Whyalla Derailment - Photo: ATSB

Maintenance shortcuts led to derailment: ATSB

 

An inadequate rail joint likely led to a South Australian derailment last July, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found.

Genesee & Wyoming Australia (GWA) train 24KW was travelling towards the port of Whyalla on July 7, 2014, when a break in the line occurred, causing seven fully-loaded bottom-dumper wagons to derail.

The incident took place on a railway belonging to ASX-listed miner Arrium, between Iron Branch and 21km Junction.

Arrium’s track is continuous welded rail, meaning rail segments are joined together through flash welding.

But in the months prior to the incident, the section of rail in question had undergone tamping and re-railing. As a result, rail segments in that section were joined with bolted fishplates (welding was planned for a later date).

A fishplate joint features a pair of metal bars (fishplates) which are placed either side of a rail, and fastened together with a number of bolts.

Fishplate joint. Photo: Creative Commons / PixOnTrax
An example of a fishplate joint. Photo: Creative Commons / PixOnTrax

 

Some rail lines are joined together permanently via the fishplate method. In these cases, Australian standard joints usually feature six total bolts – three on either side of the rail joint – according to the ATSB’s report, released on April 28.

The temporary use of fishplate joints is common practice on a continuous welded line, after maintenance work has taken place. In these cases, just four bolts are typically used – two on either side of the joint – the ATSB said.

But according to the safety bureau, evidence shows that one of the fishplate joints which failed in the South Australian derailment had been secured with just two bolts – one on either side of the joint.

“Examination of the southern rail joint showed that the Iron Baron end of the joint had been fastened with only one bolt,” the ATSB said.

Whyalla derailment -- Iron Baron end of southern fishplate joint with just one bolt. Photo: ATSB
Iron Baron end of southern fishplate joint with just one bolt. Photo: ATSB

 

“While the Whyalla end of the southern rail joint had completely separated during the derailment sequence, the components were recovered and examined,” the bureau continued.

“The holes through both fractured fishplates and the rail web showed no definitive indication that bolting had been installed through two of the three bolt holes, suggesting that the assembly had also been secured through a single bolt through this end of the joint.”

On top of this, the ATSB found that bolt holes on the southern rail joint had been widened through a flame cutting method, making it hard for the bolts to be sufficiently tightened.

“It was … evident that both the field and gauge-side fishplates had been modified by slotting (elongating) the bolt hole using an oxy/acetylene thermal cutting tool,” the ATSB explained.

According to the safety bureau, flame cutting of joint components “is usually only acceptable for emergency repairs,” and when such repairs are made, a speed restriction of 10km/h is usually applied.

In this instance, however, no such restriction was applied. Train 24KW was travelling at 50km/h when the incident occurred.

Adding to the alleged use of just two bolts and widened holes on the southern joint, several fishplates in both the north and south rail joints showed signs of pre-existing fatigue, the ATSB said.

“The southern fishplated rail joint was assembled using inappropriately-modified fishplates with an inadequate number of through-bolts,” the bureau summarised, “reducing its structural integrity and allowing relative movement within the joint under the load of a train.”

Arrium’s rail line was shut for two days following the incident, while recovery personnel and track and train maintenance crew conducted recovery and restoration works.

Whyalla derailment -- Train 24KW. Photo: ATSB
Train 24KW. Photo: ATSB

 

The train sustained “serious” damage, according to the bureau’s report.

As a result of the derailment, Genesee & Wyoming Australia replaced all the fishplate joints with mechanical welding.

GWA and the contracted maintenance company, Transfield Services Australia, also completed an audit of maintenance standards and processes, and in November 2014 Transfield disseminated a document Mechanical Joint Rectification to all track maintenance staff.

 

rail damage - Transport NSW

Hunter coal network to open Wednesday afternoon

The Australian Rail Track Corporation has announced that the Hunter Valley coal rail network, which was closed by severe weather and flooding last week, will return to service early on Wednesday afternoon, April 29.

Heavy rain and wind last week left the ARTC’s Hunter and North Coast networks flooded and damaged, with the corporation announcing on Tuesday, April 21 that it had closed the rail lines.

An initial forecast for the Hunter network predicted a possible re-opening as early as last Friday, April 24. But flood waters were slow to recede, and the ARTC had to extend that forecast by at least 48 hours.

On Monday, April 27, the corporation announced that infrequent passenger services would resume in Hunter, but that operations on the Hunter coal rail network were still offline.

“We currently remain unable to operate beyond Maitland,” the track administrator said on Monday.

“Large sections of track are now visible through the water line and the local team has been able to continue repair and refurbishment of signalling and track equipment.

“There are still sections of track with high water levels around Wallis Creek Bridge, however initial inspections of the bridge structure have taken place and are positive.”

