4 Sep 2013

Insects may have caused Australian train crash

9:51 am on 4 September 2013

Tiny Black Portuguese millipedes are suspected to be responsible for a rear-end collision between two trains in Western Australia after hundreds of the creatures were found squashed on the track.

Six passengers were treated for stiff necks after a train pulling into a station at Clarkson, 40km north of Perth, ran into a stationary one, the local train company said.

"Millipedes are one of the factors we are going to take into account," David Hynes, a spokesperson at the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia, told Reuters.

"What happened in previous instances is trains which were travelling at speed have gone over an infestation, crushed them and made the tracks slimy. The train loses traction and the train has slipped," Mr Hynes said.

The millipedes are attracted to moist environments and are seen as invasive pests at high population levels. In 2009, thousands of them over-ran 2km of track, causing train delays and cancellations near Melbourne.