Rail safety investigations & reports

Derailment of intermodal freight train 5PM9 near Rawlinna, WA on 4 December 2015

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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What happened

At about 1450, near Rawlinna, WA freight train 5PM9 operated by SCT Logistics derailed during a severe storm. There was a combination of 59 vehicles located immediately behind the locomotives. The train broke into two sections, where 39 vehicles had either derailed or overturned, generally to the south side of the track. A fire started within one refrigerated food van about 500 m from the front of the train and later burned itself out. There were no dangerous goods involved in the accident and no fuel spillage.The derailment damaged approximately 550 m of track. There were no physical injuries to the train drivers, but the two relief drivers were badly shaken when the crew van rolled on its side.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the configuration of multiple PBHY ‘High Cube’ vehicles provided a large side surface area that was susceptible to high wind forces. A localised downdraught of cold air in the form of a microburst on the north side (driver side) of the train produced severe winds that were sufficient to initiate the overturning of eight coupled lightly loaded PBHY vehicles. Other laden vehicles, including another eight PBHY vehicles, the crew van and in-line fuel tanker, had progressively derailed and overturned towards the front of the train. These vehicles had derailed through the transference of the rotating force through the couplers, due to rollover of adjacent vehicles.

What's been done as a result

SCT Logistics advised that on 15 December 2015 a rail safety alert was distributed to operations staff advising drivers to slow trains to speeds no greater than 70 km/h when experiencing severe weather conditions involving strong cross winds.

SCT Logistics is also reviewing and amending their Risk Assessment Register – Mainline Operations to include elements of risk to operations due to adverse weather conditions.

The effects of severe weather on safe train operations will be included in a review of driver training modules.

Safety message

This, and similar previous incidents, highlights how rail operators should consider the effects of severe weather conditions involving strong winds and how this can affect the safety of train operations.

Within the geographical regions of their operations, operators should implement risk management strategies to minimise the likelihood of train derailment when severe weather conditions are forecast.

Derailed vehicles looking east
Source: ATSB


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The occurrence


Safety analysis


Safety actions

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General details
Date: 04 December 2015   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1450   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 350 km east of Kalgoorlie    
State: Western Australia    
Release date: 21 September 2016   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Train details

Train details
Line operator SCT Logistics  
Train registration 5PM9  
Type of operation Intermodal freight  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Substantial  
Last update 03 April 2020