Archive for the ‘Accident’ Category

Dramatic derailment in Switzerland

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


The derailed carriages seen from the loco. Photo Graubünden Police.

News of a serious railway accident in Switzerland is always an extraordinary event – Swiss railways are amongst the safest in the world.

The accident occurred at approximately 12:45 on Wednesday 13 August. A train was travelling from St. Moritz to Chur on the Albula section of the Rhaetian Railway between Tiefencastel and Solis. The leading carriage just behind the locomotive was hit by a landslide. The carriage plunged down a ravine and fortunately snagged on some trees before it could gather enough momentum to crash through the forest.

The second coach ended up hanging over the brink of the embankment. The passengers were asked to walk to the back of the coach to keep it stable. The third coach also derailed, but remained upright on the tracks. The rear bogie of the locomotive was also apparently derailed, but the driver promptly brought the engine to a halt and it remained upright on the tracks.

The derailment location near Tiefencastel, Switzerland. Google Maps.

Some two inches of rain fell on Wednesday morning downhill – equivalent to the normal rainfall in the whole of August. The earth and soil, weakened by the rain poured down onto a 15m section of track. In some places the debris piled up 3m high.

Fortunately, there were no casualties – 5 passengers were seriously injured, 6 less so. None are in danger. Those unable to walk were taken to hospital from the scene by helicopter. Some 200 passengers were guided through a tunnel by members of staff and then taken by cars to Tiefencastel station from where they continued their journey by coach.

The Albula section of the Rhaetian Railway is expected to remain closed for two days while the landside is cleared and the hillside secured.



Videos of journeys on the RB

Tram/van crash in Lodz

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The accident site looking west. Only one eastbound lane of ul. Limanowskiego was closed and westbound trams continued to run past the accident site, a yellow recovery van is just arriving at the scene. Photo BTWT.

(Click to enlarge.)

At around 09:30 this morning, just as the rush hour traffic was starting to ease off, a No.2 tram, comprising Konstal 105Na driving car and trailer, was running westwards along Ul. Limanowskiego towards Lodz town centre. The tram had crossed the pointwork and dual carriageway road crossing with al. Wlokniarzy and had accelerated away along the recently relaid track towards its next stop at ul. Mokra.

The driver of a Fiat Ducato van in UPS livery attempted to turn in front of the tram into a private road belonging to a motor dealership. The tram hit the side of the van and propelled the van sideways some 14 metres before the both vehicles stopped.

A MPK (Municipal Transport Department) breakdown truck and one of three fire department trucks that were despatched to the scene. Photo BTWT.

(Click to enlarge.)

Both drivers were taken to hospital. The tram driver is not believed to be seriously hurt. The condition of the van driver is not known at the moment. According to local residents, ince the tram tracks were relaid along ul. Limanowskiego, trams are running much faster than they did before and the area around the crossings with al. Wlokniarzy and ul. Mokra has become an notorious accident black spot.

On 23 October, an articulated truck collided with a tram injuring one person, on 27 March, an 18 year-old girl was killed when she walked in front of a tram on the pedestrian crossing by ul. Mokra while talking on her mobile telephone, and on 19 January, a 32 year old cyclist died after being run over by a tram near the spot where today’s accident took place.

The level crossing that was the site of the collision. The long scratch on the concrete blocks is the result of an earlier accident. Photo BTWT.

Local residents had got used to trams creeping slowly along ul. Limanowskiego over many years  and when the track got too bad tram services were suspended for a couple of years.  The speeded up trams have become an unexpected hazard at all the various road, pedestrian and cycle crossings in the area. The problem is compounded by poor visibility at some of the crossings.

Given all the circumstances, it seems extraordinary that when the track was improved, and tram speeds were raised, no warning were lights installed. Apparently minor collisions occur every week on the crossing where today’s accident took place!

The site of the collision. The No.2 tram was running westwards and accelerating away from the junction and crossroads with al. Wlokniarzy. The van driver was proceeding across the level crossing (red dot). Map OpenStreetMap.

What was impressive about today’s incident was the minimum amount of fuss made by the police and emergency services. Ul. Limanowskiego remained open to road traffic albeit with only one lane in operation, and westbound trams continued to operate, while trams running towards the city centre were re-routed down ul. Wlokniarzy.

