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Prosecution Details

Defendant Western Australian Government Railways Commission
Trading Name Westrail
Section 21(1)(b)
Regulation Not Applicable
Offence Date Saturday, 13 January 1996
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, failed, so far as was practicable, to ensure that the safety of persons not being its employees was not adversely affected in part as a result of the work in which its employees were engaged. (Particulars of Charge can be viewed on file 086784v04).

Background Details

At approximately 2359 hours on Saturday 13 January 1996 a Kewdale bound National Rail Corporation train scheduled as 5SP5, collided with the rear portion of a Kalgoorlie bound Westrail train, known as 7025, at the western end of the crossing loop at Hines Hill, WA.

Train 5SP5 consisted of a class AN and a class DL locomotive number 10 and 37 respectively, and 39 wagons, Of the 39 wagons 35 were carrying containerised freight. Locomotive AN10 was leading.

The collision resulted in the derailment of AN10. Locomotives AN10 and DL37 were damaged beyond repair. A number of National Rail Corporation container wagons and containers were also irreparably damaged. Six fuel tank wagons on the Westrail train were also damaged or consumed in the subsequent fire. The wagons were owned by Westrail and various oil companies. The contents of the 6 diesel fuel wagons were also lost either by fire, contamination or seepage into the ground.

As a result of the collision an extensive fire began. The driver and a child passenger on AN10 died in the fire. The co-driver of AN10 sustained burns to his arms and hands.

Critical data logging equipment on the locomotives operated by National Rail Corporation were destroyed in the fire. The relay control room adjacent to the collision site was also totally destroyed. In addition, the Westrail tape recording system at West Merredin failed, further contributing to the difficulty in precisely determining events.

On 5 June 1998 Westrail were fined $95,000 with $85,000 in costs. Westrail appealed this decision which was heard on 24-26 November 1998. The decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Western Australia on 15 January 1999 set aside the original conviction and awarded Westrail $23,000 in costs.

The Supreme Court Magistrate commented that "the circumstances of the collision, combined with the evidence of the expert witnesses, the persons who survived the collision and those with responsibility for or knowledge of the appellant's system of work, fell far short of enabling a court to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the use of the sequential crossing procedure on this occasion was unsafe". The appeal was therefore allowed and the conviction set aside."

* Reasons for Decision relating to the $95,000 fine can be viewed on volume 8 of the file.

* Reasons for the Supreme Court decision can be viewed on volume 9 of the file.

The defendant pleaded not guilty.

Outcome Summary dismissed
Conviction Date 15 Jan 1999
Court Supreme Court of Western Australia
Fine Nil
Costs $23,000 awarded to defendant
Charge Number SJA 1099/98
Published 05 Mar 1999