Safety, Standards & Regulation

ATSB reviewing derailments, finalises reports

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is currently investigating two derailments that occurred in late 2020.

The first derailment occurred on December 15, when a grain train heading for Port Kembla derailed on the Moss Value to Unanderra Line near Dombarton. No injuries were reported when the 39 wagons derailed. Train crew indicated that they had lost brakes while descending.

The investigation will be led by the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI) on behalf of the ATSB.

In a statement, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which manages the section of line, said that due to the location the recovery process would face access challenges. ARTC is working to identify other train routes to port.

On December 30 a fully loaded fertiliser train derailed near Charters Towers, in Queensland. The train, heading to Townsville, hit a flooded section of track on the Mount Isa rail system, causing 13 wagons to derail and spill fertiliser along the corridor. The remaining 22 wagons and hauling locomotives remains on the tracks.

The previous day had seen 84mm of rain fall in a 45 minute period. A culvert at the site had limited capacity to control the water overflow, causing the ballast to wash away. The driver had seen debris across the track, however was unable to stop the train.

Acting CEO of Queensland Rail, Kat Stapleton, said that as of January 6, the line had returned to service.

“Over the past six days, crews have worked to repair the rail infrastructure, including the replacement of culvert piping, track, ballast and sleepers which were stored locally, fast-tracking the recovery efforts,” said Stapleton.

Investigations finalised

The ATSB has finalised a number of reports into rail incidents going back to 2018.

Following a derailment near Glenalta in 2018 caused by a structural crack in the underframe of a wagon, rollingstock manager Pacific National has revised its maintenance and inspection procedures.

After a coal train collided with a detached bogie near Muswellbrook in 2018, the Moolarben loading terminal has implemented a more detailed verification process and corrected a malfunctioning sensor. A number of other reviews at the terminal have also been conducted.

Load restrain systems were a focus in an investigation into a V/Line train striking a steel coil that feel from a freight train in 2018. Having dislodged from its fastenings, the coil fell off the freight train and damaged the track. A subsequent passenger train struck the coil at 110km/h. Two crew members suffered minor injuries.

When the lead bogie of a freight wagon derailed near Creighton, Victoria, in 2019, a site inspection found that a mud hole has resulted in a loss of ballast and misaligned section of track. High temperatures on the day also contributed to the track misalignment. After the derailment the ARTC reviewed its Track Stability Management Plan.

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