16 dead, 57 injured…
Poland’s worst railway accident in 22 years
The aftermath of the collision. Photo SE.pl
(Click image to see the photograph in its original context on SE.pl.)
The accident site the following morning. Photo zawiercie.naszemiasto.pl.
(Click image to see the original in context on zawiercie.naszemiasto.pl.)
At 20:57 on Saturday 3 March, two passenger trains collided near the small town of Szczekociny in Slask province. IR 13126 – the 18:18 ex Warszawa Wschodnia to Krakow Glowny – collided head on with TLK 31100 – the 14:46 ex Przemysly Glowny to Warszawa Wschodnia.
The disaster is Poland’s most serious railway accident since the ‘Ursus’ accident of 1990. 16 passengers are reported killed – 9 of whom have been identified; 57 injured passengers were taken to 14 different hospitals – 3 are in a critical state.
The immediate cause of the accident was that both trains were running towards each other on the same track. While it is premature to speculate on the exact chain of events that led to the accident, we can be identify 5 key factors that have contributed to the spate of serious accidents that have plagued Polish railways in recent years:
- Low profile role played by (and given to!) the UTK (Office of Rail Transport), Poland’s rail regulator. UTK is currently without a Chief Executive!
- Fragmented responsibilities caused by fragmented rail industry. A comparable spate of accidents occurred in the UK after British Rail a upa and privatised.
- Rapid change in working practices occurring in railway industry, AND…
- A ‘Command and control’ management culture where the views of the staff responsible for service delivery are ignored by middle and senior management.
- Inadequate funding for Poland’s railway infrastructure. Those funds that are voted by the Sejm (Poland’s parliament) not trickling down to where it is needed, but used to pay off PKP’s debts.
Poland’s president Bronislaw Komorowski has declared the 5 and 6 March day’s of national mourning. Is it too much to hope that some good may come from this dreadful tragedy and that Prime Minister Tusk and his ministers will rethink government policy with respect to Poland’s beleaguered railways?
Railmap map showing the location of Szczekociny.
(To see this location on a map which can be scrolled and zoomed, click the image above.)