Reference number
Published date
Affected operation/industry
Concern subject type
Concern summary

Safety concern regarding passenger Information Systems (PIS) overriding intercom

Reporter's deidentified concern

The reporter has raised a safety concern regarding the Passenger Information System (PIS) on [multiple models] locomotives. The reporter states that the PIS overrides the intercom system which guards use to communicate with the driver. The reporter is concerned that an imminent hazard may not be able to be communicated to the driver. The reporter states that this concern has been raised with [Operator] and has been advised that a fix is planned for 2024. However, the reporter does not believe there are adequate alternate risk controls in place and believes the PIS needs to be replaced with a 2-channel system immediately.

Named party's response

[Operator's] Passenger Information System (PIS) is a communication system on all referenced train units that is operating as per the configured design.

The PIS provides information to customers relative to trip information, safety announcements and is used for emergency situations and evacuation announcements for on board customers. Please note, the PIS is the only audible way for customers using the Hearing Loop to obtain such information (meeting [Operator's] Disability Standards requirements), and therefore cannot be interrupted. 

While [Operator] acknowledges that guards and drivers can utilise the internal train intercom to communicate, the intercom is neither the default, nor only communication method between guard and driver relative to safety critical communication.

All trains have train control radios (TCR) that are standalone channels that cannot be affected by the PIS. If a guard believes they need to speak to a driver, and the intercom is not functioning as required (for any reason), then the TCR is the next means of communication. The TCR also has an emergency functionality, giving the user sole control over the bandwidth from the broadcasting of emergency information, if required. The stated use of both the intercom and TCR are in line with [Operator's] rules and procedures.

In addition, if a guard believes an interruption or loss of communication creates safety concerns, then they have the ability to communicate a stop direction to the driver via rightaway bells. As per [Operator's] procedures, one bell indicates 'stop', and three bells indicates 'emergency stop'.

Lastly, in the event the guard and driver lose all communications and the driver hasn't responded to rightaway bell 'stop' or 'emergency stop' signals, and the guard believes there is an imminent safety risk present; they are trained and authorised to use the emergency valve to stop the train until communications can be restored or the situation has ceased. 

[Operator] can confirm that a communications upgrade project has commenced to replace the existing PIS and this system has two channel functionality which should remove the issues raised. The first part of the project is in implementation phase, and upon completion of verification and validation, the project will be rolled out to the remainder of the fleet.

Regulator's response

ONRSR has reviewed the reporter’s concerns and operator’s response. In this instance ONRSR is satisfied with the operator’s response considering there are additional controls available to the driver and guard to stop the train should an emergency arise.