Runaway BHP train wreckage cleared but questions remain
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.