Lorry collision stops steam

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Steam services from Wolsztyn have been suspended following a collision between a lorry and Ol49-69. The collision, which took place on 11 September, caused some damage to the locomotive, including bent motion.  The lorry suffered serious damage, with most of the cab destroyed.  The lorry driver was lucky to escape with his life, with parts of the cab attaching themselves firmly to the locomotive.

Damage to Ol49-69 following the collision on 11 September

Ol49-69with the remains of the lorry’s door  firmly attached to the loco’s cab. Photo James Shuttleworth.

Whilst the loco was out of traffic for a couple of days whilst repairs were effected at Wolsztyn, it has since returned to service.

The reason for the disruption to the service this time, was not due to the unavailability of a loco or crew, but down to the the cold snap that seems to have caught everyone unawares. The only suitable steam-heated coaches which Koleje Wielkopolskie  had available were involved in the collision. These still require repair, with their steps being ripped off in the force of the collision. (The Poznan-Wolsztyn services are run by Koleje Wielkopolskie, with the locos and their crews being provided by PKP Cargo, and the coaches leased from Przewozy Regionalne!)

With temperatures dropping as low as 3C at night at present, and with no other steam heated coaches available, PKP has taken the step of substituting a diesel railcar until suitable coaches are in service.  It is understood that steam services will return as from today’s (Thursday 27 September) afternoon working.

Stop press

We understand from a senior railway source, who wishes to remain anonymous, that yesterday PKP Cargo signed an agreement for the purchase of 10 passenger coaches, suitable for steam haulage, from Czech Railways at a very good price. The second class coaches are destined for the Poznan-Wolsztyn service; the first class coaches are expected to see duty on various steam specials.

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.”.

Head on collision in Warsaw

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Polish rail

The crash scene. Local PKP PLK director, Jan Telecki, describes the movements of the two trains immediately before the accident. Video by .

A head-on collision between two early morning commuter trains in Warsaw on Thursday morning (24 May) brought back memories of the head-on train collision near Szczekociny – Poland’s worst train crash in 22 years – which killed 16 people and wounded 57. This time, the relative velocity of the two trains was small and the lead coaches only suffered minor damage. Two people were injured; one sufficiently seriously to need hospital treatment.

The accident occurred at 05:45 in the vicinity of Warszawa Praga station. The trains involved were KM 1521 – an EN76 trainset belonging to Koleje Mazowieckie running from Warszawa Gdanska to Ciechanow, and SKW 40222 – a 19WE trainset belonging to Szybka Kolej Miejska running from Legionowo to Warszawa Gdanska.

According to The Warsaw Voice, a report published by the European Railway Agency, shows that Poland’s railways have the worst safety record* in the EU. There were 449 rail accidents in Poland in 2010. Germany was second with 297 accidents followed by Romania with 271.


Head on collision near Szczekociny

Sunday, 4 March 2012

16 dead, 57 injured…

Poland’s worst railway accident in 22 years

The aftermath of the collision. Photo

(Click image to see the photograph in its original context on

The accident site the following morning. Photo

(Click image to see the original in context on

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:

  1. 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!
  2. Fragmented responsibilities caused by fragmented rail industry. A comparable spate of accidents occurred in the UK after British Rail a upa  and privatised.
  3. Rapid change in working practices occurring in railway industry, AND…
  4. A ‘Command and control’ management culture where the views of the staff responsible for service delivery are ignored by middle and senior management.
  5. 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.)

18 killed in minibus accident

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Volkswagen Transporter head to head with Volvo truck.
Photo Lukasz Wojcik,

(Click on the image to go to a comprehensive series of reports on the accident on Echo Dnia website. The reports are in Polish, but can be turned into reasonable English by pasting their URLs into Google Translate.)

18 people travelling to work in a Volkswagen Transporter van lost their lives as the result of a head on collision between their vehicle and a Volvo articulated truck at 06:18 on Tuesday. The accident happened on the outskirts of Nowe Miasto nad Pilica on the 707 road leading to Rawa Mazowiecka. It appears that the driver of the Volkswagen was attempting to overtake a Scania ready-mix concrete lorry. It was dark and there was a thick fog. The driver of the Scania stopped to see what had happened and then drove away from the accident scene before the police arrived.

The police and emergency services were summoned by the driver of the Volvo, who survived the accident. 16 people were killed outright, two others died in hospital. The Volkswagen Transporter van was variously reported as being fitted with 4 or 6 seats. It appears that the majority of the passengers – seasonal workers travelling to pick apples – were seated on wooden boxes or planks. Neither the driver nor his vehicle were licensed to carry fare paying passengers.

