Logistics News

ATSB releases WA freight train fatality preliminary report

Pacific National driver killed in collision with stationary train in December 2019


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued the preliminary findings into a fatal freight train collision at Jumperkine in Western Australia on Christmas Eve last year.

Functionality of locomotive braking control and vigilance systems, driver-only operations, and human performance considerations such as fatigue are among the areas of interest for the ongoing investigation.

At about 2am on December 24, Pacific National freight train 7MP5 collided with the rear of stationary grain train 2K66.

The freight train’s lead locomotive was substantially damaged and filled up with a “significant amount of grain”, ATSB reports.

The driver was fatally injured during the incident.

The preliminary report notes that when the grain train had come to a stop behind a red signal at Jumperkine, the freight train was 14.5km behind and approaching Jumperkine.

Nearing Jumperkine, the freight train passed a signal set at caution (yellow), then a ‘Temporary Speed Restriction Ahead’ sign warning of a 30km/h speed restriction in 2,500m.

Shortly after the driver acknowledged an alert from the train’s vigilance system, the train passed a Jumperkine signal set at stop while travelling at 72km/h.

About 60 metres after the stop signal, train 7MP5 passed the subsequent ‘Temporary Speed Restriction Start’ sign, with the driver applying the service brake about three seconds later.

The train’s speed gradually reduced as it travelled around a sweeping left-hand curve and onto a straight section of track.

It is likely that the rear of the grain train came into view at about this point and the emergency brake was applied.

The collision happened about 13 seconds later.

The bureau notes shortly before the collision, a network controller had attempted to contact the driver after a ‘Signal Passed at Danger’ alarm was triggered, but there was no response.

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ATSB director transport safety Dr Stuart Godley says investigators will further examine the functionality of the relevant locomotive’s braking controls, vigilance system and available event data recorders and video recordings.

“ATSB preliminary reports detail basic factual information established in the investigation’s early evidence collection phase and do not contain findings, identify contributing factors or outline safety issues and actions, which will be detailed in an investigation’s final and any interim reports,” he adds.

“In the coming months transport safety investigators will examine the functionality of the locomotive’s braking and vigilance control systems and undertake further analysis of event data recorders and video recordings.

“Other areas of further investigation include risk controls associated with collisions and Signals Passed At Danger authority exceedances, a review of driver-only operations, human performance controls and well as factors affecting human performance such as fatigue, health and fitness.

“A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation, however, should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.”

The preliminary report notes Pacific National has proactively taken a number of safety actions since the accident, including adding a second crew member to trains operating between midnight and 6am.

The preliminary report is available here.


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