Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Jumping for your life

I can scarcely believe this could happen.

Workers removed a long piece of rail track and a train has to use emergency braking to avoid hitting a works vehicle and probably derailing after coming to the area where the rail had been removed. A speed restriction of 80 km/h in that section of track due to its poor condition is the only reason why this was not a sure disaster.

Trains have been around for a very long time, longer than the motor car. It was known very early that the potential for disaster was high if the train interacted with another train or if it came off the tracks. The risk to track workers was very well known.

So, protection was applied to various situations, such as interlock signalling, flagmen and detonators laid on tracks to alert both the train driver and the workers and many things I have no idea about.

So how did this near disaster happen? Well, from what I have learnt the train should not have been on the track at all. The track section was mistakenly opened by a person in a control centre who possibly confused instructions or received wrong instructions. No doubt in my mind that it was human error of some type. Human error happens. So that is why there are back up safety systems.

And these back up safety systems? I don't know what they are, but sure as god made little green apples, they failed too.

After what, 16o years of trains, safe working has been detailed down the most minute point, and yet, in this supposed first world country, it all failed and the situation was only saved by again this supposed first world country where trains are speed restricted between our two largest cities to 80 km/h.

Of course had Australian Rail Track Corporation been privatised, this would have never happened......or would it?


  1. Hello Andrew:
    In this day and age, with all the available technology, it is incomprehensible that such an accident should happen. And, as the newspaper report suggests, disaster was onlt averted as the train was travelling at a reduced speed.

  2. OMG, they were very lucky indeed!

  3. Anonymous2:59 pm

    Did you hear about the two Chinese bullet trains that collided - last week, I think? Those passengers were not so lucky. V.

  4. Was kept quiet for a bit, really scary that basic human error could have killed so many.

  5. This is what happens when too many systems are automated, giving a blind faith in technology. We're told replacing people with technology is a good thing - but in reality, it just increases the error margin as the few people left haven't any training for when things go wrong - because we assume NOTHING will go wrong!

  6. oh ouch. I just dunno how this country gets rail stuff so very wrong. We're backward.

  7. Indeed JayLa. Incomprehensible. Yet it happened.

    Peter, I am trying to read some smugness into your comment, meaning it would never happen in your country. Ok, you were not being smug. But it could happen.

    Chinese crash well reported here V. Haven't you got a plane to catch? We are having dinner together Sunday night aren't we?

    Jayne, I believe de Faino broke the story, no doubt from an inside source tip off.

    Red, I don't discount technology, but I think you are right. How can you beat a man with a flag waving a train down? But in this case the train was not even supposed to be on this track, so no need for a flag.

    Fen, trains and trams, very backward. In Euro countries these things just work, day in, day out.

  8. It happens here too, to much confidence in computers and no humans who look after systems.

  9. I agree Peter. While humans make errors, I like human oversight.

  10. Anonymous2:49 pm

    Yes, I do have a plane to catch - 3 in fact! First one takes off tomorrow morning (Friday). And yes, we're having dinner on Sunday. See you then! V.