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What happened

On 15 December 2015, train ND575 – a south bound empty bulk iron ore service operated by Rio Tinto, derailed on the Hamersley Railway east mainline, about 50 km north of Tom Price, Western Australia. As a result of the derailment, there was significant damage to track and rolling stock. There were no injuries.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB concluded that the derailment most likely began with a small horizontal track misalignment on the east mainline, just south of the Mt Brockman Road railway crossing. It was likely that the misalignment grew under train ND575, and eventually became large enough to cause the train to derail. The pathing of a large number of north-bound loaded ore trains on the east mainline probably caused a redistribution of longitudinal rail stresses south of the Mt Brockman railway crossing. This redistribution of rail stresses, coupled with extremely hot weather, and a track irregularity near the point of derailment, meant the track had a reduced capacity to withstand lateral forces, thereby increasing the likelihood of a track buckle event.

What's been done as a result

Rio Tinto have implemented a range of initiatives to reduce the risk of a similar occurrence including changes to operational and maintenance procedures, enhanced strategies for responding to minor track irregularities, and a strategy for balancing tonnage over the line.

Safety message

Early detection, assessment, and effective management of track defects are critical in minimising the risk of derailment and maintaining safe rail operations.

Derailed portion of train ND575, view looking north from ore car 20322

Derailed portion of train ND575, view looking north from ore car 20322. Source:  Rio Tinto

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The occurrence


Safety analysis


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Photo source: Rio Tinto


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General details
Date: 15 December 2015 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1720 WST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):near Tom Price  
State: Western Australia  
Release date: 11 December 2017 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: None 
Train details
Line operator: Rio Tinto 
Train operator: Rio Tinto 
Train registration: ND575 
Type of operation: Iron Ore 
Sector: Freight 
Departure point:7 Mile Yard, Dampier, WA
Destination:Tom Price, WA
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Last update 11 December 2017