Train crash driver may avoid prosecution: signal safety out of date

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.

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