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BHP says it has resumed rail operations between its Pilbara iron ore mines and Port Hedland after the company had to derail a runaway train that severed the critical transport link last week.
A company spokeswoman yesterday said rail operations restarted on Saturday night after wreckage from the train, comprising 268 fully-laden iron ore cars and four locomotives, was cleared from the track on Friday.
The spokeswoman said “additional controls” had been put in place to “ensure safe operations” and that track repair work was progressing well.
WestBusiness understands only one track of the dual line was operating yesterday.
However, it is understood the company expects to be running at full capacity again within a couple of days.
BHP declined to reveal what additional controls had been put in place but they are likely to include lower speed limits in parts or all of its rail network.
The company has informed the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator that its trains were rolling again.
The impact on BHP’s production is still unclear although WestBusiness understands shipping rates have slowed but not ceased in recent days.
It had been feared the mining giant might have to downgrade its full-year guidance after saying last week its ore stockpiles at port would run out before it could restart rail movements.
However the mining giant has insisted it will meet all contractual commitments to customers.
BHP has not revealed how the train was able to continue on its journey with no one at the controls after the driver got out to check a carriage about 210km south of Port Hedland early on Monday, November 5.
Industry sources have told WestBusiness it is likely the train’s braking systems either failed or were not fully engaged at the time.
It is also understood the train’s vigilance control system, known as the dead man’s switch, would not have been operational had the train been left in stationary or park mode.
The dead man’s switch is a safety mechanism that prompts the driver to hit a switch or button at regular intervals to keep the train running. Old-style dead man’s switches had to be held down for the train to keep running, which allowed for the possibility of it being deliberately or accidentally held down.
However, the newer systems require intermittent pressing and releasing. It is likely that without the train’s braking system fully applied and with its vigilance control system deactivated, the train began moving because of the track’s decline.
Its approximately 50,000 tonnes of weight would have allowed it to build up considerable speed with no one at the controls as it continued on the mostly downhill journey to Port Hedland, before being deliberately derailed because of safety concerns.
This article first appeared on thewest.com.au
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