Tourist and heritage

We have analysed incidents and accidents that have occurred in tourist and heritage railway operations.

As a result, we have identified 10 key areas of risk. This list is not exhaustive. Please think about how these risk areas apply to your own rail operations.

1 - Inspections not being conducted

Incidents have occurred in tourist and heritage railway operations as a result of inspections not being conducted.

One incident involved a train-car collision. The investigation found that the mirrors used to allow motorists to see the rail track were damaged to such an extent that they were unusable.

The operator failed to inspect the mirrors before operations commenced. Had this occurred, it may have prevented the accident since the motorist would see the approaching train.

2 - Standards and criteria not applied

Incidents have occurred when clear standards and criteria were not applied during inspections. In one example, the train derailed despite an inspection of the track being conducted only hours prior to the operation.

The investigation found that the operator did not have clear acceptance or rejection criteria for the track state. Neither the degraded state of the sleepers and fasteners nor the rail-to-rail superelevation through a curve were identified during the inspection.

It also found that, with specific criteria, the inspection may have identified these problems improving the reliability of decision-making for permitting train operations.

3 - Poorly defined maintenance schedule

A clearly defined maintenance schedule avoids incidents. In one incident, a derailment, the operator had previously identified the degraded state of sleepers and marked them for renewal. However, the operator failed to establish a clear guidance or schedule for their replacement.

The investigation found that had this been made more clear, the operator would have replaced the degraded sleepers when they were required avoiding the derailment.

Ensure the maintenance schedule for corrective action actions is clearly articulated, appropriate and timely.

4 - Inadequate controls

In one example involving a train-car collision, the operator had identified the risk of a train-car collision and put in place several controls, including speed restrictions.

The investigation found that although the control was implemented, it was inadequate to avoid the risk of collision and should have been reduced further.

In another incident, the operator had identified the risks of operating a degraded track. The investigation found the operator failed to reduced track speed and placed signage for temporary speed reduction to account for the degraded track.

Ensure that controls adequately match or manage the risk.

5 - Poorly maintained railway infrastructure

Poorly maintained railway infrastructure can result in track buckling, gauge widening and poor vehicle/wheel-track interaction.

Assess all infrastructure against clear and documented asset acceptance/rejection criteria

  • Take specific measurements of the infrastructure to show compliance or non-compliance to Standards
  • A small number of assessments may be visual but must reflect a clear acceptance/rejection criteria. All infrastructure inspections and assessments are to be recorded as evidence of both compliance or non-compliance to Standards
  • All inspections are to be completed or managed by a suitably qualified officer from the tourist and heritage operator.

Identify and manage non-compliances through a documented procedure

  • All non-compliances found must be recorded (date, type, location, extent, severity, inspection officer and anything else relevant)
  • Set priorities (Priority 1, Priority 2 …) for all defects found based on the risk to safety including the impact on train operations (speed restrictions, suspension of services and so on)
  • Propose repairs and timeframes based on defect priorities.

Keep documents/evidence that the non-conformance has been repaired.

  • It is imperative to document what maintenance has been completed
  • All repairs completed must be recorded (date, type, officer authorising repair and officer authorising return of infrastructure to normal service and anything else relevant)
  • All repairs to be closed by a suitably qualified officer from the tourist and heritage operator
  • Authorisation to return infrastructure to normal service to be completed by a suitably qualified officer from the tourist and heritage operator
  • It is better to undertake ongoing preventative maintenance in accordance with the Standard than large works once condemning limits are reached
  • Most importantly, if you use an independent contractor for maintenance or certification work, make sure they itemise all the things they checked and any remedial work undertaken.

6 - Poorly maintained rolling stock

Poorly maintained rolling stock can result in brake failures, derailment and boiler explosions.

  1. Develop your maintenance regime using the Standards for the rolling stock you operate
  2. Take a risk based approach by asking yourself what is safety critical to operating rolling stock. Focus on these tasks first
  3. Put your resources to the highest risk items; historically, these include maintenance of boiler systems, braking systems and warning systems
  4. While focussing on high risk items, do not neglect other areas
  5. Document what actually has been undertaken during maintenance, and especially during certification. This will help you demonstrate risk management.

