Rail safety worker’s near-miss with two trains

Eastern Suburbs Railway and Airport Line Tunnels

An incident in which a rail safety worker was nearly struck by two trains within the airport tunnel near the Sydney suburb of Redfern highlights the importance of planning and controlling rail corridor worksites, an investigation details.

The rail safety worker had left the worksite in the Eastern Suburbs Railway tunnel to find a toilet. After entering an adjacent worksite at Redfern Station, the worker used the public toilets at the station but was prevented from returning to the worksite by the barricades for another worksite. The worker entered the entrance to the airport tunnel, mistakenly believing it would take them safely back to their worksite.

While in the tunnel, the worker heard a train approaching. Moving clear of the track, the worker clung to the wall of the tunnel, three seconds before train 89-K passed by at about 45km/h. Train 89-K came to an emergency stop and reported a near-miss to the area controller. The worker, meanwhile, moved past the now-stationary train, only to cross into the path of a second train, 88-C, near the mouth of the Up side of the tunnel.

The driver of 88-C also made an emergency brake application, and reported a near-miss to the area controller. The area controller began warning trains of a possible trespasser in the area, as the identity of the person was unknown.

Following the two near-misses, after finding a path to the worksite, the worker completed the shift without advising anyone of the incident until the afternoon.

The transport safety investigation into the occurrence, undertaken by the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigation (OTSI), on behalf of the ATSB, found that the rail safety worker had not been briefed about the other worksite, or the requirements on how to access the station. As a result, the worker entered a worksite without receiving or seeking a project site induction, left the protected area, and entered a live tunnel.

Additionally, the worker signed the project site induction record sheet, despite not being present for an induction.

In response to this incident, Sydney Trains removed the worker from safe working duties, and conducted a number of briefings following the occurrence in order to communicate lessons learned with the workgroup.

The investigation’s safety message highlights the importance of planning and controlling worksite within the rail corridor. This is particularly important when staff are working within tunnels and at platforms where access can be from multiple directions

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