Two Auckland passenger trains were just 800 metres from colliding on the same line when one of the drivers drove in the wrong direction.

In 2012, an Auckland passenger train was travelling south from Britomart to Manukau Station when it stopped at Puhinui Station to pick up and drop off passengers, a Transport Accident Investigation Commission report says.

While it was sitting at the station, the train control set the wrong route for the train through Wiri Junction, the report said.

The route was set to take the train straight through to Papakura instead of diverging to the Manukau Branch Line.


The signal ahead of the train was showing the driver that his train was routed for Papakura instead of Manukau.

However, the driver did not recognise this.

The train controller realised his mistake and radioed the train driver with the intention of having him stop his train, but was too late to prevent the train entering the Wiri Junction section.

On this occasion there was no conflicting traffic and the train was in no danger of overturning because the driver had kept the train speed down to 40 kilometres per hour on the assumption that his train would be routed across to the Manukau Branch Line.

Through miscommunication between the train driver and the train controller, the driver drove his train straight back in the direction from which it had come, towards another passenger train approaching on the same line.

The trains stopped about 800 metres apart.

There was no collision and no-one was injured.

The Commission also found the driver assumed the route ahead had been correctly set for his train then selectively read the 'proceed' signal but didn't recognise it was also displaying the wrong route for his train.

The key safety issue arising from this incident was the miscommunication between the driver and the train controller which resulted from an ambiguous conversation when clear instructions were required.

The Commission stated train drivers must actively look at, correctly interpret and respond to all signals, rather than making assumptions.

They must also communicate between train controllers and must be clear and concise, particularly when resolving "abnormal situations".