Recent incident reports from Australia and abroad

13 August 2019

These incidents involved a tram in France, a train in Wales, a hand trolley in England and a runaway tram/collision in Australia.

Derailment of a tram - Lyon, France

On 23 August 2015, a tram of the T2 line travelling towards the terminus "Saint-Priest - Bel-Air", was struck in the front right by a light vehicle at a crossroads. The collision caused the tram to derail, cross an adjacent track, damage three parked vehicles and continue across the fence of a housing unit. It stopped a few meters from the entrance of the building and travelled a total of 55 m after the collision. Five minor injuries resulted from the incident. The direct cause of the accident was the motor vehicle driver's failure to comply with a red stop signal at the intersection.

On approach to the crossroads, the tram was travelling at 49 km/h and the driver had placed the traction controller into the neutral position. The motor vehicle was travelling at 35-39 km/h when it entered the crossroads and is reported to have reacted no more than 0.3 seconds before impact. The collision speeds were reported as 47 km/h for the tram and 29 km/h for the motor vehicle. The tram driver applied emergency braking 2.3 seconds after impact while the tram was travelling at 43 km/h.

A census of the maximum speeds at crossroads applied by tram networks in France is included in the investigation report. Of 28 networks, only the Lyon and Grenoble networks do not impose speed limitation (other than the maximum track speed) on their trams when crossing intersections. Those of Lille and Orleans impose a limit of 50 km/h at some locations, while the other 24 networks limit speed at intersections at 30, 35 or 40 km/h. With a maximum crossing speed of intersections at 35 km/h, and in the absence of braking before impact, the report predicts the stopping distance after impact would have been in the order of 40 metres.

While the investigation into the August 2015 incident was being conducted, a collision occurred on 10 November 2017 on another line of the Lyon network. In this instance the same class of tram struck a light vehicle that did not stop at a red light. The collision caused the tram to derail, strike a tree and catenary pole and 16 people were injured. The evidence gathered showed that during this accident, the tram approached the crossroads at 40 km/h and did not apply emergency braking, either before or after the impact. The tram struck the catenary pole at 20 km/h.

The investigation noted differing vulnerability to derailment between tram classes. It found that over the period 2004-2014, following a collision with a light motor vehicle (less than 3.5 tonnes)

  1. the rate of derailment of the Citadis 302 and 402 models was between five and six times higher than the derailment rate of other models in France
  2. there were 45 derailments from 4053 collisions for Citadis 302 and 402 models compared to nine derailments for 5106 collisions for other trams.

The report cites an obstacle detection and collision avoidance system and automatic application of brakes on derailment as potential risk controls being considered by the tram manufacturer. The operator reported a mapping of the locations where emergency braking occurred and a review of tram speeds at intersections.

Le Service Technique des Remontées Mécaniques et des Transports Guidés (STRMTG), a state national technical agency covering trams, has also produced a technical guide, "Design of the front ends of trams". It requires the vulnerability to derailment of any new tram series to be evaluated, though the investigation report recommends some improvement to the guide in relation to benchmarking of designs against reference material.

Read the Lyon incident report by BEA-TT (in French)

Level crossing accident - Penrhyn, Wales

On 6 January 2019, on the Ffestiniog Railway in Wales, an engineering train returning from Tan y Bwlch to Minffordd did not stop as it approached the level crossing at Penrhyn. The gates were closed across the railway and the train struck the upper gate and pushed through it. The train came to a stand part way across the crossing, fouling both carriageways of the road.

Read the Penrhyn incident report by RAIB

Runaway hand trolley - Ramsbottom, England

On 15 March 2018 a hand trolley, loaded with approximately 0.5 tonnes of ballast, ran away from a group of track workers near Ramsbottom station on the East Lancashire Railway (non-mainline heritage operation). The trolley derailed when it struck a wooden level crossing gate that it pushed into a road which was open to road traffic. The immediate cause of the runaway was that the trolley was not fitted with any brakes and was deployed on a gradient without the introduction of any mitigation or safeguard against it running away.

Read the Ramsbottom incident report by RAIB

Runaway and collision between trams - NSW, Australia

On 15 May 2016, an unmanned 675 J class’ tram (J class) collided with a 1054 Nagasaki tram (Nagasaki) at Sydney Tramway Museum (STM) in Loftus, New South Wales. The Nagasaki was approaching Loftus after completing a tourist operation between Sutherland and Loftus when the crew noticed the unmanned J class moving towards them on the same track. The crew responded by stopping the Nagasaki and evacuated all 16 passengers safely before the collision occurred. The J class had travelled in an unmanned state for approximately 283 m. Marks on the rail indicated that the collision force moved the Nagasaki 13.5 m back towards Sutherland.

Read the J class-Nagasaki incident report by ATSB

The crashed trams in NSW