A day later, on Tuesday, April 28, the ARTC was able to confirm a forecasted re-opening of the Hunter coal rail line of “early tomorrow afternoon (29 April)”.

“ARTC is working closely with our customers and the Hunter coal chain on the operational start-up plan,” the corporation said.

“ARTC maintenance crews will continue to work through the week to return the track to normal operating conditions.”

The ARTC prepared residents for a noisy few days, saying the work would “involve heavy track repair machines working around-the-clock conducting track resurfacing and rail grinding”.

“This is essential to get the network back up and running and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

While the forecast will be welcomed by operators on the crucial Maitland-to-Newcastle line and the broader Hunter network, users on the ARTC’s interstate, North Coast track are in for a longer wait.

The North Coast network, which was crippled by fast-moving flood waters which removed huge sections of ballast, and landslides which in places completely covered the rail line, is still closed a week later.

“The mid North Coast track remains closed, however works have been progressing well,” the ARTC said. “A number of minor repair jobs have been completed.

“Focus remains on two major project sites around Tocal where geotechnical assessments have been completed and all-weather and alternative access roads are being prepared to allow for consistent supply of materials.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Hunter Valley network on track; North Coast remains closed

The Australian Rail Track Corporation is still unable to operate serviced beyond Maitland, but main line operations for local passenger trains have returned to the Hunter network since it was closed last week due to flooding.

The ARTC said on Sunday night that the Hunter Valley network should be opened by Monday morning, but confirmed that the North Coast line would remain closed.

Following flooding and high winds last week, the ARTC shut the Hunter Valley network between Maitland and the Port of Newcastle, along with its North Coast network.

Initially the authority believed it could re-open the Hunter network on Friday last week, but flood waters were slow to retreat, and the ARTC announced a further closer to the Hunter network of 48 hours.

The ARTC said on Monday that it would be able to give a forecast for return to services between Maitland and the port sometime on Tuesday afternoon.

“With flood waters dropping over the weekend and improved weather conditions, ARTC teams have been able to make good progress with repairs to the track between the Port of Newcastle and Maitland,” the ARTC said.

A Pacific National test train was run on the track to de-scale the rail and ensure all repaired signaling and track circuitry was working properly.

“The Maitland flood gates remain up but water has been dropping at a rate that we expect the gates to be removed tomorrow morning,” the ARTC said.

“There are still sections of track with high water levels around Wallis Creek, and this will be the key area of focus for our team after the flood gates come down.

“Some parts of the network are still without power, and there remains a sizeable track repair and signalling repair job to take place over coming days.”

The ARTC said crews will continue to work through the week to return the track to normal operating conditions.

“Residents are advised that this will involve heavy track repair machines working around-the-clock conducting track resurfacing and rail grinding.

“This is essential to get the network back up and running and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The corporation said it will continue to work with customers and the Hunter coal chain on an operational start up plan for coal, passenger and general freight that will take into account the need to meet passenger timetables, provide coal customers with access to the port, “and above all, safety”.

The North Coast network, which sustained substantial damage during last week’s extreme weather – including severe ballast washouts and several landslips – remains closed, with no forecast for re-opening yet offered by the ARTC.

Melbourne Tram

PTV chair steps down

Public Transport Victoria chairman Ian Dobbs has told premier Daniel Andrews he will not be returning to his post at the end of his current term on June 30.

Andrews announced on Friday that Dobbs had informed him he would step down.

“Earlier today Ian Dobbs advised me that he would not be seeking another term as Chair of the Public Transport Victoria Board,” Andrews said on Friday, April 24.

“Ian has had a long and decorated career in public transport, both here and overseas.

“As inaugural chair and chief executive officer of PTV, he was a strong advocate for better public transport for Victoria.”

Andrews said Dobbs’ work will be continued through ongoing projects, including the much-talked-about Melbourne Metro Rail, the Level Crossing Removal Project and a number of other PTV projects.

“On behalf of the Government, I would like to thank Ian for his significant contribution to Victoria over many years and wish him all the best for the future,” Andrews concluded.

Dobbs was named inaugural chief executive and chairman when PTV was founded in April 2012. As per legislation, Dobbs handed the role of chief executive over to Mark Wild on February 1, 2014.

Before taking up his role at PTV, Dobbs led the former Victorian Public Transport Corporation from 1993 to 1998.

rail damage - Transport NSW

Hunter network to remain closed; North Coast significantly damaged

After it originally thought it could re-open its Hunter Valley network as early as Thursday afternoon, the Australian Rail Track Corporation has announced the network will remain closed for at least 48 hours longer.

Re-opening of the ARTC’s North Coast network looks to be even further away, with significant damage recorded and crews scrambling just to get a grip on just how much repair work is needed.

