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The danger in the dark: Safety and teamwork in Australian dark territory railway operations
journal contributionposted on 2023-12-19, 23:05 authored by Colin Scott MacGregor, Christopher BearmanChristopher Bearman
Dark Territory is an area of railway operations that doesn't have signals or track circuits to detect occupied sections of track. Dark territory accounts for large parts of the rail networks of many countries (including the USA, Canada & Australia) and carries some of the largest passenger trains in the world. While there have been a number of accidents in dark territory that have caused multiple fatalities the safety of dark territory operations has so far not been considered in the safety literature. This paper is an initial exploration of how safe the railway dark territory system is and whether effective teamwork is able to help people identify and recover from error. Nineteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with network controllers and locomotive drivers who operate in dark territory. These interviews revealed that the safety of dark territory railway operations was almost totally reliant on the agents involved with few effective mechanisms available for detecting and resolving potential conflicts between trains and between trains and other network users. Further, the current structure and nature of interactions between network users provides little opportunity for the team to identify and recover from errors. To improve safety in dark territory operations we suggest that the network controllers need to share more information, locomotive drivers need to communicate more with each other and the network controller, and that open radio communication systems with a specific geographical focus be considered for implementation.
Number of Pages10
Author Research Institute
- Appleton Institute