Rail safety issues and actions

Application of a controlled speed requirement by network control

Issue number: RO-2018-007-SI-03
Who it affects: Network control
Issue owner: Queensland Rail
Transport function: Rail: Operations control
Background: Investigation Report RO-2018-007
Issue release date: 30 June 2020
Current issue status: Open – Safety action pending

Safety issue description

Queensland Rail did not have any restrictions on the distance or time that controlled speed could be used as a risk control for safe train operation in situations such as a condition affecting the network (CAN). The effectiveness of controlled speed has the significant potential to deteriorate over extended time periods due to its effect on driver workload, vigilance, fatigue and risk perception.

Proactive action

Action number: RO-2018-007-NSA-032
Action organisation: Queensland Rail
Date: 30 June 2020
Action status: Monitor

In June 2020, in response to the draft ATSB report, Queensland Rail advised:

Queensland Rail liaised with other rail traffic operators who use the Queensland Rail network to develop a clear understanding of the requirements of RTCs [rail traffic crews] when receiving instructions to operate at Controlled Speed.

Additionally, the updated “MD-18-20” [Condition affecting the Network (CAN) Management] procedure requires the NCO to confirm with RTC their understanding of “Controlled Speed”.

Queensland Rail human factors and technical subject matter experts undertook a detailed review into the application of controlled speed on the Queensland rail network.

The review concluded that due to the complex interactions between a vast number of performance shaping factors, a ‘one size fits all’ solution such as a blanket ban on the use of controlled speed was is unlikely to be suitable across the many possible operational contexts and conditions experienced on the network. These factors included (but were not limited to):

•  The environment (e.g. rainfall, daylight / night-time running, line of sight, gradient etc.)

•  Locomotive and rollingstock characteristics (e.g. braking performance, loco class, weight etc.)

•  Human Factors (route knowledge, experience, workload, risk perception, non-technical skills etc.)

Furthermore (and notwithstanding the significant amount of research on driver behaviour for road vehicles), there is a lack of scientific research that has looked at the reasons for noncompliance and speeding related infringements for train drivers operating under controlled speed. This makes an evidence-based decision regarding a specific time or distance restriction difficult to establish, and industry benchmarking does not appear to provide a clear or consistent position supporting the adoption of such restrictions.

Building on the changes introduced by MD-20-53 [Instruction – Regional Network Operational Status], Queensland Rail intends to review MD-18-20 to update and integrate seamlessly with MD-20-53 and following consultation with relevant above rail operators seek to integrate further information that guides the use and conditions around controlled speed vs restricted speed and communication frequency between network control and rail traffic crew including relevant enquiry by network controllers into how the rail traffic crew are managing other human factors issues within the driving cab i.e. rotation and rest breaks.

ATSB comment:

The ATSB appreciates the activities by Queensland Rail (QR) so far to review this issue, and acknowledges that a blanket ban on the use of controlled speed is not necessary. The ATSB notes that QR is undertaking further work to guide the use and conditions around controlled speed and restricted speed, and the ATSB will seek updates on the progress of QR’s additional work to address this issue on a regular basis.

Last update 30 June 2020