PacNat in court over train crash report

The freight rail group will be part of a court case into a 2019 freight rail crash

PacNat in court over train crash report
The court case focuses on a report on a 2019 PacNat crash

The federal government is taking freight rail group Pacific National to court over the reports of an investigation into a Western Australian train crash.

The court case comes after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has been investigating a collision for two years between a PacNat train and a bulk grain train.

The crash between a PacNat intermodal freight train and an American haulage group Watco grain train occurred on Christmas Eve on 2019.

The investigation into the fatal two train collision at Jumperkine in Perth’s Avon Valley was due to finish halfway through 2022 but is now being taken to court.

The ATSB is representing the commonwealth and has filed a lawsuit in the federal court’s New South Wales branch asking for Pacific National to declare the final investigation report on the collision.

The bureau also wants to access witness statements from staff members and aims to ensure these reports aren’t bound by legal professional privilege and are given to the ATSB.

In a preliminary ATSB report in April 2020, the bureau investigated braking and control systems around the incident to determine more details about the accident.

The report says that the PacNat train was operated by a lone driver and was travelling on rail tracks behind the Watco train when it hit the back of the train while travelling at more than 40 kilometres per hour.

According to the report, the PacNat train driver previously passed a signal indicating danger, which requires a train to stop, while traveling at around 72 kilometres an hour.

This all occurred shortly before the incident, setting off an alarm in rail infrastructure group Arc’s control centre.

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The preliminary report then says that the Arc Infrastructure network controller called the PacNat driver on the radio, but the ATSB says the driver never replied to these calls.

The case management hearing is scheduled for June 3, with PacNat saying the ATSB has been investigating the incident since 2019.

"Throughout this time Pacific National has fully co-operated with the ATSB providing in excess of 1,400 documents over the past two years to assist with its investigation," a PacNat spokeswoman says.

"The business respects the legal process and is unable to comment further until the proceedings have concluded."

Following the incident PacNat conducted a review into its freight rail operations and has added a second driver to trains that operate between midnight and 6am.

Arc Infrastructure has also changed its signal systems on the Avon Valley route to better communicate with train crews, while PacNat has worked to make radio volumes operate louder.

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