Rail safety investigations & reports

Derailment of empty coal train NB901 at Kankool, NSW, on 15 February 2015

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

At approximately 0510[1] on 15 February 2015, the leading bogie on the leading wagon of empty Pacific National (PN) coal train NB901 derailed after climbing the railhead at 366.811[2] km while descending the grade between Ardglen and Kankool. The bogie travelled in a derailed state for approximately 1,950 metres before it collided with No. 51 catchpoints at Kankool. The impact caused the first wagon to uncouple from the rear of the third locomotive and veer towards a cutting wall. The derailed wagon and the following 18 wagons came to rest concertinaed in various positions within an 80-metre earthen cutting. The three locomotives continued until an automatic brake application, triggered when the train parted, brought them to a stand at 369.450 km in the Kankool to Chilcotts Creek section.

Of the 19 derailed wagons, 18 sustained severe damage and were decommissioned and the third locomotive received minor damage. The derailment damaged approximately 1,900 metres of track and 2,377 concrete sleepers. This included the total destruction of 115 metres of track, three sets of points and 1393 sleepers. The train crew did not report any injuries.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that train management procedures, designed to keep the train stretched and reduce in-train forces on descending grades, were not adhered to as the train descended between Ardglen and Kankool. This induced sufficient compressive forces in the train to affect the first wagon. As a result, the flange tip of the left hand side wheel of No.3 axle on the leading wagon gripped and climbed the railhead of the outside (down side[3]) rail and derailed as it transitioned a right hand curve in the section at 366.811 km.

What's been done as a result

PN revised its train-handling guidelines for Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP)-braked trains and train crew monitoring program to ensure conformance to the train management requirements.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) replaced the damaged infrastructure and installed an additional flange lubrication system in the Ardglen to Kankool section to minimise friction in the wheel/rail interface.

Safety message

Operators are to maintain constant vigil to ensure the correct application of train management procedures. Any departure from or non-conformance to the procedures, whether major or minor, can result in catastrophic damage to both track and rolling stock.

Third locomotive of NB901
Third Locomotive of NB901. Source: ATSB
Source: ATSB


  1. The 24-hour clock is used in this report. Local time was Australian Eastern Summer Time (AEST).
  2. Distance in kilometres from a track reference point at Sydney Central Station.
  3. The down side and down side rail are on the left-hand side of any (down) train travelling away from Sydney.
Download final report
[Download  PDF: 8.45MB]

The occurrence


Safety analysis


Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions

General details
Date: 15 February 2015   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0516 ESDT   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Kankool   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: New South Wales    
Release date: 06 April 2018   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Train details

Train details
Line operator Australian Rail Track Corporation  
Train operator Pacific National  
Train registration NB901  
Type of operation Freight  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Substantial  
Departure point Greta, NSW  
Destination Narrabri, NSW  
Last update 03 April 2020