The ARTC said on Wednesday night the Hunter Valley coal network was expected to re-open on Thursday afternoon, but warned that “the reopening [of the Hunter Valley network] remains contingent on improved weather conditions and receding water levels which continue to hamper repair works.”

It appears that those conditions did not improve for the ARTC overnight.

Due to high flood waters, the Maitland flood gates being closed and continued difficult conditions, the forecast for a return of Hunter Valley operations was revised on Thursday around noon, with a re-opening pushed back “an additional 48 hours at the earliest.”

The ARTC closed the Hunter and North Coast networks on Monday, due to  extreme weather and flooding in the region.

With the extended difficult conditions, the Hunter Valley network will remain closed now, meaning Hunter coal train, freight and passenger services remain suspended.

Re-opening of the North Coast network, which suffered major damage to its ballast at various points, looks to be even further away, however.

“The ARTC network along the mid-North Coast around Dungog remains closed and there is no current forecast for re-opening,” ARTC said on Wednesday.

“Initial track inspections indicate more than 18 sites have experienced significant washaways or landslips and each will require significant reinstatement works.”

ARTC confirmed on Thursday that its crews have now identified 22 work sites along the line, which require “significant repair works,” with “a large amount of track underwater”.

In one of those landslip sites, the ARTC said, a large embankment, approximately 8m high and 75m in length, washed out and across the rail line.

“The high water has compounded the response task and 14km of track between Paterson and Telarah is either under water or still unable to be inspected due to flooding and access being closed off (both on foot and by road),” the ARTC said.

“Given the nature and the extent of the damage ARTC is mobilising a dedicated project team to coordinate the repair and recovery efforts required. Project planning and sourcing equipment, material, supplies and other resources is underway.”

The ARTC said the damage to the rail line is believed to be worse than that of the 2007 floods in the same region.

“The scale of the response and high water levels mean ARTC is unable to provide a forecast for a return to operations for this section of the network.”

Track Ballast - photo public domain

‘Hundreds of metres’ of North Coast ballast washed away

The Australian Rail Track Corporation has confirmed damage to its North Coast network includes the removal of substantial amounts of ballast by flooding this week.

ARTC’s Hunter Valley and North Coast networks remained closed on Wednesday, with operations suspended due to extreme weather, and damage to tracks and associated infrastructure.

Crews from the track authority began to inspect the damage in the Hunter and mid-North Coast regions throughout Wednesday, to get a better idea of the damage and to begin planning repairs.

“Conditions and access throughout the region remain difficult,” the ARTC said, “and it will take throughout today [Wednesday] to get a full picture of the repair task and any initial forecasts.”

The ARTC announced the closure of the lines on Tuesday, after high rainfall, severe flooding, strong winds, fallen trees and debris, power failures and fallen power lines impacted the Hunter Valley network, particularly between Maitland and the Port of Newcastle.

“A number of track locations are under water,” the ARTC said on Wednesday. “Full assessment will not be able to be made until water levels recede.

“Damage in the North Coast includes hundreds of metres of ballast washed away at various locations, a number of land slips and damage to signalling equipment.”

Further south, high winds also impacted services into Port Botany overnight on Tuesday, and the Sydney Metropolitan Freight Network was impacted by the weather on Wednesday morning.

rail damage - Transport NSW

Photos show alarming damage to track at Dungog

Transport NSW Info has shared a pair of photos showing significant damage to rail infrastructure north of Dungog as a result of the extreme weather conditions experienced in NSW on Tuesday.

“Today’s severe weather conditions have disrupted many public transport services across the state,” Transport NSW Info wrote on its Facebook page just after noon on Tuesday.

“The Hunter Line remains closed due to flooding at Hexham. These pictures show the damage to the track north of Dungog.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Extreme weather knocks out ARTC’s Hunter Valley network

No coal trains are running into Newcastle on Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) lines, and extensive repairs are needed before the ARTC can reopen its Hunter Valley coal and North Coast networks, after wild weather forced closures on Tuesday.

“All coal and freight services into Maitland and Newcastle have been suspended due to flooding,” the ARTC reported on Tuesday afternoon.

“The ARTC network in the Hunter Valley and North Coast, NSW, has been impacted significantly by the extreme weather conditions being experienced across northern NSW at the moment.

“High rainfall, severe flooding, strong winds, fallen trees and debris, power failures and fallen power lines and power poles have all contributed to operations being halted in the Hunter Valley coal network and trains travelling via the North Coast of NSW.”

As a result of that damage, the rail manager said extensive repairs will be needed, with no timetable set for the line to be reopened.

“The track will require extensive repairs in order to return services safely,” the ARTC said.

