ARTC's lax maintenance standards cause of truck-train collision

New report slams ARTC's maintenance standards for collision between truck and train in South Australia

By Brad Gardner

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has found a maintenance hazard near a rail line in South Australia was ignored, resulting in a collision between a truck and the Ghan.

The ATSB has released its report following its investigation into the August 6 incident involving a loaded sewage truck at the Murrow Farm level crossing near Two Wells.

According to the findings, the truck driver was unable to see the train because of excessive vegetation growing on the roadside.

It has criticised the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) lack of maintenance of the surrounding area, saying the vegetation was identified as a danger but nothing was done about it.

"The maintenance practices for the clearing of vegetation at the Murrow Farm level crossing were inadequate to maintain effective sighting of trains," the report says.

"Programmed works that had identified the vegetation as a sighting hazard which was to be rectified within 28 days had not been carried out in accordance with the relevant maintenance specification."

Instead of addressing the situation, the report says the ARTC decided to delay maintenance work for180 days without any reassessment of the hazard.

In order to avert future collisions, the ATSB’s report recommends more stringent maintenance procedures at all rail crossings.

The incident involving the sewage truck happened about 11:35am. The report says the truck driver stopped and changed gear before driving over the railway line, where it collided with the Ghan which was travelling at 93km/h.

"The truck driver was seriously injured and the truck was destroyed. The train driver was not injured but two passengers on the train reported minor injuries," the report says.

Furthermore, two passengers sustained minor injuries.

Although the crossing had a stop sign, the ATSB investigation found even if the driver had stopped the vegetation beside the road would have still restricted him from seeing the oncoming train.

The ATSB also recommends installing signs closer to the nearest rail, saying it will help drivers gain a clearer view of approaching trains. Currently, signs are placed at least 3.5 metres from the rail line.

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