Rail safety investigations & reports

Derailment of freight train 6BM9 at Creighton, Victoria on 21 January 2019

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

On 21 January 2019, freight train 6BM9 was to travel from a logistics terminal in Barnawartha in northern Victoria to Altona, in Melbourne. The train consisted of two locomotives and 31 freight wagons. The train departed Barnawartha at about 1400 and travelled in a south-westerly direction through Wangaratta, Benalla and Euroa.

At 1530, the train passed through Creighton travelling at about 100 km/h. About 0.5 km after crossing Creighton Siding Road, the leading bogie of the third-last wagon derailed. The wagon derailed a short distance before a rail bridge. The train was brought to a stop with minor damage to the wagon and track, and no injuries.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the wagon probably derailed as a result of the lateral misalignment of the track. The track misalignment was not evident to the locomotive crew when the train entered the location and developed under the dynamic loading of the train.

The track misalignment was probably primarily the result of track lateral instability. A mud hole at the derailment location had resulted in poor ballast support of sleepers, reducing the track’s resistance to movement. A combination of this degraded support and compressive forces within the rails created conditions for track instability. The longitudinal compressive forces were due to the hot conditions of that day, and possibly localised low stress-free-temperatures in the rails near the rail bridge.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) systems for managing track lateral stability did not lead to the location being managed as a special location potentially vulnerable to instability. Although the reduced ballast profile at the mud hole had been identified and monitored in accordance with the ARTC code of practice, more significant levels of response were available to manage the risk of instability. These included repair or imposing a temporary speed restriction when temperatures reached a predetermined limit.

What has been done as a result

ARTC advised that its Track Stability Management Plan (TSMP) for the section containing Creighton has been reviewed. As a result, the 2019/20 TSMP included Stress Free Temperature testing at several sites, and 13 sites were identified as special locations for the monitoring of track stability, including the Creighton derailment site.

ATSB has made a safety recommendation for ARTC to review its systems for the identification and management of track vulnerable to instability, considering the findings of this report.

Safety message

It is important for rail infrastructure managers to have systems in place to identify track sections vulnerable to lateral instability during the summer period.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 1.48MB]

The occurrence


Safety analysis


Safety issues and actions

Additional train details

Sources and submissions


Safety Issue

Go to RO-2019-003-SI-01 -

Management of track lateral stability

The ARTC systems for managing track lateral stability did not lead to the location being managed as a location potentially vulnerable to instability.

Safety issue details
Issue number: RO-2019-003-SI-01
Status: Open – Safety action pending
General details
Date: 21 January 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1540 AEST   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Creighton   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Victoria    
Release date: 16 December 2020   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Train details

Train details
Line operator Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)  
Train operator SCT Logistics  
Train registration 6BM9  
Type of operation Freight Service  
Sector Freight  
Damage to train Substantial  
Departure point Bromelton, Queensland  
Destination Altona, Victoria  
Last update 16 December 2020