“Given the current weather conditions and forecast further weather events and rising water over track, it is not possible to provide a forecast for when services might return.

“Access to locations is difficult and while the weather continues, staff will continue to monitor the situation, begin initial planning and mobilise resources in readiness for when the repair works can safely begin.

“ARTC is working hard to return services as quickly as possible, however there is currently no forecast for return to operations.

“The track washaways on the North Coast will take some time to repair.”

The weather conditions also halted several passenger services in the region, with NSW TrainLink reporting the closure of its Hunter Line services, and partial closure of its Central Coast & Newcastle Line services.

Bryan Nye photo Informa

National prosperity drives Nye’s passion for reform

Departing ARA chief executive Bryan Nye says the industry needs to continue working together to achieve future prosperity for Australia’s economy, and its people.

Nye doesn’t describe himself as a rail tragic. Instead, he sees himself as being passionate about transport reform.

“We’ve got it wrong in Australia,” Nye told Rail Express, “and we’re lagging behind the rest of the world … We’ve got to change that.

“You think about Australia’s geography, the demographics, the size of the country and where the centres are: Rail is a mode of choice that we have failed to address, and we’re just beginning to address it properly now.”

Nye this week announced his decision to leave the ARA after 12 years of hard work as its chief executive. When he joined the association in 2003, he and his staff had to build from the ground up.

“We had to build a credibility within the industry first, to establish ourselves,” he explained.

“We did that by getting the companies to work together, developing some policies, papers … As soon as the government realised the industry could get itself together, it started to listen.

“I think that’s the importance of it,” he continued. “If everybody says, for example, ‘The number one priority right now is Inland Rail,’ then the government will sit up and listen.

“That’s what excites me. Trying to get governments to pick up good reforms.

“Look at Sydney: it’s getting another harbour crossing, new light rail, the North West Rail Link … all of that comes from the public and the industry getting together to put pressure to make the government respond.

“That’s the benefit of the industry working together.”

Nye, who championed the establishment of the Rail Industry and Safety Standards Board in 2005, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the rail transport industry in January 2014.

He plans to continue to work with the rail industry, and feels he can be a valuable contributor to industry boards and panels in the future.

“Rail is crucial to Australia’s economy, and it’s whole productivity,” Nye said.

“If we’re going to get greater government involvement and investment in rail, the industry needs to come together and be of one voice. That’s vital.”

 

A full profile of Bryan Nye and his career with the ARA will feature in the AusRAIL edition of Rail Express, which will be released at this year’s AusRAIL PLUS, scheduled for Melbourne from November 24 to 26.

Melbourne Metro alignment

Andrews details alignment for Metro tunnels

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has vowed to “get on” with the Melbourne Metro project, announcing the preferred alignment and depth of rail tunnels.

Andrews was joined on Thursday morning by minister for public transport Jacinta Allan to announce the Labor Government’s plan to align the twin 9km tunnels under Swanston Street through the Melbourne CBD.

Andrews and Allan also announced that the tunnels will be at a depth of just 10m below surface, rather than an earlier proposal of 40m.

“Aligning Melbourne Metro with Swanston Street is better for passengers and taxpayers,” Andrews said.

“Confirming the preferred alignment and not proceeding with the Liberals’ East West Link means we can get on with the project our state needs and the project our state voted for: Melbourne Metro Rail.”

The alignment announcement follows planning and technical work undertaken by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, which was established with $40 million in funding in February.

The work shows the Swanston Street alignment to be “the most convenient location for commuters and the most cost-effective option for construction,” according to the Government.

A proposed alignment with Russell Street was ruled out as it wouldn’t allow passengers to transfer directly between the City Loop and the new Melbourne Metro tunnels.

Another proposed alignment, beneath Elizabeth Street, revealed unstable ground conditions and significant and costly engineering challenges, the Government detailed on Thursday.

The 10m depth for the tunnels was chosen as it was decided deeper tunnels were not convenient for commuters, and were not as safe in case of emergency.

The reduced depth of the tunnels also means construction of the project can take place “more efficiently,” the Government said.

Melbourne Metro Rail Authority plans to investigate a number of measures to reduce disruption throughout the CBD during construction.

“During the procurement phase, bidders will be encouraged to further improve the design and minimise disruption,” the Government said.

“Identifying a preferred route and depth for the rail tunnels allows more detailed investigations to be undertaken in the project’s ongoing planning and development.

“It will also allow the Authority to undertake detailed consultation with stakeholders, including Swanston Street traders, later this year.”

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the preferred alignment was a good result for commuters.

“Two new underground city stations, connected to the City Loop and close to street level, will make it easier to get into and around Melbourne,” Allan said.

“Victoria needs a bigger, better train system and the Andrews Labor Government is getting on with it.”