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Early in the morning on October 12, 2014, Genesee & Wyoming’s 7MD3 train collided with a ute which had become stuck on the tracks near the bridge over the Katherine River on the Adelaide-Darwin railway, in the Northern Territory.
The driver of the kilometre-long train, which was hauling 78 wagons full of manganese ore for export at Darwin, was travelling at 80km/h at around 1am on October 12, when he saw a white light being waved beside the track ahead.
An incident report from the ATSB has found that the driver immediately applied the full train brake.
About 6 seconds later, as the train rounded a bend, the driver saw a green utility road vehicle across the tracks, made an emergency application of the train brake and sounded the locomotive horn, according to the Bureau.
Given the train’s weight, its initial speed and the relatively short distance of braking opportunity, the driver was only able to slow the train by 10km/h, and it collided with the ute at around 70km/h, the ATSB has found.
Fortunately, the ute was empty when the collision occurred. But the train’s crew feared for their own safety during the incident.
“The train crew believed that the impact had derailed the locomotive and they were about to fall off the bridge and into the Katherine River,” the ATSB said.
With the vehicle lodged under the train’s lead bogie, the driver managed to slow the train to a stop approximately 500m from the collision site. After crossing the Katherine River bridge, the locomotive came to a stop on a culvert further down the line, without any derailment, according to the Bureau.
The ATSB found that the driver of the ute had been trying to cross the rail line adjacent to the Katherine River, but was not using a railway crossing to do so. There was a crossing less than 1km from the collision site, however.
“Evidence showed that in the attempt to traverse the rail line, the driver entered the rail corridor and mounted the east side of a steep embankment topped by the ballast formation supporting the rail track,” the ATSB wrote.
“The vehicle’s front wheels subsequently ‘hung’ on the east rail, such that its chassis rested on the track ballast and embankment with the rear wheels only lightly contacting the ground and unable to provide sufficient tractive effort.”
This article first appeared on www.railexpress.com.au
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