ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

'Inadequate': Lack of crew, safety plan made Auckland train accident more likely

Author
Jamie Lyth,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Dec 2023, 1:37PM
A switcher carriage came off the tracks last year near St John in Auckland. Photo / Darren Masters
A switcher carriage came off the tracks last year near St John in Auckland. Photo / Darren Masters

'Inadequate': Lack of crew, safety plan made Auckland train accident more likely

Author
Jamie Lyth,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Dec 2023, 1:37PM

Calls for KiwiRail to improve its risk management, crewing and training to reduce the risks of human error have been revealed after a train derailment in Auckland last year. 

The locomotive derailed when it entered track crossover points too fast, overturned, and slid on its side for about 55 metres in Tamaki, Auckland on June 1, 2022. 

All three crew members luckily escaped with only minor to moderate injuries, and two were taken to hospital for observation. 

Now, a report says the inadequacy of KiwiRail’s risk management and crewing arrangements were vulnerable to human error and made the accident more likely. 

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has made four recommendations to KiwiRail and one to the New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi. 

TAIC’s chief investigator of accidents Naveen Kozhuppakalam said the problems started when train control told the locomotive crew to travel on the “up” mainline in a “down” direction from Port of Auckland to Westfield. 

“At that time, train control didn’t tell the crew about the plan to cross the locomotive over from the up mainline to the down mainline at Tamaki. 

“And the crew didn’t tell train control that their single cab locomotive would be travelling in long-hood leading configuration,” said Kozhuppakalam. 

KiwiRail COO Siva Sivapakkam said they have already implemented some of TAIC’s recommendations and are considering others. 

“We have an ongoing commitment to safety, and to ensuring our staff go home at the end of each day. This was a serious incident and we have treated it as such. 

“Since this incident, KiwiRail has ceased long-hood running on main lines, eliminating the risk, and as a result, no recommendation to KiwiRail was made in this area.” 

A switcher carriage came off the tracks in June 2022 near St Johns in Auckland. Photo / Darren MastersA switcher carriage came off the tracks in June 2022 near St Johns in Auckland. Photo / Darren Masters 

With long-hood leading, a locomotive appears to travel in reverse, with the crew cab at the rear. 

This places the driver on the left of the cab, looking along the length of the engine cowling at the track ahead. 

To remedy the driver’s obscured view, a “second person” crew member sits on the cab’s right to tell the driver about signals on that side. 

In this case, the spotter was a trainee, minded by a third crew member. 

Accident investigators found that the minder’s seating position made it impossible to check that the trainee’s signal calls were correct. 

“When the trainee didn’t report speed limit signals, the driver didn’t slow the locomotive and it entered the points doing about 77km/h, about 50km/h faster than the limit.” 

“The Commission identified gaps in two safety-critical areas — job training for the “second person” role, and non-technical skills in general, which is knowing how to work together, talk to each other and understand what everyone is doing in safety-critical situations. 

The report also found issues with KiwiRail’s risk management, handling of hazards, and mitigation of the risks of long-hood leading operations on the Auckland Metropolitan rail network. 

“While KiwiRail has largely ceased mainline long-hood leading operations nationwide, the Commission has recommended that Waka Kotahi ensure sufficient risk controls for long-hood leading by all rail participants, not just KiwiRail.” 

“Also, safety on the Auckland Metro network relied largely on administrative risk controls, which are problematic because they rely on people always doing as they are told and always doing their jobs perfectly. 

“That might be okay in a simple work environment, but it’s not in a highly complex environment like the Auckland Metro network; that’s when you need engineering risk controls to make it easy for everyone to do things right.” 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you