[LINK] WA and now Tas Remote Train Control Failures
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Mon Nov 12 09:05:04 AEDT 2018
[There was a train disaster in Western Australia the other day:
[In the WA case, BHP could control the points remotely, but not the
train's brakes. Presumably the company has control of the corridor, so
there ought to be wireless comms with the train. So has BHP failed to
implement remote control of its train's braking systems, or is there
insufficient redundancy in the onboard controller or comms?
[On the basis of the report below, insufficient redundancy in the
onboard controller or comms seems a likely cause of the Tassie crash.]
Tasmania halts sole remote control train
ATSB says systems wouldn't respond, led to runaway and crash
Nov 10 2018
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has concluded that a runaway
train incident in Tasmania was caused by problems with its remote
The train in question was a bulk cement carrier that “is operated as a
driver-alone operation in a push-pull configuration with motive power
provided from one locomotive.”
“To facilitate this push-pull configuration, a portable remote control
system is used to control the locomotive,” the Bureau’s report states.
“The portable remote control system can be used both from outside of the
train driver’s cabin during loading or unloading operations, and from
within the leading driver’s cabin.”
But on September 21st, 2018, the remote failed.
“The driver was situated within the cement loading facility, and was
remotely controlling the train to align wagons to the loading chutes,”
the investigation report states.
“While the last pair of wagons were being aligned, the train came to a
stop past the intended stop location.”
“The driver recalled that, at approximately 0842, he selected reverse to
re-align the final two wagons with the loading chutes.
“However, after selecting reverse, the train became unresponsive to his
The driver “attempted multiple times to reset the remote control
equipment with the portable remote transmitter. After allowing time for
the remote control system to recover, the locomotive continued to be
unresponsive to his commands.”
The driver therefore tried to board the train to reboot the remote
control system, but before he could get aboard “the train slowly began
rolling away towards Devonport”.
“The driver recalled trying to activate the emergency stop features of
the remote system by removing power to the portable remote control
system’s transmitter,” investigators said.
“However, the train did not respond to these commands and gradually
gained speed as it rolled away from the loading facility.”
21km later, the train was routed into a dead-end siding, where it
crashed. Two people were injured.
The Bureau has not yet figured out why the remote control failed. But
TasRail has suspended all use of the remote control system from its
operations, pending the conclusion of investigations.
It will be some time before the Bureau offers an opinion on exactly what
happened: its initial report is the result of evidence collection.
Examination and analysis of that evidence is yet to take place, and a
draft final report is likely months in the future.
Roger Clarke mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
T: +61 2 6288 6916 http://www.xamax.com.au http://www.rogerclarke.com
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law University of N.S.W.
Visiting Professor in Computer Science Australian National University
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