FREIGHT operators should ensure train drivers receive regular training and competency tests for steep gradients, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau says.

This follows an incident in April 2017 when it a Qube grain train travelling from Bogan Gate to Inner Harbour, Port Kembla, ran away as it descended the Illawarra Mountain between Dombarton and Unanderra.

According to the ATSB, the maximum allowable speed for the Dombarton to Unanderra section was 30kmh, however the train reached a top speed of 107 km/h.

The train eventually stopped, assisted by a shallower gradient near Unanderra station and there were no injuries or damage.


“In order to minimise the risk of runaway events, freight operators should ensure that train drivers receive regular training and competency assessment for steep continuous gradient routes,” the Bureau stated.

“The standards that apply to these routes should ensure that the locomotive and wagon braking ratios are suitable for the terrain the train will encounter on its route.

“Contingency plans and procedures to accommodate runaway trains in this area should be continually reviewed and tested by rail infrastructure managers.”