7 - Landslide risk and embankment integrity

Landslides can cause serious track damage. To manage these risks, consider the following steps: 

  1. Identify and record embankments and cuttings in an asset register and keep details of slope, angle, soil composition, proximity to water flow, and whether the slope is natural or man-made
  2. Review neighbouring land taking into account water courses and embankments that may fail and fall onto the operator's rail reserve
  3. Find out who is responsible for the neighbouring land and ask if you can review their management strategy
  4. Review the history of landslide incidents that have affected the network as well as those that have occurred in the locality. This history can be used to assess the likelihood of a landslide occurring
  5. Inspect embankments and cuttings in addition to rail infrastructure. Use geotechnical experts to conduct detailed inspections on a regular basis
  6. Manage earthworks so integrity/stability of the embankment or cutting is not compromised
  7. Implement an effective drainage system to minimise the risk of saturation and subsequent destabilising of the embankment
  8. Monitor adverse weather conditions to help have appropriate measures to reduce the impact of adverse weather events in place early
  9. Refer to useful references on managing landslide risks including:
    1. http://australiangeomechanics.org
    2. Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Department for Transport, UK, RAIB Rail Accident Report, Class Investigation into landslips affecting Network Rail Infrastructure between June 2012-and February 2013, Report 09/2014, April 2014.

8 - Extreme heat

Higher temperatures can increase risks associated with track misalignment and buckling.

To manage the risks of track buckling from extreme heat, accredited rail operators can consider the following:

  • Monitor the stresses and movement of the rails, and adjust the rail stress if required
  • Monitor locations of reduced lateral resistance, such as areas of poor ballast or track condition, and reinstate the lateral resistance if required
  • Monitor locations that have been recently disturbed through track maintenance
  • Put in place speed restrictions on very hot days to:
    • reduce the severity of the derailment in the event of a buckle
    • increase the chances of seeing the misalignment and stopping the train
    • reduce the dynamic impact uplift forces caused by vehicles.  

Technological advances in the measurement of track lateral resistance and rail stress enables track maintainers to incorporate quantitative techniques in track stability management plans. These should be considered as part of the assessment of viable controls to reduce the risk of track buckling.

Fire management strategies and evacuation plans should be reviewed to ensure they remain current.

Other infrastructure related defects caused by increased temperatures, such as sagging of overhead line equipment, should also be assessed and a review of the effectiveness of control. It is important to look at past experiences during hot weather periods and make adjustments as necessary.

9 - Worker heat stress

Heat stress in rail safety workers can cause rashes, cramps, heat stroke and, in extreme cases, death.

To manage the risks from heat stress, accredited rail operators should consider the following:

  • Avoid exposure to extreme heat, sun, and high humidity when possible
  • Schedule maintenance and repair jobs in hot areas for cooler months
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day
  • Apply sunscreen at frequent intervals, wear a hat and sunglasses
  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton and avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing and be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress
  • Acclimatize workers by exposing them for progressively longer periods to hot work environments, gradually building up to heavy work
  • Reduce the physical demands on workers
  • Use relief workers or assign extra workers for physically demanding jobs
  • Provide cool water or liquids to workers, enough to not become thirsty, approximately 1 cup every 15-20 minutes
  • Avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar
  • Provide rest periods with water breaks
  • Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity
  • Take breaks in the shade or a cool area when possible
  • Provide cool areas for use during break periods
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your workers who are at risk of heat stress
  • Provide heat stress training that includes information about:
    • worker risk
    • prevention
    • symptoms
    • the importance of monitoring yourself and co-workers for symptoms
    • treatment
    • personal protective equipment.

10 - Security

Injuries to volunteer rail safety workers can occur from assaults that take place on a tourist and heritage railway locations

Accredited rail operators are obliged under the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Regulations 2006 to manage security matters, such as:

  • Processes for the integration of security into all aspects of the railway operations
  • Processes for the identification of security risks and procedures for the control of those security risks
  • Documenting responsibilities and accountabilities of the rail transport operator with respect to security; and
  • Processes for the rail transport operator to consult with the police and with government agencies that have security responsibilities when developing, implementing and evaluating measures relating to security.

It is important that the risk management processes that all rail operators have in their safety management systems be used as a minimum. The processes help to identify and manage the risks associated with unexpected events, such as assault, personnel safety, theft of safe working equipment, security of rolling stock and business continuity.

Photo of old train wheels