THE Australian Rail Track Corporation failed to foresee mudhole risks linked to replacing sleepers on the trouble-plagued Melbourne-Sydney railway line, an investigation has found.
Two years after Transport Minister Anthony Albanese ordered a report into safety operations along the railway line, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has today released its findings.
The bureau found the engineering of the line had made it vulnerable to mudholes and the ARTC did not adequately address them in planning its sleeper replacement.
"The ARTC’s quality assurance process during the project planning phase did not adequately consider foreseeable risks in relation to the track structure’s pre-existing vulnerabilities," the bureau report stated.
"It is possible that a more detailed examination of historical information and/or on-site testing may have highlighted any unknown track structure issues and influenced the decisions made prior to the re-sleepering works.
"Similarly, the ARTC was aware that the existing ballast and track drainage were in poor condition, but appeared not to have adequately considered the potential for higher than normal rainfall following a protracted period of drought."
However, the bureau "is satisfied that the necessary steps have been taken to address any issues that might otherwise compromise the safety of rail operations where track quality is below acceptable operational standards".
The ARTC's chief executive John Fullerton responded to the report, by acknowledging the concerns raised by the bureau.
“While the ATSB has outlined some areas that require attention by ARTC, we are pleased that no systemic issues were found that might compromise the safety of rail operations where the track quality was below standard,” Mr Fullerton said.
“The ATSB has indicated the program we are applying to the track will correct most fouled ballast and drainage problems, and ARTC will be reviewing the report to identify any further measures that might need to be considered or applied to our current program of works."