SYDNEY, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) — A mine-operated train carrying a load of iron ore in Western Australia’s Pilbara region had to be derailed on Monday evening, after it travelled for almost one hour without a driver.
Heading from the town of Newman to Port Hedland, It’s believed that the driver of the BHP rail freight stepped out of the train to inspect one of the carriages, but before the driver could return to the driver’s seat, the train began to move away.
Now investigating the incident, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in a statement, “with no one on board, the train travelled for 92 km before being deliberately derailed at a set of points operated by the control center, about 119 km from Port Hedland (near Turner).”
With the train carrying 268 wagons, it reached speeds of up to 110 km per hour before BHP were able to derail the locomotive from its Integrated Remote Operations Center in Perth.
Although the mishap is expected to cost the Australian mining giant millions of dollars, business analyst Tim Treadgold told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “In the overall scheme of things, this is a very small event.”
“Even if they lost three days of access to the rail line, which is possible, it’s not a major event,” he said.
“We’re talking about a company that deals in the billions of dollars, and this might register in the millions, but almost certainly not in the tens of millions.”
While BHP were quick to point out that there were no injuries and that it would work with authorities to “investigate the situation,” the latest incident has raised some concerns about train safety in Australia following a similar incident in September where an out-of-control automated Tasmanian freight train also had to be derailed to avoid disaster in Tasmania.
Despite the unfortunate events however, fellow miner Rio Tinto hopes to have the world’s first fully autonomous, long-distance, heavy-haul rail network – the AutoHaul – running down under by the end of the year.