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NT toxic rail spill: train firm 'failed to do full safety checks'

Posted on 19 September 2012
A train operator failed to carry out full safety checks before a dramatic derailment and toxic spill in the Northern Territory, an investigation has found.

The 20-carriage freight train 7AD1 derailed as it tried to cross the Edith River, 42km northwest of Katherine during the early hours of December 27, 2011.

About 1200 tonnes of toxic copper concentrate spilled into the water from the carriages.

The train driver was fortunate to emerge unhurt from the dramatic crash — although the co-driver suffered back injuries.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation found very intense rainfall in the 12 hours before the crash caused the Edith River to flood and wash away part of an earth bridge supporting the rail lines.

Katherine and other NT towns were beset by flooding in the days after Christmas last year generated by tropical Cyclone Grant.

When the Katherine to Darwin train approached — initially at 74km/h — the earth embankment collapsed, causing all of the carriages to crash into the river.

The ATSB, which published its findings on Wednesday, said 7AD1's operator — South Australian-headquartered Genesee and Wyoming Australia (GWA) — had no systems in place to monitor water levels on the Edith River.

The company did monitor weather bulletins in the days leading up to the crash and contractors had checked track safety.

But the ATSB said further checks should have been carried out on the day of the crash.

"GWA did not recheck track or infrastructure integrity, including flood risk, prior to the dispatch of train 7AD1 from Katherine to Darwin on 27 December 2011," the bureau report said.

"GWA policies, procedures and training had little if any guidance for employees or contractors with respect to quantifying the duration, consequential dangers and responses to severe weather events."

GWA had fully and satisfactorily overhauled its safety procedures since the accident, the ATSB said.

Source:  Industry Search

Tags:Industry NewsChemical SpillsToxic Spills

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