Archive for May 26th, 2012

Polish rail accidents NOT EU’s worst!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Szczekociny crash scene. From a photo by Wojciech Janaczek.

(Click image to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Yesterday we were guilty of sloppy journalism. We reused a quote from The Warsaw Voice claiming that ‘According to the European Railway Agency, Poland has the most dangerous railroads in the EU’. Actually it is not true. Whilst Poland does have the highest number of railway accidents in the EU region, such figures should be normalised per total train kilometres run before performing any inter-country comparison.

This was pointed out by one of BTWT’s readers, Mike, who sent us a detailed comment which we are republishing below. Our sincere apologies for repeating a highly misleading claim and our thanks to Mike for his incisive comment and analysis.

I don’t think it’s entirely right to say “Poland’s railways have the worst safety record in the EU.” Certainly in 2010 Poland saw 449 rail accidents, compared to only 31 in Estonia. However, Estonia has only 900km of working rail compared to 20,000km in Poland, so it’s not really a fair comparison.

I went to the PDF in the post and did some sums on the raw numbers. In terms of 2010 accidents per million train-km, Poland managed 2.05 compared to 3.44 in Estonia. Thus Estonia has more crashes per train-km than Poland. On the other hand, Germany only has 0.29 crashes per million train-km, so there’s a long way to go. Overall, Poland has the 7th highest number of crashes in the EU, according to the numbers in the report. For those who like charts, I have uploaded one here: Accidents per million train km.

This is similar to the charts on pages 26 and 27 of the report which show Poland as being worse than EU average for rail safety, but certainly not the worst. If you don’t want to open the PDF, their summary sentence is “The results show acceptable railway safety performance in the six risk categories in all countries except Romania, Lithuania and Slovakia.”.