Crash cuts a swathe through Poland’s elite

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The late President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczynski.
Photo the Office of the President.

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

The President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, and some 80 members of Poland’s elite have been killed in a plane crash in Russia. They were flying from Warsaw to Smolensk to take part in a commemoration in the Katyn forest marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of tens of thousands of Polish prisoners of war by the Narodnyj Komissariat Wnutriennich Diel (NKWD) the Soviet secret police. It has been reported that a wing of the presidential plane clipped a tree as it circled the airport in thick fog.

The plane’s passenger list has been published on the polish2english blog.

Viareggio train explosion…

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Were PKP Cargo responsible for the tank wagon?


Fire rages after two railway gas tankers exploded in Viareggio, Italy
Photo rabendeviaregia, Wikipedia Commons

(Click photo to see original and for details of licensing.)

16 people have been killed and some 50 were injured last night in the Italian coastal resort of Viareggio after a goods train consisting of 14 LPG tank wagons derailed. The local fire brigade said that the gas spilt from the wagons had reached neighbouring houses before it exploded. The ensuing fireball engulfed people, vehicles and buildings like something out of a horror film. Several victims survived the blasts but were killed when their houses collapsed on top of them.

The train was travelling through Viareggio on its way from the port of La Spezia to Pisa. The driver of the train, who was only slightly injured, reported feeling a jolt some 200 metres after his engine had passed the Viareggio Station. Shortly afterwards, 5 wagons at the rear of the train derailed, some fell on their sides and the LPG started to leak out. There then appear to have been at least two major explosions.

Accident investigators will be concentrating on the condition of the wagons and the track at the point where the accident occured. There seems to be some confusion as to who was responsible for operating and maintaining the wagon that jumped the rails. The Times reported yesterday that the derailed wagons were registered to PKP Cargo and Deutsche Bahn, while The Independent reported that the lead derailed wagon – which suffered a buckled or broken axle – was owned by the US company, GATX Corp.

Stewarton derailment

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Some questions that should be asked


Derailed wagon and collapsed bridge near Stewarton, Ayrshire. Still from BBC video

(Click on picture to view video on BBC ‘News Channel’)

A massive oil tanker train fire, with flames shooting 50ft into the air and dark smoke obscuring the sky, greeted residents on Tuesday morning in Stewarton, Ayrshire. The accident scene, more reminiscent of railway disasters in the Ukraine or Byellorussia, occurred near a compound used by contractors who are reinstating a second track along a 5½ mile portion of the Barrhead to Kilmarnock line which was singled in the 1970s.

A DB Schenker train consisting of 10 BP rail wagons carrying heating oil and diesel from the Grangemouth refinery to the Scottish Fuels terminal in Kilmarnock caught fire today at 06.25 when the rear section became separated from the rest of the train. Six of the 10 wagons were derailed and one was alight. Four remained on the rails still attached to the locomotive. There were no casualties.

The site of the derailment coincides with an underbridge that was due to be demolished this weekend. It is very close to the start of a 5.5 mile ‘dynamic loop’ (one that allows two trains to pass without stopping) that is being installed between Stewarton and Lugton. The £20 million contract was awarded by Network Rail to Jarvis. Track works commenced in September 2008 with works on the stations due to start early in 2009. Work is scheduled to be completed by October 2009 for a half-hourly Kilmarnock – Glasgow service to start at the December timetable change.

There are as yet no official conjectures as to the cause of the accident. BTWT has some questions. Somehow we think that quite a few of these may be skipped over by the accident’s investigators:

  • Was the collapse of the underbridge the cause of the derailment or merely a consequence of it?
  • Was the underbridge weakened by any work carried out by the contractors?
  • Has an independent assessment been made as to whether railway engineering structures designed and built in the 19th C. (the collapsed bridge was built in 1870) have a sufficient margin of safety when passed over at speed by trains with 25 ton axle load trains? (In 1948 the maximum weight per axle was seventeen and a half tons on most routes and goods trains ran more slowly than contemporary ‘freight’ trains.)
  • Is today’s fragmented railway less safe than the British Railways’ vertically integrated railway?
  • Was the traditional experience based safety culture inherently safer than the current paper-based ‘box ticking’ safety regime which has replaced it?

Comments, from BTWT readers, as always very welcome.

More pictures and articles:

The Scotsman – Derailed train catches fire

The Scotsman – freight train derailment probed

scot-rail – Barrhead-Kilmarnock enhancement