BHP Billiton has suspended its iron ore rail operations in Western Australia after it deliberately derailed a runaway train.
The fully laided 268-wagon train set off unattended and travelled 92 km at high speed after the driver left his locomotive to inspect a wagon at 04:40hrs local time. The driver had been the only person on board the train.
The train was travelling on BHP’s private Mount Newman line, a 430 km route that carries iron ore across the Pilbara from Newman to Port Hedland.
“A Western Australia iron ore train has been derailed near Turner River on route to Port Hedland this morning,” BHP said in a statement today (5 November). “No one has been injured. We are working with the appropriate authorities to investigate the situation.”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which has launched an investigation, described the damage to ore train number M02712 as “substantial”.
A video of the crash site (shown below) subsequently published on YouTube - shot on a mobile phone from a vehicle - showed the twisted and manged remains of the derailed train (also pictured above).
“With no one on board, the train travelled for 92 km before being deliberately derailed at a set of points operated by the control centre, about 119 km from Port Headland (near Turner siding),” the ATSB said in a statement.
“The train, consisting of four locomotives and 268 wagons, stopped at the 211 km point (near Hester sidling). The driver alighted from the locomotive to inspect an issue with a wagon. While the driver was outside of the locomotive, the train commenced to run away.”
BHP said it had suspended its WA rail operations while the investigations take place. It said that 1.5 km of track had been damaged and the recovery process would take about a week to complete.
(Article updated 8 November 2018)