ATSB Issues Report on Near Miss with Train's Passengers

In May 2014, a passenger train nearly ran into a group of passengers who were walking on the tracks to board a bus after their own train was delayed. At the time the driver saw them, his train was moving about 73 mph; he applied emergency brakes and managed to stop his train in time.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau issued a report Jan. 17 after completing its investigation of an May 22, 2014, incident where a passenger train nearly ran into a group of passengers who were walking on the tracks to board a bus after their own train was delayed. At the time the driver saw them, his train was moving about 73 mph; he applied emergency brakes and managed to stop his train in time, and no one was injured.

ATSB said the incident highlights the importance of establishing clear roles and responsibilities and adhering to established rules and procedures. It happened on a section of track near Kilbride, New South Wales, that is a single track carrying a mix of passenger and freight trains. There is a crossing loop at Kilbride to allow trains to pass each other, and the approaching train was nearing the loop when the driver saw a bus at a grade crossing ahead and saw people on the tracks walking toward him. A disabled coal train had delayed their passenger train, and the passengers had been detrained to reach alternative road transport, but the crew of their train had not complied with the Australian Rail Track Corporation network rules when detraining the passengers, according to ATSB.

The agency's investigation also found that key operational staffers of NSW Trains and Sydney Trains continued to operate under RailCorp legacy systems, even though documented transitional arrangements had re-established lines of responsibility and authority, and their misunderstanding of roles, responsibilities, and limits of authority probably contributed to inadequate communication between critical safe working positions.

"Thankfully, no one was injured," said ATSB Executive Director of Safety Nat Nagy. "But this shows that we cannot afford to make assumptions when it comes to safety."

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