Rail safety investigations & reports

Derailment of coal train EF01, Duaringa, Queensland, on 24 January 2018

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

Final Report

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[Download  PDF: 2.86MB]

What happened

At 1347 on 24 January 2018, loaded Aurizon coal train EF01 encountered a track buckle at Duaringa, on Aurizon Network’s Blackwater System between Emerald and Rockhampton, Queensland. The buckle resulted in 17 wagons in the train consist derailing, damaging 502 m of track on the down line and 54 m of track on the adjacent up line, with rails, sleepers and overhead line equipment requiring replacement. Thirteen coal wagons were extensively damaged and not expected to be repaired. There were no injuries.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found the track buckle had formed on a falling 1 in 50 grade at the point of the track where ballast cleaning and track stabilisation work had been completed less than 12 hours earlier. The ballast cleaning operational plan did not consider compressive stress in the continuous welded rail as a risk at this location.

The compressive stress, steep grade, proximity to a turnout and high ambient temperature meant the track structure had a limited capacity to constrain lateral forces. While the ballast cleaning, track resurfacing and dynamic track stabilisation work met Aurizon Network’s civil engineering track standards, negative operational outcomes were not anticipated when a risk assessment was done for the site.

What has been done as a result

While work was conducted to re-open the Blackwater System, de-stressing was performed on the down line on the approach to the point of derailment, and on the up line on both sides of the turnout adjacent to the point of derailment.

Aurizon Network has changed its procedures to ensure a temporary speed restriction is applied to all work sites on which ballast undercutting has been performed. The restriction is to remain in place until rail adjustment or stress testing has been completed and it has been determined that the rail stresses are within accepted limits. In addition, sites with a high risk of compressive rail stress will be identified and added to the site hazard map before conducting ballast cleaning.

Safety message

The incident highlights the importance of developing, maintaining and consulting a network hazard register to identify locations at risk of buckling, and producing site-specific risk assessments that consider rail stress when planning track disturbing maintenance work.  

The incident also demonstrates that effective rail stress management is dependent on a knowledge of the rail stress free temperature and the identification of any variations from that stress free temperature.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 2.86MB]

The occurrence


Safety analysis


Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions

Safety Issues

Go to RO-2018-005-SI-01 - Go to RO-2018-005-SI-02 -

Use of hazard location register

When planning track disturbing work, Aurizon’s normal practice was to use its Hazard Location Register as a record of past occurrences at a specific location. Aurizon did not use the Hazard Location Register as a resource to consider the situational characteristics of a location that may increase risk, such as continuous welded rail, track gradient and proximity to fixed points such as turnouts or level crossings.

Safety issue details
Issue number: RO-2018-005-SI-01
Who it affects: Train crew and passengers on board trains on Aurizon-owned track
Status: Adequately addressed

Management of rail stress

A variety of techniques to indicate and record rail stress at specific locations are available, however, Aurizon had not used any of these techniques in some locations with elevated risk of rail stress, such as tangent track on steep grades. As a result, Aurizon could not readily determine the presence or absence of compressive rail stress at these locations.

Safety issue details
Issue number: RO-2018-005-SI-02
Who it affects: Train crew and passengers on board trains on Aurizon-owned track
Status: Adequately addressed
General details
Date: 24 January 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1347 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): between Duaringa and Aroona   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Queensland    
Release date: 28 June 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Train details

Train details
Line operator Aurizon network  
Train operator Aurizon  
Train registration EF01  
Type of operation Coal train (freight)  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Substantial  
Last update 28 June 2019