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Train crash driver may avoid prosecution: signal safety out of date

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The driver of the commuter train that collided with an intercity train in Amsterdam on Saturday may not be prosecuted, the Telegraaf reports on Tuesday.

One woman died and 117 were injured in the head-on crash when the two trains ended up travelling on the same line. The driver told eyewitnesses she may have missed a red light.

Train drivers who miss a red signal are no longer automatically prosecuted following successful lobbying by their union FNV Bondgenoten. The public prosecution department must now wait for the results of an investigation before deciding if any legal action is to be taken, says the Telegraaf.


That the driver missed the signal has now been confirmed by an investigation carried out by track operator ProRail. The report was presented to parliament in a briefing on Monday evening by Melanie Schultz van Haegen, caretaker transport minister since the fall of the cabinet on Saturday.

According to the report, if the signal had been fitted with the latest safety system, the train would have been brought to a halt and the crash could have been avoided, the NRC reports.

Casino game

'It is a casino game,' Pieter van Vollenhoven, former head of the safety investigation council, told news programme Nieuwsuur on Monday evening. 'We cannot go on with the current system which is unsafe,' he said.

According to the NRC, red signals were missed 172 times in 2010.

Too expensive

The original Dutch Railways (NS), responsible for both track and trains, began developing a new safety system in the 1980s, but it was cancelled when yet another system was announced for use in all EU countries. However, the ERTMS system was so expensive the NS never began installing it.

Since the break-up of the railways in 2006, the NS and ProRail have been installing an improved version of their original safety system and have so far refitted 1,264 signals, says the NRC.

The Netherlands has 6,000 signals, but Schultz van Haegen said in November 2011 she is not planning to roll out the upgrade across the whole country.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

OK, she doesn't go to trial. But I guess someone will be held accountable for this, no? I mean, one dead and over a hundred injured? I know bloed is goed and all but is this not too much? And since 2006, they have only upgraded one sixth of the signals?! Is this scandalous or just Dutch? I am at loss here...

By phantom | 24 April 2012 8:45 AM

Maybe the government should have updated and improved the safety system of the NS before pouring billions of Euros into the 125 kilometers of the European high-speed rail system!

By M | 24 April 2012 9:47 AM

This appears to be a clear case of money being more important than general good public safety, and now at the cost of at least one human life. I wonder how our government calculates what a human life is worth when they make these types of decisions: 'but Schultz van Haegen said in November 2011 she is not planning to roll out the upgrade across the whole country'

By Bill | 24 April 2012 11:09 AM

"Schultz van Haegen said in November 2011 she is not planning to roll out the upgrade across the whole country."

Of course she isn't. She doesn't have to ride the train.

By Patrick | 24 April 2012 3:44 PM

Hi Bill, I believe generally in these sort of calculations, human life is given a value of around eur5m. This allows these agencies to plan which projects deliver enough benefits for the associated costs.

By Mike | 24 April 2012 4:37 PM

With one person dead after the accident and the railways in the spotlight, it is easy to forget that many more people die on the roads. Despite being "privatized" the Dutch railways still seem to be able to do a good job.

By Gemma | 24 April 2012 5:11 PM

Come on NS & ProRail, it's not a matter of money.
Safety first, please.

By Atom | 24 April 2012 5:46 PM

"Missing" a signal is not acceptable under any circumstances. As a pilot, I can tell you if I "miss" a critical item and a plane crashes, it is very clear who is at fault and will be brought to task (assuming I survive). Should rail be any different? No matter how many backup safety devices are installed, they are just that - backup. The person in charge (pilot in command) is the first and best line of defense. Passengers have the right to expect those operating planes and trains to hold themselves to a high standard as they hold so many lives in their hands.

By Eric Broviak | 24 April 2012 7:19 PM

I agree 100% with Eric Broviak.

By Hans | 25 April 2012 2:44 AM

So if i drive my car through a red light and it causes an accident i can also claim that it's not my fault because no one was there to stop me?

By Geuzen76 | 25 April 2012 6:23 AM

NS knows that people "have" to use Dutch train system and there is no alternative for the nation. Therefore they don't see an urge for taking an expensive safety action. This accident will be forgotten in a couple of weeks and everybody is again using the same train system.

By Roy | 25 April 2012 9:16 AM

I agree, Eric. You pilots are held to a MUCH, MUCH higher standard than any other sort of transportation. Why is that? Every person in charge of transporting human beings should be exposed to the same scrutiny that pilots are.

By Stupid | 25 April 2012 1:52 PM

Eric, I am a Train Driver whose personal hobbie / ambition is to gain my Private Pilots License. The two are not the same and your inference they are insults your profession and mine. There are many redundancies in aircrafts that prevent collisions. One red signal should not be all that's in place of a collision! Do you fly your plane 2 minutes apart from another plane travelling head on towards another?

By Allan Bower | 26 April 2012 11:03 AM

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