Wallan derailment report highlights need to reform rail safety regime

The release of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report in the derailment of an XPT passenger train at Wallan again highlights the urgent need to review and reform Australia’s rail safety regime.


Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Assistant National Secretary Shayne Kummerfeld said the ATSB report made a number of important recommendations, particularly in regard to clearer communication of track information directly to drivers.

“The ATSB Report showed that the XPT was travelling at 130km/h as it approached a turnout with a 15km/h speed restriction.

“The report also highlighted a complex chain of communication between the track operators and the driver.

Clearly, this chain of communication broke down, resulting in a terrible tragedy with the loss of two lives.

“This was a failure of communication, a failure of process, and a failure of risk management.

“We can only hope that this tragic incident spurs genuine change to rail safety processes so that something like this never happens again.”

State, Territory and Federal Transport Ministers met in June, where they agreed to an RTBU request for a review of national rail safety laws and the rail safety regulator.

Shayne Kummerfeld said the rail safety review must address key issues including:

  • The lack of transparency of Office of National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) decisions and investigative processes, which are inhibited by the current legislation;
  • Confusion about the overlapping responsibility between the Rail Safety National Law and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws;
  • Whether the co-regulatory model for rail safety is working appropriately; and
  • ONRSRS’s independence from industry.

“When rail workers have concerns about safety, they need to know that the regulator is taking these concerns seriously and that action is being taken,” Shayne Kummerfeld said.

“We have been talking about these issues for far too long.”