freight

Genesee & Wyoming Australia had no procedure in place to verify (either in total or by random selection) that the nature or condition of freight provided by their customers, complied with their Standard Condition of Carriage.

Safety issue details
Issue number: RO-2014-015-SI-01
Who it affects: Rail operators
Status: Safety action pending
General details
Date: 21 August 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1055 CST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Snowtown    
State: South Australia    
Release date: 24 March 2015   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Train details

Train details
Line operator Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)  
Train operator Genesee & Wyoming Australia Pty Ltd  
Train registration 3DA2  
Type of operation Freight  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Minor  
Departure point Darwin, NT  
Destination Adelaide, SA  
Last update 14 November 2018