Runaway iron ore train shows risks of automation

Published: 6 Nov 2018

A shocking incident involving a fully loaded BHP iron ore train travelling driverless at high speed for over 90 kilometres shows the risks involved in rail transport, especially where trains are being designed to operate without drivers. 

CFMEU Mining and Energy Western Australian Secretary Greg Busson said it was a relief the driver was safe and no-one was injured in the potentially calamitous situation, with the 3km-long train travelling at high speeds covering 92km in 50 minutes.

“It is fortunate there were no other trains in the area and that the incident didn’t occur closer to the town of Port Hedland, where there could have been tragic consequences,” said Mr Busson.

“Yesterday’s events are a reminder that automation should be approached with caution and in a highly controlled manner. Until all system issues are ironed out, we should not be moving to driverless trains – the risks are too great.”

Mr Busson called for a thorough, independent investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, with full co-operation from all parties.

“It is important that people don’t jump to conclusions about what has occurred. We must understand exactly what has happened so we can prevent it from happening again.”