The reporter expressed a safety concern relating to the communication issues at the [location].
The reporter advised that there are many communication issues at the [location], including the wagon shop area. This is exacerbated by the radio system not working correctly. Until this system is upgraded, and there is no indication that this is planned, drivers and rail workers are required to monitor many different frequencies in a confined area and to use work arounds to communicate with different areas. Drivers are required to pass messages from workers using one channel to workers using another channel. This results is drivers being distracted while they are moving trains.
Communication blackouts also occurs frequently within this complex and more recently additional complexities have occurred by the introduction of more communication channels and changed procedures.
Reporter comment: There have been numerous incidents including signal passed at danger (SPAD) events, derailments and shunting related incidents. I am very concerned that in all the investigations conducted, the communication system has never been addressed. In every case where an incident has occurred, the individual involved has been stood down from duty. The common thread to all outcomes is that the driver did not stop the movement when communication was lost.
Management need to make it a priority that the communication system is upgraded to ensure that people are working in a safe environment.
Operator's response (Operator 1)
Communication blackouts occur in some yards due to the local topography, age of the equipment, weather conditions, the radio type being used (handheld or loco cab), and the variability of the positioning of the train cab in relation to other rolling stock. While every effort is made to ensure that radio coverage is 100% at the time of installation, the coverage level will vary slightly over time.
The radio system employed is extensively monitored, and well maintained. Individual radio base units at [location] are 5 to 7 years old and are regularly maintained.
The entire radio network is currently planned for replacement due to a number of reasons including regulatory requirements imposed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The project is entering feasibility stage with an intended date for overall completion of late 2018. The scope of the project is to replace all radio base units, antennas, and associated infrastructure relating to the following systems:-
- Train Control Radio (TCR)
- Maintenance Supervisory Radio (MSR)
- Shunt and Yard Radio systems
- Wayside announcement systems.
Regulator's response (Regulator 1)
Rail Regulation Queensland acknowledges the contents of the report. Rail Regulation will not be providing any comments on this or any future REPCON reports.