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BHP train derailment: ‘Automation should be approached with caution’, says CFMEU

A runaway freight train deliberately derailed in WA on Monday is a warning that “automation should be approached with caution”, the CFMEU says.

BHP has suspended rail operations in WA after a driverless train pulling 268 wagons travelled for 92km along the company’s Newman to Port Hedland line before it was ditched.

The driver had stepped off the train to inspect an issue before it took off without him.

The locomotive’s run was brought to an end from a remote control centre more than 1500km away in Perth.

CFMEU spokesman Greg Busson said it was lucky no one was injured or killed.

“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,” he said.

He argued it was a warning against automation.

“Yesterday’s events are a reminder that automation should be approached with caution and in a highly controlled manner,” he said.

“Until all system issues are ironed out, we should not be moving to driverless trains – the risks are too great.”

The ATSB expects its report into the crash will be complete in the second quarter of 2019.

Mr Busson said any investigation must be thorough.

“It is important that people don’t jump to conclusions about what has occurred,” he said.

“We must understand exactly what has happened so we can prevent it from happening again.”

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