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Freight train driver investigated over crash

The Local · 31 Jan 2011, 08:11

Published: 31 Jan 2011 08:11 GMT+01:00

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The driver was suspected of negligently causing deaths and injuries, and endangering rail traffic, the state prosecutors and police in Saxony-Anhalt said Monday in a joint statement.

The suspicion was based on witness statements and other evidence. Prosecutors and police declined to give further details of witness statements because they were still investigating.

Ten people were killed and 23 people injured, many seriously, in the collision late Saturday night between a regional passenger train on the HarzElbeExpress (HEX) service and a freight train at Hordorf, on a sing-track section between Magdeburg and Halberstadt in the state of Saxony-Anhalt.

Eight of the people killed in the crash still had not been identified by midday Monday, investigators said.

Their efforts came as the rail commuters’ lobby group, Pro Bahn, warned that basic safety mechanisms that were the standard in western Germany were still lacking in parts of former East Germany.

The commuters’ association Pro Bahn called on train operators to identify potential spots for accidents along railways.

“It must be made clear whether and where there are fundamental safety flaws, especially on lines with heavy goods trains and passenger trains,” Pro Bahn chairman Karl-Peter Naumann told daily Ruhr Nachrichten.

Safety systems that immediately trigger an alarm if a train passes through a red light had “for a long time not been established in eastern Germany,” he said. Such systems needed to be fitted immediately, he said.

In western Germany, they were considered standard procedure, he said. Naumann called on Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer to make sure such systems were checked and repaired regularly through the Federal Railway Authority – the statutory authority for Germany’s rail operators.

“Safety must take precedence. It doesn’t come free,” he said.

The route is a single track section, and the trains smashed headlong into each other with such force that the HEX train – just an engine and one carriage – was catapulted off the rails and landed on its side. The freight train was pulling containers of chalk, and only stopped around 500 metres after the collision.

Story continues below…

The clean-up efforts were largely complete by Monday morning. The passenger train was torn apart by the collision with the heavier freight train, and workers had to cut the wreckage into several pieces to remove it. The pieces were transported to the nearby town of Halberstadt for further investigation, a federal police spokesman said Monday morning.

A spokesman for the HEX firm said replacement buses were expected to take over the route between Halberstadt and Oschersleben in both directions for several days.

DAPD/The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:11 January 31, 2011 by catjones
Get Lufthansa to run the railroad.
19:07 January 31, 2011 by toemag
How convenient, blame the dead train driver...

Maybe having two drivers instead of one overworked underpaid driver would save lives in the long run, but it would eat into the DB's profit margins somewhat, or give them a reason to raise their prices yet again.
20:41 January 31, 2011 by wood artist

If I'm not mistaken, the driver who died was running the passenger train. From what I've seen, the driver of the freight train wasn't injured, or at least not seriously. So, they aren't blaming the dead guy.

It makes sense that there should have been some signal to indicate that both trains can't be on the same track, traveling in opposite directions. If it was working, then somebody screwed up. While additional safety equipment might have prevented this, and certainly should be in use, it would seem like either the signal didn't work, or somebody didn't pay attention.

21:21 January 31, 2011 by toemag
@ wa, sorry must have misunderstood it :-/ Thanks for putting me on the right trackkkkkkk.
07:33 February 1, 2011 by lordkorner
Trains involved were not run by DB
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