AN INVESTIGATION into the derailment of a coal train at Boggabri in 2012 has blamed the accident on the poor condition of the track and the lifting of a speed restriction just days before the crash.
The fully-laden 76-wagon Pacific National train was crossing the Coxs Creek Bridge on November 28 when six carriages left the tracks, severely damaging the bridge and destroying 130m of rail line.
Around-the-clock repairs to the track had it reopened on December 20, but the closure caused major headaches for the grains and mining industries as backlogged commodities were forced onto trucks before being moved back onto rail further down the line.
The recently-released report from the Office of Transport Safety Investigations found the coal train derailed as a buckle formed in the track due to errors with track stability calculations, the track infrastructure “being in generally poor and variable condition”, the “inappropriate” lifting of a speed restriction and the track leading up to the bridge “not being maintained to the applicable engineering standards”.
The report also said there was no evidence to suggest that the train, train management, the drivers or the condition of the bridge itself contributed in any way to the accident.
It was found the train was travelling at 76km/h at the time of the derailment, with no speed restrictions in place.
Throughout 2012 Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) track managers imposed speed restrictions at various times of between 30km/h and 40km/h due to “serious flaws within the track infrastructure”.
However, a week before the accident a track manager had lifted a 40km/h speed limit in the mistaken belief a track stabiliser machine had run over the track.
“It had not. The machine had broken down and he did not become aware of that fact until after the derailment,” the report stated.
The report revealed that since the accident, the ARTC had completed a significant upgrade of the track between Gunnedah and Turrawan, near Narrabri, and the organisation was continuing to implement and train staff in a track stability management planning process.
Investigators also noted in their report that there was evidence to suggest the site may have been disturbed inadvertently by human traffic prior to the arrival of investigators, despite it having been quarantined immediately after the accident.
“The experience demonstrates the critical importance of securing incident sites and compliance with quarantine instructions until investigators arrive on site.”