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Tue, 2004-Dec-21

Tilt Train Derailment

In relation to the recent tilt train derailment in northern Queensland, Greg Black writes:

After all, if you've assembled enough technology to get a train moving at 150 km/h, then adding such safety overrides is a trivial matter.

The name for the technology usually used for this kind of thing is Automatic Train Protection (ATP).

Queensland Rail had this to say as to why ATP was not installed on the tilt train:

The ATP was designed and configured for one driver only freight trains and major problems were experienced when we trialled the system on the electric Tilt Trains.

The major concern is reliability and the fact that unnecessary, random braking can cause injuries to passengers and staff on-board.

Hopefully I'm not limiting my future job prospects by saying that I've heard this described as "We didn't want our passengers to spill their cups of coffee".

I've heard that Queensland Rail use ATP extensively on their metro system. It's only on long lines that they leave things to the organics. As noted in the article I linked to, multiple drivers and other systems should prevent this sort of thing from happening. It will be interesting to hear how these systems failed (if indeed they did).

Please note that as always any views expressed above may or may not be my own, and are very likely not my employer. I am speaking from generic knowledge only derived from press statements (including the cups of coffee quote, which came from a radio interview around the time of the derailment). I am not an expert in rail systems, and am certainly not an expert in ATP. I have no special knowledge of the workings of Queensland Rail, and any special knowledge I have of the workings of my employer or its affiliates I do not intend to divulge.