Run­away BHP train wreck­age cleared but ques­tions re­main

The West Australian - - WEST BUSINESS - Stu­art McK­in­non

BHP says it has cleared all wreck­age from a run­away train de­rail­ment in the Pil­bara and is set to re­sume rail haulage early next week.

A spokes­woman said late yes­ter­day morn­ing the wreck­age from the crash site had been cleared from the tracks and the com­pany was con­fi­dent it would be in a po­si­tion to re­sume rail op­er­a­tions early next week.

Spec­u­la­tion is still swirling about how the 268-car train was able to ca­reer driver­less for 50 min­utes at an av­er­age speed of 110km/h be­fore it was de­lib­er­ately de­railed about 120km south of Port Hed­land early on Mon­day.

The driver had stopped about 210km from the port and got off to in­spect a wagon but the train started to move with no one aboard.

In­dus­try sources have ex­pressed be­wil­der­ment at the in­ci­dent, sug­gest­ing sev­eral safety sys­tems should have stopped the train, in­clud­ing a “dead man’s switch” that must be pressed at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals by the driver to keep the train op­er­at­ing.

One source sug­gested the train might have been in “park” in­stead of “drive” mode when it be­gan rolling with­out the driver, which would mean the dead man’s switch would not be oper­a­tional.

West­Busi­ness un­der­stands a pos­si­ble fail­ure of the train’s LiDAR (light de­tec­tion and rang­ing) tech­nol­ogy is an­other line of in­quiry for in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

LiDAR, which is the same tech­nol­ogy used in driver­less cars, is a ma­chine vi­sion sys­tem which senses sur­round­ings, de­tects ob­sta­cles and avoids them.

BHP con­tin­ued with the line yes­ter­day that it “can­not spec­u­late on the out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion” but said it was work­ing with ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties.

BHP, the Aus­tralian Trans­port Safety Bu­reau and the Of­fice of the Na­tional Rail Safety Reg­u­la­tor are in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

“Our fo­cus re­mains on the safe re­cov­ery of our op­er­a­tions,” the BHP spokes­woman said.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Macken­zie told the min­ing gi­ant’s an­nual share­hold­ers meet­ing in Ade­laide on Thurs­day that he knew a lot more about the in­ci­dent than he could re­veal.

Pre­mier Mark Mc­Gowan and the Con­struc­tion, Forestry, Mar­itime, Min­ing and En­ergy Union have ex­pressed safety con­cerns about the in­ci­dent.

West­Busi­ness un­der­stands the com­pany could be los­ing be­tween $55-$80 mil­lion in rev­enue for ev­ery day it is not ship­ping iron ore from Port Hed­land.

BHP could also face fines if it is found to have breached the Rail Safety Na­tional Law.

The com­pany re­vealed on Wed­nes­day that its ore stock­piles at Port Hed­land would run out be­fore it could re­sume rail op­er­a­tions.

How­ever, Mr Macken­zie in­sisted the com­pany would meet all its com­mit­ments to cus­tomers.

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