13 Apr 2017

KiwiRail rebuked over poor fire safety

7:15 pm on 13 April 2017

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigation into a train fire two years ago has found there was a lack of detection and prevention systems, and fire training.

Four metres of paddock each side of the railway line belongs to KiwiRail.

(file photo) Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The commission's investigation, which centred on a freight train parked at the Palmerston North rail depot that caught fire in November 2015, found the company's fire safety measures were unacceptable.

No one was injured in the event, but the commission found there were no fire detection or suppression systems fitted to that class of locomotive, which did not require them when it was built.

No training for using extinguishers had been given to the driver or the pilot either, nor about what actions to take in a fire.

The investigation found there was also no consistent approach to training drivers and crew on the actions to take in the event of a fire.

The fire was started when a high-voltage cable plug short-circuited, igniting the oil that was used to insulate the plug.

The fire was then fed by a supply of oil from a 3000-litre reservoir that could not be isolated because a shut-off valve was too close to the flames.

Rail authorities have been told to improve fire prevention and to restrict its spread with the use of fire-resistant materials and fixed fire-protection systems.

During the course of the inquiry, KiwiRail revealed it had immediately inspected all similar trains for signs of high-voltage cable damage, oil leaks and flammable debris such as rags.

It also said the oil-filled plugs had been used up and newer designs used modern insulation.

That model of locomotive was also due to be replaced by the end of next year, the company said.

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